Taco Bell Builds a Restaurant out of Shipping Containers

By Christine Walsh

The fast food company Taco Bell has unveiled a new restaurant at this year’s SXSW in Austin, TX. What sets this one apart is the fact that it was constructed entirely out of shipping containers. It seems more and more business are starting to adopt this new architecture trend, which given the surplus of shipping containers piling up in US ports each month truly is great news!

In the case of Taco Bell, we can perhaps expect more of these types of cargotecture restaurants, since they’re planning to open 2,000 new locations in the US by 2022, which means they are looking to cut costs wherever they can.

The new shipping container Taco Bell only has about half the footprint of a traditional Taco Bell, and the one in Austin was built in just three days, with most of the pre-prep done off site, of course. They have also opted to leave the containers in the original industrial condition, and even though they have been repainted, the company chose a color very similar to the original finish.

They also did not alter the original shapes of the containers very much, apart from cutting out the openings for doors, windows and ventilation. The main shipping container is the one where food is ordered and picked up, and this container also houses one entire food prep line. If an additional food prep line is needed, such as in areas of higher traffic, a second shipping container could easily be attached to the structure to provide it. To fight the feeling of claustrophobia felt by the workers in the back of the container, they added a window to the food prep area, so the backs of the employees as they prepare food is visible to the customers ordering the food.

They placed the storage and operations area into a second container, which also houses the manager’s office. The third container rests atop the bottom two and houses all the necessary cooling equipment. It would appear they also cut one container in half, and then welded the two parts to the main structure. One of these contains the bathrooms and the other the freezer.

However, this restaurant has no indoor space for the customers to sit. There is an outdoor eating area equipped with tables built from refinished wood pallets and giant wire spools laid on their sides, which is also a nice way to repurpose these materials.

Eco-Cabins for Boy Scouts

Eco-Cabins for Boy Scouts
by Bridgette Meinhold 

Embracing the Boy Scouts of America’s «leave no trace» mantra, Gensler designed and built an incredible eco-cabin for Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. Utilizing sustainable design principles, renewable energy and two 20´ shipping containers, the cabin is the first of twenty off-grid cabins set for a redevelopment plan that will transform an 85-year old campground into a year-round outdoor learning center.

The eco-cabin is made up of two 20′ containers bolted together to create a 320 sq ft space. The structure has been covered with a vaulted translucent roof of stretched silicone-coated fiberglass over aluminum arches, and the roof and the connecting sides of the two containers were removed to provide a larger, light-filled structure. As this is a cabin designed for boy scouts, little is needed in terms of power, and LEDs are powered by a solar system to offer light at night. During the day, the translucent vaulted ceiling offers ample daylighting while also giving the cabin a more spacious feel.

Gensler designed and built the cabin back in LA, cut the sides away, insulated the interior and from there all the materials were packed away inside the containers for shipping to the Island. The two containers were installed upon a low concrete six pier foundation and a deck was constructed from reclaimed wood taken from an old dock in the bay. An additional nineteen, identical cabins will be constructed and assembled on the island to replace the camp’s existing barracks. There will also be the addition of a new outdoor learning center, also to be constructed from shipping containers.

Gensler provided their services pro-bono for this project; while Arup managed the structural engineering, J. Miller Canvas the roof and doors, The RMS Group the containers, Primus Lighting the LED Lighting, and Nora Systems the rubber flooring.