A call centre in a shipping container is it viable?
This is an idea I have been looking at lately for expansion for the near future. Its also why I haven’t been so active on the shipping container home front for the blog.
Quite simply I have been extremely busy with other projects one of which is a BPO call centre in the Philippines. The original idea for the call centre work came from my work in Oman where I discovered we were short of certain resources and personnel that could have made life a lot easier. Nothing wrong with the way it was setup and to be fair it was a brand new contract for the division I was working with inside a large company. This was a step away from their usual construction and into the FM industry in Oman. The company is a very large one and is world known for its facilities management but this was a new step in Oman itself.
So how do you get round this and if other countries appear on the radar for similar types of work? They are short-term but could literally be hopping contract to contract for years. The answer was outsourcing to the Philippines.
So when I returned home I built a new office and have been developing the call centre. First issues were not communications or getting the right software but noise pollution. Barking dogs, loud music, motorbikes etc. etc.
Which is why a shipping container call centre sprung to mind. Everytime I have been in a container be it visiting someone’s home or assessing for sale etc. the one thing you notice is the silence. The tropical climate we have here in the Philippines means its hot all day but in the evenings its cold. In fact won’t be needing air conditioning if ventilated correctly.
So would a shipping container call centre work? I believe it not only possible but very likely in the near future here. Because things like the computers could be stored in a secure area at the back of the unit with the large opening doors. While staff have their desks and monitors inside the container unit at the other end. Thus reducing heat build up and also makes it easier for maintenance in a working environment.
If you come across a shipping container call centre please let me know as I would be very interested to hear from others on the idea.
Minimalist living or container living can often be shunned due to people not understanding the concept but what is there to understand?
Fact is most households have at least 2/3rds more stuff in them than they did over a decade ago.
Fact is that costs are going up on not only space but on resources needed to use them such as heating and cooling.
Fact is house prices have been spiraling out of control for some time and even right now when people are complaining their houses have “lost value” they are often still way overpriced!
Fact is socially people are spending too much time in the home and not enough time amongst real people.
Fact is we are in a social decline but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Odd thing is not everything has to be negative. I live out in the Philippines and a friend of mine lived in a very small house after meeting his girlfriend and deciding to partner up. Its 2 rooms for him,her and the children from her previous marriage. The first room is the sitting room,dining room, kitchen and the other room is the bedroom. He lays in bed and can touch 3 of the 4 walls while lay in bed. Showering and general chores are done in a centralised pump area. Is this minimalist living that is impossible?
In reality this is the life for the majority of Filipinos and has been like it as far as people can remember. But its not all doom and gloom as they probably spend a lot more time outdoors than you do. The tropical climate in previous times and in remote areas will find people sleeping under trees relaxing. No issues of getting cold, maybe getting hot. The land was plentiful where people just took from the land what they needed.
In reality I would say judging by what I hear from people that those times were happy times. Going round to the neighbours because its the only house in the village with a TV or even today on some of the remote islands the town hall.
Electricity is something people can and do often live without. The irony here compared to the Western world is that “minimalist” living isn’t a fad but the way of life and has been for centuries. I have never heard anyone complain about space and generally you will find people live together as a family until married. Its not uncommon to find adult children still living with their parents in fact its the norm. Minimalist living is probably done by the majority of people on the planet without the “vocal” minority even realising.
Could you live in a bamboo hut on a tropical island? Because many in the West dream of it yet its a reality in the tropics that people often leave for western ways. Things have begun to change in the Philippines to become more like the West and places like Hong Kong. Not all good news with an over population issue in the cities but at the same time people are still living minimal.
Bedspacers are common which involve renting a room with a bunk bed often with 4 people to a room. Workers, transients and students often live in this type of accommodation.
Odd reading this I wonder how many people are saying “I couldn’t live like that”. But my question is how big does a shipping container feel now?
I came across these really cool shipping containers made in card on Twitter and had to advertise them (for free of course!) due to knowing others out there would want one or a few as well!
Not only for those interested in things like model railways and haulage, but also its a pretty cool thing to have custom made sitting on your desk. Not sure if the company make custom made ones but sure worth asking!
