Plug and play

D3 Pocket Park, designed by Smart Box at Dubai Design District (D3), features 40-foot containers forming wind towers around the D3 offices, as well as galleries and cafés. Image Credit: Courtesy of Smart Box Industries.D3 Pocket Park, designed by Smart Box at Dubai Design District (D3), features 40-foot containers forming wind towers around the D3 offices, as well as galleries and cafés. Image Credit: Courtesy of Smart Box Industries.

A Dubai-based company has introduced a novel way of building public toilets using 20-foot shipping containers. The plug and play smart public toilet is a self-contained model that can either be free-standing or integrated with the city’s utilities and allows for easy deployment anywhere. Similar to the mobile chemical toilets that are used at events, the new plug and play toilets are designed keeping in mind the requirements of a growing metropolis.

Smart Box Industries, which creates urban architectural spaces using shipping containers, says the toilets unveiled at the Water, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition in Dubai in April have been conceptualised specifically for smart cities.

“Hygienic, easy-to-maintain public toilets are a basic need of any city, and at the moment, our options are limited to malls and Dubai Metro stations,” says Arjun Menon, Managing Director of Smart Box Industries.

“At Smart Box, we have been studying these requirements and have come up with a model that not only aligns with Dubai’s Vision 2020 but meets the demands of the global citizen in terms of design and facilities.”

Menon says Dubai needs public toilets after every 100 metre block to cater to its growing populace. He claims the investment on the toilets can be recovered in six months through a coin-operated payment system and advertisement on the outer walls. “We are trying to pitch this green toilet concept to the municipality and other government authorities.”

Green features

Apart from incorporating the latest technology, the smart toilets sport green elements that are inherent to Smart Box products. Made of upcycled shipping containers, the units combine solar lighting and LED lights, low-power air conditioning, efficient water flushes and insulated spaces.

In addition, the units also have other water-saving features such as sensor-controlled wash basin taps and urinal valves.

One of Smart Box’s major achievements was the completion of the first approved permanent modular building in the Middle East and North Africa that uses shipping containers for Geo-Chem Middle East at the Dubai TechnoPark.

The 13,440-sq-ft Geo-Chem Middle East office has been manufactured out of 42 units of 40-foot tall cube containers and meets all the requirements of a typical commercial building. In addition to being made of recycled materials, the building sports a host of energy-efficient features, making it one of the greenest in the region.

For this project, Smart-Box won the Emirates Green Building Council 2015 Green Building System Award in May, in recognition of “a building system that provides a more sustainable solution to green building construction than traditional construction methods”.

Menon says the award recognises years of work that have been put into perfecting cargotecture (container conversion) in the region.

“We have been working systematically to further this idea of modular construction. The possibilities are endless with this technology, and the award has given us the impetus to move ahead with increased confidence.”

Smart Box has been actively innovating and promoting a host of green and sustainable living options using upcycled shipping containers since its inception in 1999.

Besides having manufactured and set up the region’s first permanent modular building, Smart Box provides cutting-edge construction alternatives including residential and office units, pop-up venues for events as well as transportable accommodation units for uses at mining sites, by the military and construction workers.

D3 Pocket Park

Another innovative concept developed by the firm is located at Dubai Design District (D3) : the D3 Pocket Park. The 40-foot containers in the project are erected upright, forming wind towers that punctuate clusters of D3 offices as well as other service and retail spaces. The project houses galleries, workshops, stores, cafés, multipurpose facilities, rental spaces, a prayer room and restaurants.

Fabricated by Smart Box for AMBB, a Dubai-based interiors house, the development comprises 76 containers (a combination of 20- and 40-foot units) across a 13,637-sq m plot.

As the specialist vendor, Smart Box manufactured the shell-and-core components for the structure, including container clusters, platforms, staircases and other ancillaries using converted shipping containers. According to Smart Box, the purpose-built structure marks a new chapter in the region’s construction industry as it incorporates cargotecture into Dubai’s mainstream urban planning and development.

With its Dubai manufacturing base, Smart Box has also set goals to expand into new markets overseas. Since its inception in 1997 as a container repair plant, Smart Box has evolved into a pre-engineered steel modular construction specialist, manufacturing high-quality ISO marine container-based products. The firm responded to a sudden demand for portable accommodation during the US-led war in Iraq, which opened a new revenue source, says Menon. Since 2008, SmartBox has focused purely on container conversion.

“We can build affordable structures like labour accommodation to international standards,” says Menon. “We are not here to build cheap. Using shipping containers is a green, clean and friendly way to construct. We have been consistent in sticking to this and our brand image is strong enough that clients seek us out for innovative projects. The earlier lack of understanding has given way to admiration.

“Now what we do is called trendy. With a quarter of the time spent for construction, these are the best building blocks in the world. It’s the future.”

Source: N. P. Krishna Kumar, Special to Property Weekly


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