Starbucks builds Tukwila store out of shipping containers

Tukwila is the site for a one-of-a-kind Starbucks drive-thru built out of used shipping containers.

Four used shipping containers make up Starbucks' new location in Tukwila

Tukwila is the site for a one-of-a-kind Starbucks drive-thru built out of used shipping containers.

The store opened in December at 10100 E. Marginal Way S. and features four shipping containers. Three of the containers are 40 feet long and one is 20 feet long.

“Our designers were inspired to create this store both as a result of the shipyard that can be seen out the back windows of our headquarters in South Seattle as well as a desire to recycle the same kind of shipping containers that transport our coffees and teas around the world,” said Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson in an e-mail.

Many of the old shipping containers end up in scrap yards after an average lifespan of about 20 years, Hutson said.

“Starbucks is experimenting with new design formats that reclaim the expired containers – taking them out of scrap yards and converting them into stores,” Hutson said.

The company also is focused on green-building initiatives not only to help reduce operating costs but also to lead by example and to push the environmental design envelope in retail.

“This means finding solutions that help keep things used throughout the company’s supply chain, like old shipping containers, out of the waste stream,” Hutson said.

The store is the first operational Starbucks to be built using a fully reclaimed material exterior. The store also reduces materials by using simplified environmental signage. The building itself serves as a sign post, while form painting on the asphalt intuitively guides customers into the drive-thru.

Rainwater collected from the roof of the drive-thru is used to nourish surrounding landscaping. The company also selected plants that naturally require less water to reduce water consumption.

“Our store designs reflect Starbucks core mission as a gathering place for the communities we serve, as well as a commitment to reduce our environmental footprint and use our scale for good,” Hutson said.

Starbucks corporate architect Tony Gale III explained what the design accomplishes.

“We were able to open our minds to the use of very common elements destined for the landfill as structure for a high-quality, drive-thru coffee house design – essentially creating an industrial beacon for sustainable thinking,” said Gale in an email.

The store does not offer interior seating, but does feature an outdoor patio. Customers can use a drive-thru or walk-up window. Store hours are 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


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