At only £1.99 each I think they are well worth the money as a cheap alternative to plastic or other model types. The owner and maker of the containers says they look more real than the other types which I could see as being possible due to higher quality printing rather than trying to replicate in things like plastic.
My three months in Oman on contract has been an interesting time as I have travelled large parts of the country. From Muscat to 1000km away into the desert with many places in between.
A bit of time in the oil fields I can see there is a market for container buildings and not just in accommodation and offices. One of the biggest problems I faced was related to health and making sure I got enough daily fruit and vegetables.
It got me thinking about the issues relating to large scale camps and improving diet. How many lost work days are caused by a weak immune system or other diet issues?
This is where I think trying to promote shipping container gardening would work well. For other areas maybe electricity is an issue as the energy used could be expensive. But in reality there is excess power due to by products from oil removal actually being used to run turbines so power isn’t a problem at all. Transportation is for getting goods to the remote locations and so is it generally in Oman as its a fairly dry hot country.
Shipping container food production however could actually give great rewards by reducing the amount of sick days people are likely to have but also improve peoples health and wellbeing. Will be pushing the idea forward as part of my recommendations before I leave the country for the Philippines.
Also there are issues of subsidence relating to the fact many structures are quite literally built on sand. Modular or container construction could also be a way round many of these issues as they are more robust but just as important can be moved when needed.
Work camps work well here and impressed with the rapid setup of structures. Setting a steel frame structure up then over cladding gives a clean living space which is also very strong and functional. Will drop some photos later as I need to get the camera from one of my work colleagues.
These projects are being done by a UK Based charity their website seems to be a work in progress but the concept of the conversion of a shipping container as you can see is a lot more simple than many people realise. Not sure about the solar panel side of things as they don’t have a battery backup as well as no ventilation for the heat build up from the computers in the container.
But then again I am not in Africa and acclimatised to the environment as the kids there may not even notice. I have computers here in the Philippines which are in arcade boxes sat outside the home. I can’t go there because of the mosquitos they seem to love my white legs, but the local kids will sit there for hours completely undisturbed as they are used to it but also I have noticed that with some things locals don’t seem to get affected the same way. Red ants for example I was stood near a beach and they were climbing all over my feet and biting me. But I could see my wife’s feet they actually just went round. Haven’t a clue what the difference was but its happened with other things as well.
Anyway getting off tangent! The shipping container internet cafe is obviously a project that is already working and spreading computer training into developing nations. But another area people often overlook when sending aid is why not convert the containers in advance then load them with the materials that they are sending for projects? Instead of shipping the container back it stays and actually becomes part of the community. For example this where its all panelled and ready to be used as an internet cafe but could just as easily have the far end prepped for shipping with the computers etc. and the rest of the container utilised for sending other materials and equipment.
Darsky dreamed up the idea as he wanted people to see the authentic 5,000 pound wood fire oven he had imported all the way from Naples for his pizza’s. This seen the removal of one side of the shipping container before it was refitted with glass framed doors.
A very unique use of a shipping container but also a very practical one with being able to open out the side of the unit as no doubt it gets extremely hot with the oven reaching temperatures of over 800 degrees.
60 seconds it takes to cook a pie from the oven and its lowered to a cashier via a special rack. I could see this being great for concerts. Although coming in at $180,000 to build in the right venues this could easily be in profit in a short period of time.
Going the authentic oven route is something that food lovers will saviour but also making it extremely visual will also help increase sales. I wish Darsky well with his venture!
There have been problems with not only shipping container homes for the poor but other housing developments and its mainly down to one thing.
People make decisions for others based on assumptions, they haven’t integrated with the communities they are trying to help to assess not only the daily needs but also if the project is viable.
Bamboo homes on stilts offer natural ambient temperature to the home due to the airflow as well as the ground beneath the home heats up during the day and at night that heat rises to keep the home warm. The space beneath the home sees air travel and for tropical climates its been a naturally good home for centuries. How do you adapt a shipping container home to supply the needs of people who will not be able to afford air conditioning or electric?
