You Can Now Rent an Office in a Shipping Container

San Francisco real estate gets more creative by the day.

shipping container

Bay Area office space is tight, but in 2016, we’re seeing a whole new level of tight.

With demand high and space scarce, startups that want to work in San Francisco are forced to jump through hoops to snag an office space. Coworking spaces are in vogue, and while giants like WeWork are often too competitive and expensive for early-stage startups, there are plenty of smaller work spaces that fit the bill. Some differentiate themselves by offering unique amenities or by appealing to a particular niche. Still, sometimes you just want your own office. SF doesn’t offer much for startups who feel they’ve outgrown coworking but who can’t afford a proper downtown office.

A new startup called Campsyte is challenging the status quo in the strangest of ways. They found the middle ground between coworking spaces and formal office buildings, and apparently that middle ground is shipping containers.

Hoodline reports that Campsyte is already operating a one-story shipping container in SoMa, with a few three-story spaces awaiting approval for construction. Despite the strange concept, Campsyte offers a similar value proposition to coworking spaces, except without the collaboration. Startups can rent cheap, flexible offices for as long as they need, and they can rent more space as their company grows. The low commitment and the price are what make the service stand out compared to traditional offices.

From Campsyte’s perspective, shipping containers are convenient because of the lack of construction. Building development is infamously difficult, especially in a city with sky-high demand and a web of convoluted regulations like San Francisco. The proposed three-story offices will be built on top of retail stores, making it comparatively easy to secure a good location and short development times. Presumably, some of the money saved is being passed on to the tenants, which is what makes Campsyte’s proposal cheaper in the first place.

Could modular offices be the way of the future? They certainly hold an appeal for developers, given the ease of putting one up or tearing one down.

What remains to be seen is what startups will think of them. It’s hard to imagine what a shipping container would feel like in terms of comfort and temperature, but with proper furniture and SF’s mild climate, the idea doesn’t seem too far-fetched. The quality of the experience will come down to how well the provider can furnish the space and hide the fact that it’s not actually a building.

For startups, shipping container offices might legitimately be a good, inexpensive option if they’re not interested in collaborative work spaces. It’s as minimal as it gets, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.