Our clients, Dungannon Enterprise Centre, first approached Paul McAlister Architects in 2013 wanting to develop and convert vacant commercial premises into a number of small start-up business units. In conjunction with the client we saw an opportunity to create something innovative as well as sustainable. Using re-cycled shipping containers seemed like an ideal solution to create a contemporary space for micro business incubation.
Dungannon Enterprise Centres new venture aims to create a business community with the purpose of nurturing new talent and developing established names in commerce. The modular nature of the new offices encourages the new tenants to use the common areas to network and develop new ideas with fellow entrepreneurs. ‘The Cube’ occupies a 4,000 sq ft unit at Dungannon Enterprise Centre that had been left vacant after its previous tenant moved out. The new business units in the ‘Cube’ aspire to create affordable space for both start-up and small established business
Initial design studies were completed to assess how many containers would fit into the space; and how the circulation would be created between them, emphasising the social aspects of the clients’ brief of encouraging interaction between occupants. The concept for the common area is a ‘micro’ model of ‘Facebooks’ headquarters in America with a pool table in place and plans for a putting green to be installed.
The 13 offices created are attractive to potential tenants because of the potential for networking with other entrepreneurs in the space that the units are clustered around; allowing them to grow and expand their businesses, learning from each other and sharing resources and costs between the community.
The completed scheme at the ‘Cube’ is a creative hub for both tenants and visitors; with its layout encouraging users to engage with each other. The re-use of shipping containers in this way has not been attempted in Ireland before, but it could be developed as a methodology for the innovative, environmentally friendly and cost effective re-use of empty warehouses throughout Ireland. It is not a convention anywhere in the world but the adaptability of shipping containers and their flexibility of use should be investigated as a sustainable cost effective method of construction.