A fully self-sufficient container hub that can be operational within minutes of being loaded onto a work site is the latest product innovation from shipping container specialists Royal Wolf, a United Rentals company.
“Full solar was the answer,” says Dale Garson, General Manager of Engineering, about the Site Hub, a 40-foot container powered by renewable energy.
Garson says to increase set-up efficiencies and provide significant cost savings, customers required the Site Hub to be operational almost immediately once on location without the need for external infrastructure.
“The first iteration of the Site Hub was a combination of a diesel generator and solar. However, to make it a real game changer, it had to be fully self-sufficient which started with how it was powered.”
During the development of the product, power loads and the different power demands were refined. Additional insulation was added to maximise the energy efficiency of the container.
“At Royal Wolf, product innovation is driven heavily by what our customers want and need from a container. The Site Hub has been an incredible challenge, and after two years of development we have created a flexible, robust, self-contained work site container solution.”
Anatomy of a Site Hub
Other key elements needed to make the Site Hub fully self-sufficient, and to create a functional space for workers, included potable (drinkable) water and a self-contained ablutions system.
“Everything had to be on board from drinking water and waste tanks through to power and power storage,” says Tammy Stanford, National Account Manager – Building & Construction.
“Potable water is a real rarity, and our customers have to double check that the water is drinkable and that you can drink from the tap,” says Stanford.
The Site Hub is made up of:
- 1000ltr potable water tank with on demand pressure pump
- Grey water harvesting and storage inside
- Full complement of solar panels
- 20kWh lithium battery storage back-up to enable up to five days operation during inclement weather
The container can be configured and utilized as a lunchroom, kitchenette, office, multipurpose space, compliant first aid room or storage all with an onboard self-contained toilet.
A container with benefits
The Site Hub is ideal for sites and remote areas where there is no, or limited access to services.
It is also designed to provide flexibility on sites where demolition or early works are being undertaken because it can be moved easily without having to disconnect from supply lines.
“From a planning perspective it is a unique product,” says Stanford, “because it does away with worrying about things like power and waste-water connections, generators, and fuel deliveries.
“From an early works perspective in the construction sector, it allows the project team to mobilize on site and start working. A Brisbane project put a Site Hub on wheels during the demolition stage and moved it around as they completed certain areas. It was so easy because they didn't have to worry about connections or disconnections.”
The energy efficiency of the Site Hub has less impact on the environment than traditional site compounds with generator-powered buildings.
Stanford says the use of renewable energy is key to helping companies and government organisations meet Green Star requirements and reduce carbon emissions.
“The Site Hubs are also repurposed containers which only adds to the sustainability story behind the product. So, there are many ticks customers get which helps with sustainability reporting.”
Significant cost savings
Royal Wolf conducted cost comparisons for customers between standard site compounds run by generators compared to the Site Hub. Stanford says significant savings are made due to the use of renewable energy and minimal set-up costs.
“It could be anywhere between $30,000 to $100,000 in savings throughout a whole project,” she says.
See table below for cost comparison between Site Hub and Standard Sheds and setups.
COST COMPARISON: Site Hub v Standard set-ups
26-Month Project Hire
- 2 x 20-foot office containers
- Waste tank
- Water tank with pump
AU$80,942.00 (excl GST)
NB: Does not include cost of fuel
- 40-foot container
- Waste tank
- Potable water tank
AU$35,970.00 (excl GST)
Large Scale Project - Five Month Hire
Standard set up
- 12 x 12-foot offices
- 40-foot lunch container
- 20-foot ablutions container
- Waste tank
- