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Shipping containers make apt home for dock firm

by Mark Cantrell
Solent Stevedores had its new HQ at Southampton Docks built out of 11 converted shipping containers

We’ve all doubtless heard of the phrase ‘a busman’s holiday’, but a cargo handling company in Southampton has gone one better – building its new HQ out of shipping containers.

The building erected in Southampton Docks certainly catches the eye, and may cause some beholders a moment of double-take, given it is fabricated from items more commonly seen on ships crossing the world’s oceans.

It’s not that far-out an idea, however; shipping containers have already been converted to provide low-cost housing for homeless – and not just homeless – people in recent years.

It’s certainly fitting for Solent Stevedores, given such containers – and handling them – are the company’s stock in trade, as it were.

The new 3,500 sq ft, two-storey depot terminal office has been constructed by Southampton-based Willbox from 11 steel containers These were professionally converted to office use, and then welded together.

The new building is designed to accommodate up to 50 people, and includes a large conference room with a balcony, office space for 12 people, a canteen area, changing and shower facilities and more.

Clive Thomas, Solent Stevedores’ commercial director, said: “We wanted a new headquarters building that represented the environment in which we work in Southampton Docks, and so having it built from shipping containers seemed like the right choice.

“The team from Willbox has done an exceptional job, delivering our new building in just four months and saving us significantly against building using bricks and mortar. Not only that, it looks fantastic too. We are going to be very happy here.”

It is estimated that building the new headquarters from shipping containers has saved the company 40% of the cost of more traditional bricks and mortar construction methods.

Construction of the new building took just four months with 97% of the fabrication and conversion of the containers completed away from the site and then put together on location. The Willbox conversion team also completed the designs and plans for the building.

James Dale, conversion manager for Willbox, said: “This is the biggest project that we have undertaken and it pushed all the boundaries for us from a project management point of view.

“The containers are designed with a 15-year life expectancy in harsh conditions at sea, but if they are looked after appropriately there is no reason why these containers won’t last for as long as bricks and mortar.

“Once we had the design brief from Solent Stevedores we worked on a specification for this building that made it the perfect working space for the staff. There is a 360-degree view from the building and we have worked hard to take away any perceptions that it could be claustrophobic by putting lots of windows in.

“This is going to be a very comfortable building for all those that work there – at no point will it feel like they are in an enclosed container box. Instead it will feel like a cohesive and contemporary designed modern building.”

Chris Williams, managing director of Willbox, added: “We are delighted to have successfully handed over this new headquarters building for Solent Stevedores, and we look forward to seeing the building occupied and in use for many years to come, showing off the flexibility of shipping containers for modern architecture.”

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