Distill Studio

Structures Workshop, Inc.

Truth Box, Inc.

Stack Build LLC

Providence, RI



The Box Office is a new 3-story office building consisting of
32 reused shipping containers under construction in
Providence.  The office spaces contain dramatic 14 foot
cantilevers and container bridges are formed to create
passageways between office units.  

The two renderings shown are with rights from Tim Nelson
courtesy of Truth Box.  The left image is of our Revit / BIM
model used for documentation and on the right is our Finite
Element Analysis ETABS model.  We created a robust Revit
Container family for used section/detail creation.

For more information see the following news links...
Inhabitat  “Box Office Shipping Container Office"
Projo "New building should work inside the box"


A shipping container uses the full depth of the corrugated
metal walls to span 40 feet (much like a wide flange beam
needs it's web.  It acts as a deep beam which is as deep
as the height of the container.  Therefore, structurally, these
walls are very important to keep.  To keep costs down, you
want to "let the container be a container" and try to keep the
walls.  Unfortunately that is often at odds with flexible space
and leasing requirements of offices being a minimum of
two containers wide.  So some walls need to go.   If the
walls are fully or partially removed, the container becomes
much more complicated.  It can lose almost all of its
stiffness and shear capacity.  You need to introduce
reinforcing (horizontal members or columns) because the
small base channel cannot span very far in flexure.  

You can accommodate small window openings but
determining size for unreinforced or minimally reinforced
openings can be complicated.  This is due to the walls
having different properties in different directions - in the
horizontal direction, the web is as flexible as an accordion -
but in the vertical and shear orientation it is very stiff.  There
is additional complexity in determining how to economically
reinforce modified containers - that is, how to minimize field
welding and simplify the connections to adjoining
containers and foundations.  

The container can be joined the same way they are stacked
on a container ship, using steel assemblies that have
manual levers to lock the containers together at each of the
four corner castings.  They may also need additional
welded plates to tie them together horizontally.   

Given all the costly reinforcing required, the only way to
make a shipping container building economical is very
close collaboration with the owner, architect, and builder.  
This was the case on this project.
Structures Workshop, Inc. is a full-service structural engineering firm licensed in RI, MA, NH, CT, NY, WI, IL and ME and located in Providence.
Our BIM / Revit Model
Built Project
Structures Workshop, Inc.  
18 Imperial Place - Courtyard
Providence, RI 02903
401.383.8988 (ph)
401.351.8788 (fax)
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