A few Starbucks stores is not enough

It is not the latest news that Starbucks designed and opened its container stores. Oriented by recycle and reuse, Starbucks has built several cool designed container stores around the country. The photo below is the first U.S. Starbucks container drive-through in Tukwila, Washington.

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It is good practice for Starbucks to show its responsibility to society. Using end-of-life-cycle shipping containers to save materials to build a new store, is creative and brave for a publicly traded company. The store is designed to be LEED Certified, which requires energy savings in future operation. It is good marketing strategy and a good potential future business model for the company.

However, to apply the container model in the housing market could be quite different. In the book, The Carbon Efficient City, the authors mention Urban Space Management and its container project. When I entered the company’s website, I found most of their container projects are market projects. Actually, most qualified container houses are experimental projects. Current technological problems, such as structure system, and utilities and mechanical system installation, could possibly be solved if more container projects were built. People’s perception of container style structures is the biggest pull away from container style housing becoming popular. People are accustomed to wood or steel frame houses and have limited knowledge about container style/s.

As a customer, I would love to visit Starbucks container stores, especially for the cool design; but when I buy a house, I would be more conservative and go back to other people’s choices. What is even worse, I attempt to make assumptions without confirmation such as: the containers would not last as long as other materials; containers might affect residents’ health; I could not sell it in the future. And these thoughts also influence my opinion  of Starbucks containers: it is feasible only because the store would not be there for long time, it is probably easy to build and remove using a container.

To change perceptions of container housing and other innovative recycling solutions, we need more retails like Starbucks container shops   so they will catalyze rent projects in order to add exposure to the public. When people are familiar with  the container style  seen in a less risky circumstance, there will be better chance for container styles to actually convince investors to invest in this type in the future.

The use of containers is only a small part of sustainable ideology, but if people are willing to shop in container retails and live in container houses, we could apply more experimental approach to build environmental-friendly and sustainable living space.

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