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Shipping containers repurposed in hip and interesting ways

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The Social Entrepreneurship and Eco-park Development in Punggol East houses seven container restaurants. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

More used containers are being repurposed to house new cargo – art studios, shops and restaurants

THE SUNDAY TIMES/AARON CHAN

Shipping containers past their prime are being given a new lease of life, with developers here using them to house restaurants, shops and artist studios.

Not only are they eco-friendly and cost-effective, but containers are also sought after for their trendy, industrial-chic aesthetic .

Mr Adam Aw, 34, sales director at OSG Containers and Modular, which supplies new and used containers, says that the global trend of container architecture is catching on in Singapore.

“In recent years, we have begun to see more repurposed containers being used here as retail shops, food and beverage outlets and extra event spaces,” he says.

He adds that the lower cost is part of the attraction. While using a 6m container as a building can cost between $1,500 and $2,500, building a structure of a similar size would cost $2,000 to $3,000.

In the past year alone, there have been multiple container developments.

In February, Social Innovation Park (SIP) debuted its Social Entrepreneurship and Eco-park Development in Punggol East, while Goodman Arts Centre unveiled its Greenfield Modular Studios last August.

Over the next two weekends, flea-market enthusiasts can look forward to Artbox Singapore, which will be partially housed in shipping containers.

Other projects include Deck, an independent arts venue in Prinsep Street .

Old containers can also be an environmentally friendly option.

“Recycling and a focus on green features guided the design for Greenfield Modular Studios, so we constructed them using recycled shipping containers,” says Ms Sabrina Chin, director of precinct development at the National Arts Council, which oversees Goodman Arts Centre.

Mr Melvin Tan, 41, a director at Laud, the architectural firm responsible for Deck, adds: “If we look at it in terms of sustainability, containers are used because life is given to an otherwise discarded material.”

But Assistant Professor Joshua Comaroff, 43, who lectures on architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, cautions that customising containers can incur high costs.

“As containers are ‘monocoque’ structures – which means that forces are distributed evenly across their surfaces – wanting to cut a hole (for windows) will require additional metal framing to make them structurally sound. This can be expensive.”

However, repurposing shipping containers could still be an economical alternative if one is looking for a temporary solution.

Ms Wong Pei Shan, 30, director of SIP, says: “With only a short threeyear lease, using shipping containers is still cheaper than building a structure.”

SEED AT PUNGGOL EAST

Boost@banks

The exterior of Boost@Banks, one of the restaurants at Seed. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Incorporating upcycling was a key design feature of the new Social Entrepreneurship and Eco-park Development (Seed) in Punggol East.

The 15,340 sq m development consists of seven container restaurants and a community farm.

Ms Wong Pei Shan, 30, director of Social Innovation Park (SIP), which manages Seed, says: “As we are calling it an eco-park, we needed to ensure the construction process was environmentally friendly.”

With only a three-year lease, a cost-effective solution was needed, and not building a permanent structure was a huge draw for SIP.

Mr Edward Gao, 29, who owns Boost@Banks, one of the restaurants at Seed, tells The Sunday Times: “Altogether, we spent about $120,000 on this container restaurant. If we had to build (a structure) from scratch, it would have easily cost us 20 per cent more.”

Launched in February, the seven container restaurants serve a range of dishes, from fish and chips to Hong Kong-style desserts.

He says he was attracted to the concept of outdoor container restaurants.

“I think it is quite special because it is one of the first container restaurant concepts in Singapore.”

However, heavy rain is a challenge.

Mr Gao says: “With limited indoor seating, when the rain comes, we can effectively call it a day.”

Next door, Mr Kiang Siang Heng, 46, head chef at D’Grill, is preparing for night service.

The chef of 28 years has developed a system to ensure his team can work efficiently in the limited space.

He says his five-man kitchen crew has to multi-task because they cannot accommodate more people.

As for Mr Gao, he has no major complaints so far.

“Operations have been going quite smoothly, it’s almost the same as in a regular kitchen.”

Read the rest of the article at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/cool-containers

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline ‘Cool containers’. Print Edition | Subscribe