Randy Bens’ Back­yard Gem


Azure - - CONTENTS - By Re­becca Keil­lor

A bou­tique firm in B.C. sets up shop in a ship­ping con­tainer

Since 2005, Randy Bens has run his res­i­den­tial ar­chi­tec­ture firm out of his home in New West­min­ster, B.C. The no-com­mut­ing ar­range­ment has af­forded him an idyl­lic work-life bal­ance. But Bens also found he needed a more pro­fes­sional space when meet­ing with clients, con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers. Rather than ex­pand the house, he de­cided to con­vert a ship­ping con­tainer into a back­yard of­fice.

“We ini­tially con­sid­ered ren­o­vat­ing the base­ment,” Bens says, “but it proved to be too ex­pen­sive.” The state of the house’s foun­da­tion, which dates back to 1936, made the back­yard a more ap­peal­ing op­tion. Over a six-month pe­riod, Bens had a con­crete base poured and the con­tainer dropped on top. To con­vert the in­dus­trial shell into an invit­ing work en­vi­ron­ment, he sliced 3.7 me­tres off one end of the 8.5-me­tre-long vol­ume, re­plac­ing the open­ing with a triple-glazed win­dow that faces onto the lawn, the back of the house and the street be­yond. Clad in ver­ti­cal yel­low cedar strips – the same wood that was used for the win­dow frames and doors – the 29.9-square-me­tre of­fice shows few signs of its in­dus­trial frame­work. Birch pan­elling lines the in­te­rior walls, and Dou­glas Fir was used for the bevel-edged desk­top – a self-sup­port­ing 5.8-me­tre-long glu­lam beam turned on its side. “I de­signed the desk to com­fort­ably seat three peo­ple, each with a full set of draw­ings on their left,” Bens says. For in­su­la­tion, he used spray foam on all sides, while a small air con­di­tioner pro­vides added cir­cu­la­tion in the sum­mer. There are many ex­am­ples of clever small-space so­lu­tions in the new space, in­clud­ing an all-in-one sink and toi­let by Caroma, and cab­i­netry above the desk to re­move the need for rolling fil­ing boxes, which tend to hog floor space. Bens is now field­ing calls from po­ten­tial clients con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar small-space ar­range­ment, though it’s not as in­ex­pen­sive as peo­ple think, he says. “The con­tainer is cheap, but the rest is cus­tom.” The en­tire project came to $200,000. Still, the of­fice is a great calling card, and flex­i­ble enough to be used as a res­i­den­tial suite in the fu­ture.

Cab­i­netry above the wall-fac­ing desk pro­vides stor­age space in lieu of rolling fil­ing cab­i­nets. A meet­ing desk is used for vis­it­ing clients and con­trac­tors. The kitchen con­tains a sink, bar fridge and mi­crowave. City zon­ing al­lows for only two plumb­ing...

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