Shipping-Container "Box Office" Breaks Ground in Providence

shipping container box office image

Courtesy of owner, Peter Gill Case

Sure, shipping container buildings are nothing new conceptually, but when was the last time you actually saw one being built in the US? That's what we thought. Earlier this week in Providence, Rhode Island, a new project broke ground. An office space made from reused shipping containers, the "Box Office" is being built on a land parcel in a post-industrial neighborhood of the city and is quickly becoming an attraction for local start-ups.
Providence mayor David Cicilline, who was on hand for the ground-breaking, said, "Such creative, environmentally-conscious developments are part of a growing trend in Providence of green innovation and social entrepreneurship."

The Box Office will be a model of a small, energy-efficient building, using 25 percent less energy than a conventional new office building. The main goal of the design team was to engineer a well-insulated building with high-performing windows and the most efficient HVAC system possible. The building will also be powered and climate-controlled using no fossil fuels. All heating and cooling come from decentralized, high-efficiency air-to-air heat pumps. Typical lighting densities will be 0.6 watts per square foot. The reduced load comes from the implementation of dual-source lighting, a combination of overhead lighting partnered with daylight response sensors that measure the natural day light and task lighting.

The project was designed by Joe Haskett, Principal at Distill Studio, a Providence-based, sustainable design office. Peter Gill Case of Truth Box, owner and developer of the project, noted that the Box Office was partially inspired by the troubled economy. "There are thousands of empty shipping containers piling up in U.S. ports because of our nation's ongoing trade deficit. Containers offer a timely opportunity to promote green building principles and offer high quality design in an economy that demands affordable options," he said.

The brightly colored three-story building is being constructed from 32 old shipping containers (94 tons of steel to be precise), which will house 12 office units. The building's contemporary design, environmental philosophy and inexpensive small units have already attracted several small businesses, artists, and start-ups that are a vital part of Providence's growing creative economy. The site will reduce stormwater run-off into the combined storm sewer by 67 percent through the use of bio-swales (also known as rain gardens) which allow storm water to infiltrate back into the ground where, through phytoremediation, the plants contribute to the filtration of the water. The Box Office will be constructed using environmentally-friendly materials that have been specified by the developer and architect. Non-petroleum-based insulation and low- to no-VOC products will be used.

Best of all, tenants will be able to take advantage of "green lease" conditions that will provide economic incentives to tenants to maximize energy performance of the building. Completion of the project is slated for March 2010, construction is being done by Stack Design Build, the general contractor on the project.

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