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Architect’s Clever New HQ

How clever is this? Lachlan Shepherd of Lachlan Shepherd Architects took a former carpark site and three brand new SPAREBOX shipping containers and transformed them into stylish new office premises in his home town of Torquay, on Victoria’s Surf Coast.

What’s more, he and his business partner James Wilson, of James Wilson Insurance Solutions, finished the build in under five months, despite taking on much of the work themselves on weekends and after hours. Here’s more on how this professionally thought-through project came about.

How creative is this?

“As a modernist architect, I was attracted to the idea of shipping container-based design because their stripped-back nature and efficient use of space conform to that design ethos. “From an architectural point of view, one of the satisfying elements of this project, apart from the cost factor, is that we embraced the container for what it is. We stayed true to format and we’re inhabiting the space as is”.


Main Drivers

Their main drivers were economics and efficiency. “There’s no way you could architecturally design and build something comparable from scratch so affordably and in such a short time frame,” says Lachlan, who was initially directed to 1300SPAREBOX by a builder friend.

“I liked their professional attitude, they were really easy to deal with and they kept us in the loop. The three containers – new ones – arrived on time and in top-quality nick. They were unloaded facing the way we specified, and the next day we had them craned into position onto concrete piers. With shipping containers, the practical advantage is you can start work virtually right away. You get on with installing the basics and you don’t lose time to bad weather because they offer pretty good protection”.

  • Affordability – budget conscious compared to building from scratch
  • Efficiency –build works commence straight away
  • Practicality – no down time due to external weather conditions

Design philosophy.

The H-shaped shared offices employ two 40ft High Cube containers and one standard height 20ft container, linked by glass-enclosed walkways. “For us, the proportions are very much fit for purpose. We work from a long central bench, and the linear form of the container mimics that working space.

Every bit of the 75 square metres available is fully utilised, with two office wings either side of an entry suite (the smaller container) which houses a kitchenette, bathroom and storeroom. “I like the fact that we’ve retained the containers’ structural integrity without having to weld or to shore anything up. Not bad, considering that we pulled off all the doors and rear panels and replaced them with full-height windows. We also made incisions for side doorways and re-purposed the metal cut-outs as industrial-style sliding doors.”

“We’ve opted to carpet our two High Cube container office spaces but retained the standard timber plywood flooring in the entry suite. It’s new, looked good, so why not?” Carefully considered north/south orientation, insulation and ventilation are hallmarks of this professionally thought-through project.

The large windows are double-glazed, walls are insulated inside and out, interior surfaces finished in plasterboard and marine ply. Oxidised steel parapets house graded purlins supporting roofing over and above the lined, insulated container tops. Because containers are inherently watertight, traditional exterior cladding was bypassed for more cost-effective fencing plinth boards. Smart oxidised steel window surrounds incorporate planter boxes and shield the summer sun.

Ticking all the boxes.

Lachlan says the design suits its centrally-located surrounds, adjacent to iconic surfing brand Rip Curl. “It’s not overblown, more a subtle advertisement for the way we go about things”.
“James and I are life-long friends and we made a lifestyle decision to remain in our home town, involve ourselves with our families as much as possible and sustain our current business models rather than chase expansion. Our new digs suit that philosophy very well”.

Lachlan Shepherd