Also remembering people are used to the outdoors and opening the home to the elements is also essential in maintaining that natural environment that people come from. Doesn’t need to all be “in house” but communal areas that allow people to congregate and meet up are essential in maintaining the normal community.
But what else about cooling? You need to take on ideas from existing architects as the information is already there. It may not be developed for shipping container homes but a lot of it can be. Researching Indian, Thai and African home designs with “natural cooling” will give you plenty of ideas. E.g. mud huts due to the natural properties offer a great cheap home construction method yet is it out of place or too old to be used? I would look at modern mud home design as I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.
Water can offer a natural cooling affect in homes as well and has been utilised in India for a long time in areas such as central pool areas in courtyards. Learning how air and water can work together and developing courtyard communal areas there are ways to get cooler air to move round housing developments. Some of these ideas will be a bit hit and miss initially but long term learning how to use them saves not only money but also needs. E.g. naturally cooling means no need for fans or air conditioning, which also means a reduced need for electricity.
There are solutions to every problem but I have seen many a project messed up and not because shipping container homes or in fact large scale brick and mortar homes are wrong. But simply the planning and designs haven’t been thought through properly on immediate and long-term needs of the community. Yes we all want to help but if it makes peoples lives harder it defeats the object of what we are doing.
Princeton’s shipping container disaster relief wind and solar power generators.
The prototype system was a winner of an EPA-sponsored sustainable design competition. The entry in the competition was for a “rapidly deployable renewable energy system”. Its primary role to be used in disaster hit areas which lose infrastructure and power.
Image by Frank Wojciechowski, courtesy of Princeton University
The solar and wind turbine is 40 foot tall and capable of providing 10kW of wind and solar power. Within the container also capable of storing the batteries and mechanical systems required to make the unit functional. There is a hope the unit will actually take off and replace diesel-powered generators in relief camps in disaster zones. Which can often be hazardous due to air pollution, ground pollution and the issue of a constant supply of fuel.
For the contest the shipping container and its equipment were taken on a flatbed truck from Princeton to Washington DC. The unit was erected and tested with the first day seeing no wind but a sunny day allowing good solar energy. While on the second day it was windy and rainy it put its wind turbine into action and was capable of providing power on both days. A grant of $90,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, will see the project being developed further and the team hope to take the finished model on a tour of Africa.
The contest has highlighted the need for new solutions and developments and seen students from 165 academic institutions submit proposals to the competition. 15 of those were given awards for pursuing sustainable design solutions to issues ranging from erosion control to a seeking out a biodegradable alternative to plastics.
For me I support a lot of these ideas but things do come back to some basic issues, a lot of disaster areas and problems are preventable. Haiti seems to be a big favourite in U.S. circles to mention for aid yet has anyone even started looking at common sense things like reforestation? Land can protect itself but it needs people to stop destroying it.
When Bangkok based Site Specific were approached for a Mazda dealership building they were not only looking at a shipping container project but also a client that needed the building yesterday.
The modular shipping container car dealership was designed to be constructed in six stages. The main objective was as soon as the first container hit the ground the dealer could start selling cars and the other shipping container units would be added in phases at a later date. This resulted in the first shipping container and sales room being installed then over the next 5 months adding extra rooms and facilities until it was complete.
Site specific had gone down the route of shipping containers due to the fact they reduce the carbon footprint in not only construction but the use of recycled materials. The shipping container design sits comfortably alongside a car dealership and blends in nicely. But just as importantly they could work with the project in modular sections by utilizing the easy construction methods associated with shipping containers. For the dealership they have the added bonus of being able to move the whole building when the lease expired if they decided to relocate.
Shipping containers are starting to become the norm not only for house construction but also for reusing as offices and other buildings. WhiteCrate has taken on the realisation that you can also make them an extremely portable sales unit and have developed a company round the concept. From an exhibition and event perspective these are also fantastic as you can simply fold up and drop when needed saving a lot of expensive costs in labour.
Keeping on the green route of recycling the company tries to get all its fitting out materials from local sources to help reduce unnecessary transportation and excessive waste. Having a broad selection of designs also allows people to get an idea if its suits their business and needs.