Big Idea Architecture with Small Energy Footprints
  • Modular, Innovative Office Space [First of its kind in the US]

    View of south facade (Rendering by Tim Nelson)

    Old shipping containers will become The Box Office, the first commercial building of its kind in the nation. A green developer broke ground in Providence, Rhode Island, this week on a new attraction for environmentally-conscious start-up companies: an office building to be made out of old shipping containers.

    The building, christened “The Box Office,” for the various steel boxes that will be used in the structure, is being built on a blighted land parcel in a post-industrial revitalizing neighborhood of Providence.

    Providence Mayor David Cicilline was on hand for the ground-breaking press conference, stating: “Such creative, environmentally-conscious developments are part of a growing trend in Providence of green innovation and social entrepreneurship.” Mayor Cicilline and the City of Providence are highly supportive of sustainable building practices and are encouraging more developers to follow in Gill Case’s footsteps.

    Developer Peter Gill Case of Truth Box Inc. said the project is partly 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,” Case said. “Containers offer a timely opportunity to promote green building principles and offer high quality design in an economy that demands affordable options.”

    The brightly colored three story building will be constructed from 32 old shipping containers (94 tons of “upcycled” steel put back into productive use), which will house 12 office units. The building’s striking contemporary design, environmental philosophy and inexpensive small units are already attracting small businesses, artists, and start-ups that are powering Providence’s growing creative economy. Completion of the project is anticipated in March 2010.

    The Box Office will be a model of a small, green (energy-efficient, sustainable) building, using 25% less energy than a conventional new office building. The main goal of the design team was to engineer a well-insulated building, utilizing high performing windows and implement the most efficient HVAC system feasible for the project.

    This building will be “all-electric” with no direct use of fossil fuels. All heating and cooling will be with small, decentralized, high efficiency air-to-air heat pumps. Also, typical lighting densities will be 0.6 watts/sf. One reason for the reduced load is the project’s implementation of dual-source lighting; a combination of overhead lighting with daylight response sensors that measure the natural day light and task lighting.

    The site will reduce stormwater run-off into the combined storm sewer by 67% through the use of bio-swales (also known as rain gardens) which allow storm water to infiltrate back into the ground where, through phyto-remediation, the plants contribute to the filtration of the water.

    The Box Office will have comfortable indoor air quality due to the use of environmentally-friendly interior finishes (non-petroleum-based insulation, low VOC products and no products with formaldehyde, for example), filtered exterior air, and accessible operable windows.

    Tenants will be able to take advantage of “green lease” conditions that will provide economic incentives to tenants to maximize energy performance of the green building.

    The Box Office is part of a nationwide trend toward small-scale developments, which due to their lower cost, are easier to get up and running at a time when most development is on hold. Container buildings are particularly inexpensive to construct. The developers are planning three more container buildings for Providence over the next few years. Construction is headed up by Josh Brandt of Stack Design, a local innovative construction office located in Rhode Island.

    Aerial looking Northwest (Rendering by Tim Nelson)