Starbucks Reclamation Drive Thru Shipping Container Store Blog Cover

Starbucks Reclamation Drive-Thru Shipping Container Store

Posted By: February 3, 2015 In Featured

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We love it here at containerhomeplans when we see large companies doing things to raise the profile of sustainability or better yet trying to reduce their own carbon footprint! We have a great example of this today with Starbucks as they have decided to build several stores made from shipping containers. You might have already seen some of these stores, as there are a handful of them which are already being used in the US. Let’s take a look at how they were designed and what they look like now they are finished.


Starbucks headquarters is based in Seattle, and overlooks the Puget Sound which happens to feature a busy shipping port; this is where the inspiration came from. When the Starbucks design team were thinking of an eco-friendly store idea they looked out of the window over to the shipping port and pondered on the idea of using some of the older decommissioned shipping containers to build a new sustainable store.

Their Global Store Design Senior Manager, Anthony Perez, said they wanted their new eco-friendly store to “be green, thought provoking and sustainable- the sort of project that stirs chatter”. I think we can safely say Anthony succeeded in his task as since the stores have been built they have been featured all over the internet on The Huffington Post and CNN!

Starbucks uses such shipping containers to deliver their coffee, tea and other materials all across the world so it seems quite fitting that they decided to use the containers to build a store out of. The shipping containers are normally scrapped after their working lifespan which is typically around 20-25 years. Starbucks wanted a way to help reduce their waste stream throughout their supply chain so reusing the shipping containers is a great way to start doing this.

So Starbucks set out with the design brief to use shipping containers to design a drive-through/walk in store that was LEED-certified, like all other new Starbucks stores built throughout the US.

Anthony Perez their Global Store Design Senior Manager said that they wanted the Starbucks container store to create “experiences that honour the integrity of the neighbourhoods where they operate”, which giving the setting the first container store was made in, I think they certainly did do this.

Interestingly they said one of the fun parts of designing a new store with shipping containers is that they can’t modify the dimensions of the containers so they had to completely rethink how everything would fit inside of this new shape; so it was like a great big puzzle! Starbucks decided to prefabricate the containers off-site so when the containers were delivered to the stores location it only took 10-14 days for the new store to open.


The store has now been built and has been a great success for Starbucks, both environmentally and economically. Starbucks settled on the idea of using four end-of-life containers; for those of you not familiar, an end-of-life container is one that has been decommissioned from being used as freight. Using the four shipping containers Starbucks managed to create a store with 450 square feet and if you take a look at the pictures you can see that they have positioned the containers to create a drive-through around the store… it looks really neat. Not only did Starbucks create a really neat store it is also LEED certified.

As previously mentioned the store is a modular structure which makes it very easy to be transported; it was pre-built in the US and then delivered to the site ready to go. Also, just in-case Starbucks decide to move the store; it can be dissembled and moved to another site no problem. Another nice touch was that they decided to recover another, smaller, 20 foot container which is used as a garbage and recycling container.

Not only was the store built sustainably using up-cycled containers, Starbucks also made a few really cool sustainability choices elsewhere. Firstly, they installed a grey-water collector on the roof and the collected rainwater is used to water the plants in the surrounding gardens. Oh talking of plants, whilst landscaping the gardens, they decide to only use plants that naturally require small volumes of water to survive. Secondly, instead of designing and making signs, they decided to use the containers themselves as sign posts which guide the customers into the store!

I haven’t had chance to see the store in person yet so I decide to take a look online and see some of the reviews and it looks like customers are really enjoying the novelty container store:

  • This is such a cool Starbucks! It is not a traditional store … This is a great place to enjoy the sunny weather and catch up with friends you want to meet. – Lisa P
  • This is a neat Starbucks. I don’t think I have seen any other stores like this. We lovingly call this store the Container Store. – Danielle C
  • The shape they used for these stacked metal boxes is great, too. This all lends itself a nice, cool modern and bold touch with a great design package using Starbucks’s rustic dark paint scheme. – Daren D
  • This is a pretty fun location to stop by. They build this purely to show the container that carries the Starbucks coffee. – Jingwen Y

If you’d like to see a video of the construction of the Starbucks shipping container store take a look at the CNN news story on it below.


Next Steps

The store in Seattle has been open for several years now and following its success Starbucks are rolling out this concept out across the US. Not only are shipping containers being used but other recycled materials such as snow fencing have also been used. The really cool thing about using shipping containers is that they can make really tiny stores from them and open stores in areas which otherwise they couldn’t fit a store in; such as their smallest store to date… a 380 square foot store in Salt Lake.

Since the success of the Seattle shipping container store, they have launched similar ones in Colorado, Chicago, Denver, Oregon and Kansas City.

The shop in Colorado is made from only two end-of-life containers and the exterior is cladded with recycled snow fencing from Wyoming. Chicago’s shipping container store opened in October 2013 and has been very well received. The store itself was made in California before it was hauled acrossed the US to its final resting place in Edgewater.

Arthur Rubinfeld, Starbucks’ Global Development President, states these stores represent a much large global initiative to build eco-friendly stores world-wide with each and every new US store being LEED certified.

Massive congratulations to Starbucks for thinking outside of the box and showing other companies how using shipping containers to build stores can be both cool and good for the environment. Let’s hope other companies decide to follow suit and start making their own shipping container stores! Have you seen any other shipping container stores or got any ideas for what other companies could use shipping containers for? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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