Crate expectations: Shipping containers used for first ‘pop-up’ shopping mall

Story highlights

London's "Boxpark" shopping mall has been built from 60 shipping containers

Park's founder says mall offers sustainable alternative to conventional retail outlets

Mall's shops can relocate to another part of the country if business is slow

Recycled containers save "embodied" carbon cost linked to construction of new buildings

London CNN  — 

Built on a temporary site and made entirely from recycled shipping containers, London’s latest retail park lays claim to be the world’s first ever “pop-up” shopping mall.

The aptly-named “Boxpark” opened for business today along a vacant strip of east London’s fashionable Shoreditch High Street. It is composed of 60 standard-size shipping containers, stacked two stories high and five rows wide.

The park, which has taken a year to complete, is the brainchild of British entrepreneur Roger Wade, who made his fortune in the 1990s with another box-themed venture – the urban fashion label “Boxfresh.”

“These containers have a strong symbolism for me,” says Wade, during an interview inside one of the site’s impressively refitted “shoebox” shops.

“When I first started out selling clothes on a market stall, I dreamed of the day I’d be shipping my wares off to Hong Kong inside one of these,” he remarks. “Now I think it’s fitting that something so closely associated with global trade has ended up itself as a shop.”

But while Wade spends time enthusing about his love of the iconic sea cans’ “industrial aesthetic”– he’s also keen to stress that the Boxpark, which has a temporary lease of five years, is more than just a hip new retail experience.

“This is probably the most environmentally friendly shopping mall ever built,” he says.

Despite the fact that the park does not boast sophisticated insulating technology or even a small array of solar panels, the simple fact that it’s made from recycled materials adds credibility to Wade’s claim.

“When people talk about the energy efficiency of buildings, they tend to focus on operational carbon emissions. That is to say, how much energy the building consumes once it’s up and running,” says Anna Surgenor, senior technical adviser at the UK’s Green Building Council.

“But what often gets overlooked are the ‘embodied’ carbon emissions – all the carbon released into the atmosphere when the building materials were manufactured in the first place,” she adds.

Surgenor illustrates her point by way of the Angel Building in London which, she says, saved 7,400 tons of embodied CO2 by retaining and adapting the existing concrete structure of the site’s previous building.