A Vancouver Construction Company Turns Shipping Containers into Sleek On-Site Offices

A Vancouver Construction Company Turns Shipping Containers into Sleek On-Site Offices
Compared to the typical site office, the Powers Construction units are awash in natural light and offer an abundance of work-surface space. Exterior artwork by Chairman Ting.

Construction crews help build beautiful structures, but often work out of ugly trailer-based offices. A company is Vancouver is changing that.  

As the owner of Vancouver’s , Patrick Powers relishes building modernist marvels designed by such architecture firms as Olson Kundig, Battersby Howat, and Measured. So why, he wondered, should he put up with a typical, trailer-based construction-site office when working on such buildings? “I could never exist inside one of those,” he says. “They’re horrible – just a tiny window, with terrible lighting and decor.”

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The largest unit features a conference table and custom glass slider.

No stranger to coming up with inventive solutions on-site, he knew he could do better. So he bought a six-metre-long steel shipping container, cut it in half to create two square pods, and added glass walls to cap the open ends. Inside, he finished the walls and ceilings with whitewashed fir plywood and siding, built U-shaped desks against the windows, and added cabinets and recessed light fixtures. When employees and clients alike swooned at his solution, he bought a 12-metre-long container to build two more pods, this time using birch and cedar. The largest is a 7.5metre-long unit with radiant heat, mild-steel interior wall cladding, a conference table, and an enormous custom glass slider on rollerblade wheels. Easily identifiable thanks to street-style artwork by Chairman Ting on the outside, this pod now serves as Powers’ mobile head office.

The largest unit features a conference table and custom glass slider.

The largest unit features a conference table and custom glass slider.

The four units are distributed between the firm’s ongoing jobs, and are typically relocated every few months. “For a construction application, they’re brutally efficient,” even while being incredibly comfortable, says Powers. “They’re ready to lift because they come with tie-downs for a crane.” And although small, they have about seven linear metres of desktop inside for rolling out drawings. These features, Powers asserts, make each construction site a much more appealing place for everyone involved. “I meet clients and architects in them,” he says. “My philosophy is that my project managers and I should live on-site full-time. These keep us close to the game.”

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