Co-working companies like WeWork are eating up office space around the world. There are many advantages, from food to ping-pong tables, but most importantly, as one tenant described it in Forbes, "the energy: in contrast with our previous warehouse-like office, this offers constant movement, fresh faces and lively conversation. There’s also an unmistakable entrepreneurial vibe, highlighted by the “Embrace the Hustle” neon sign above the spiral staircase."
But they are not without problems; that same happy tenant noted that " the walls are, as you’ve probably heard, thin....Privacy is non-existent."
That's why the BakkeRij in Haarlem, the Netherlands, is so interesting. Instead of getting a little office enclosed in drywall, you get a shipping container; there are now two corrugated steel walls and an air space between you and your neighbor.
Hans van Eeden of HER Architecten tells TreeHugger that a former 14,00m2 (15,600 SF) bakery was turned into business / workshop spaces for small and start-up companies using 60 shipping containers.
The stacking and arranging of the shipping containers created exciting workspaces, traffic areas and places to stay. The containers, provided with their own ventilation, data and electricity connection, each have a full glass wall at the traffic area side. With this the own identity of the various companies can be seen through the various interior designs of the containers.
I usually have issues with putting people in shipping containers, but in this case, it makes a lot of sense; sitting inside the bigger building, they do not have to be insulated or modified to any great extent. It is energy efficient too; the hall is kept at "semi-outdoor climate" and the shipping containers each have toasty electric heating mats underfoot for individual control and comfort.
Within the design, circular principles have been used as much as possible. The concept initially offers a large degree of flexibility. The shipping containers can be moved and adapted for future needs or even completely removed so that a generic empty industrial hall is available without demolition work. The sea containers themselves can also be reused.
Compared to a WeWork office in a downtown, the population density here is pretty low. But compared to WeWork the rent is pretty cheap; rent starts at € 295 for a 150SF container whereas WeWork comes out to roughly US$ 600 per desk per month. That is what comes from being in a warehouse in a former industrial site rather than a downtown office building.
I also really like the idea that it is designed for disassembly; personally, I believe that WeWork is a house of cards that will collapse shortly after the next economic downturn. I remember when I was in real estate and during an office economic downturn people and companies would try to do "midnight shuffles" to get out of lease obligations. In co-working, nobody has lease obligations and will be gone in sixty seconds.
At least these containers and the spaces can be put to other uses if its co-working business implodes too.