The bright red office pods are arrayed across the floor of a giant warehouse in an industrial section of Santa Ana, complete with round porthole windows, comfortable office furniture, plants, even bathrooms and sinks.
They’re individually climate controlled, vastly cheaper than a more traditional setup. The best part: they’re made from old shipping containers – the same blocky, bus-sized metal boxes you might see stacked at the Port of Long Beach.
That is, in fact, just where Keith Flanigan, owner of a direct mail company called MVP, found them. So far, he’s had 10 of the containers refurbished into office pods, crafted into quirky, personal spaces by his 48 employees.
One was even made into a kitchen.
“Our energy costs have dropped about three grand a month for heat and air conditioning,” he said. “If everybody is not in the office, if they go to lunch, or they’re sick for a day, then the unit is turned off.”
The economic downturn, he said, has led to a big drop in shipping.
“Because of the balance of trade, these really piled up,” he said. “These things are stacking up at the Port of Long Beach.”
Flanigan, who uses one of the pods for his own office, says they not only provide big cost savings, but are comfortable to work in — and put an end to employee tugs-of-war.
“Each employee can set their own temperature,” he said. “In the old building, it was the battle of the thermostat.”
He said he got the idea when he learned that another company had converted a shipping container into an office in Costa Mesa. Looking further online, he found other imaginative uses for the big boxes — for instance, to build apartments in Europe.
“We did the porthole windows to keep up the nautical theme,” Flanigan said. “We took two of these containers and put them together to create a space 16 feet wide by 40 feet in length.”
But Flanigan has bigger ideas. Katrina-sized ideas.
“What I thought would be great: Why don’t they do these for temporary housing?” he said. “You could put them on the back of trucks, drop them off at a disaster, then pick them up. FEMA should look into doing that.”
The containers cost about $1,000 each, and they can be reconfigured with windows, doors, electricity, heating and air conditioning for about $3,000 to $4,000 each, he said. They’re built to be stacked up, one upon the other, making storage and transport easy.
To make them into living quarters, they could be equipped with Murphy beds.
Flanigan moved to his present building after rent bacame too high in Lake Forest.
“I was looking around, and I came across this building,” he said. “There was no office space at all. I thought, ‘What could I do differently?’”