You can pick one up on eBay for around £1,500.
While they may be designed to sit on ships safely transporting cargo from one side of the world to another, the humble shipping container has been found itself employed in a variety of uses, from helping fledging businesses to providing accommodation for the homeless.
A Cardiff and Bristol based company Meanwhile Creative is utilising the steel boxes to offer office space for new businesses and is officially opening its first shipping container site in Cardiff later this month.
However this is not something new to the city. The Bone Yard opened in Canton back in 2015.
The idea for the Bone Yard, which is based on the site of a former scaffold yard in Canton, came to its founders, Jodie and Bryce Davies, after they visited Christchurch, New Zealand, several years ago and saw the aftermath of an earthquake’s damage to the city.
Jodie said that while the city was being rebuilt residents and business owners were using shipping containers to house their businesses before they were fully reconstructed.
“After years of renting studio spaces ourselves we knew first hand how difficult it was to find affordable space without scary contracts in a central location,” said Jodie.
“In 2014 we were renting a small studio which was opposite a scaffolders yard in Canton and when that yard became vacant the idea for the Bone Yard was born.
And why Bone Yard? “It’s the name they use on a farm where you keep all your scrap metal. That’s why we called it that,” Jodie explained.
The Yard has helped business grow and is a bridge between working from a kitchen table to getting office space.
“Free Range Frames and Twin Made are examples of businesses which started out tentatively with a container space and as their businesses have thrived instead of leaving us they have each taken on another container,” said Jodie.
” Ffwrnes Pizza have been with us from the start but are leaving us this summer as they are moving on to open a new city centre restaurant, the exact location of which is still a secret.”
The success of the Bone Yard has seen the enterprising pair open a second site, The Bridge Studios on a disused site by Ely Bridge in Cardiff. The first resident moved in in October last year and now the 12 containers are now fully let.
Businesses at the new site include a brewery, street food suppliers, home design wares and furniture.
Jodie says they are now in discussion with Green City Events about a collaborative project potentially in a new area of Cardiff.
Meanwhile Creatives’ spaces – named Cardiff Containers – are located in the lot by its building Meanwhile House Cardiff, giving residents have access to the facilities of the building.
“Cardiff Containers are actually our first collection of shipping container work spaces,” said Rachel Wood, Meanwhile Creative marketing manager.
“Up until now, we’ve focused on unlocking empty commercial property and re-purposing it for positive use. We think there is demand for more affordable, flexible work spaces here, fuelled by an abundance of grass roots creative talent in the city and more and more people ditching the 9-5 in favour of starting up their own enterprise.”
The early tenants for the site include a charity and a radio station.
The reason for the use of shipping containers is that a 20x8ft is the right size for a small workshop with private front doors, according to the Bone Yard’s Jodie.
“These make them great for meeting clients and for loading and unloading heavy items.”
Rachel adds that shipping containers can be repurposed off-site and then put into position quickly.
“This was important to us as we wanted to ensure that there was minimal disruption to the residents of Meanwhile House Cardiff,” she explained.
On a far larger scale were the plans for Box City in Cardiff Bay made from hundreds of containers that would include hotel apartments, office and retail space as well as a huge outdoor cinema.
The quayside scheme was to see around 400 shipping containers reconfigured to create a the four-level development.
It was be built on a derelict site at Porth Teigr and was going to cover more than 50,000 square feet. It would have been the largest shipping container inspired scheme of its kind in the UK.
The idea from property entrepreneur Simon Baston appears to have stalled at the moment.
Help the homeless
It is not just helping new businesses they are also being used to help those who have fallen on hard times to take the vital first step off living on the street.
The Welsh Assembly has an Innovation housing programme specifically looking to tackle housing. Shipping containers being turned into homes is one of the solutions.
Towards the end of 2017 Cardiff Council received funding from the programme to build eight energy-efficient family homes in the grounds of Greenfarm Hostel in Ely .
And earlier this year Cadwyn Housing Association was given permission to create 14 homes in shipping containers on Bute Street in Cardiff.
The development will include seven one-bedroom containers and seven two-bedroom containers as well as a warden’s office.
The homes are planned as temporary affordable housing on a short-term basis.
The Newport-based charity Amazing Grace Spaces has been creating homes out of containers for a few years now, not only to help tackle homelessness but also fund their work with people in Newport.
They created their first show home back in 2016 – inspired after seeing a Homebase advert which used shipping containers – and last month supplied Merthyr Valley Homes with two fully-equipped containers and they are in the process of converting four for Wrexham Borough Council.
Stuart and Caroline Johnson have spent 25 years working with people caught in the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and life-controlling problems.
While shipping containers may not seem the most welcoming sort of home Stuart assured potential buyers they were cosy.
Amazing Grace Spaces is using the funds created by supplying these home to help the homeless in the city of Newport and these recent sales are helping them development pods – equipped with bed, chemical toilet, and electricity – that will be used to give a rough sleeper a safe place for the night.
It is also not just for a housing solution for the homeless a few years ago an episode of Grand Designs saw a Northern Ireland farmer and architect use shipping containers to create his home.
Patrick Bradley, who had a budget of £100,000, transformed four 45-foot shipping containers into a more than acceptable abode.
While these big steel boxes are used to cart good globally they are being utilised for far more.
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