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Cambridge Design Partnership recycles ten old shipping containers to create a new upcycled office building.


As you’d expect from a business specialising in innovation, when it came to extending their company HQ at rapid pace, they came up with a rather clever plan.

CDP have just opened a remarkable new building at their Cambridge HQ, created from ten shipping containers and a tensile fabric atrium. The innovative design provides a new canteen and refreshment area, as well as six meeting rooms and six video conference booths.

“The challenge was how to create a temporary building that would provide the spaces the business needed. Our current offices are built around a large courtyard car park, so we thought that it would provide an ideal location for a new structure,” says Mike Cane partner at CDP.

“We wanted a new working space that would be both inspirational and have a life after we finished with it. Basing the design on recycled shipping containers provided fast construction and several options for reuse”.  

In the past six years, CDP has expanded from a team of 30 to 150 engineers, scientists and designers. Even with the establishment of a second engineering facility in Raleigh, North Carolina, CDP’s forward planning anticipated the need for more space at their Cambridge office.

“We had already added a new building to our site in 2014, but our continued growth meant we were becoming short of space again,” explains Mike. “Planning limitations meant we could not add a third building here, so in the medium term a move to a new larger site was inevitable. But we needed to bridge the gap. So as designers ourselves, we were inspired by other shipping container buildings we saw and decided to design our own interpretation. 20ft containers lend themselves to small, self-contained meeting and video conference booths, and their structural integrity means they need minimal foundations, so the building can be easily removed and the original car park reinstated for the next tenants. Tensile fabric roofs are translucent and make great, light and airy spaces for informal meetings and eating lunch.”

CDP was founded 20 years ago and now works globally on a wide range of technology and product design projects, focusing on the Healthcare and Consumer sectors. The company is employee-owned and won the Employer of the Year award in the 2019 Cambridge News Business Excellence Awards. CDP also recently attained a prestigious Red Dot award, deeming it to be the third best design studio in the whole of Europe and the Americas.

The shipping containers came over to the UK from China with cargo in them and have been re-purposed by Ipswich based company Adaptainer, with insulated linings, windows, electricity and IT infrastructure. The structural fabric atrium was supplied by Streetspace, with the high tech fabric manufactured in New Zealand.

“The building was constructed in just 3 months and is designed to last 3 years on our site. It’s bolted steel construction allows it to be dismantled, loaded onto trucks and moved to a new site, providing it with a second life.” says Mike. “But for now this building has helped us to stay in Toft longer, and allows us to continue to offer great service to our clients in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere for our team.”

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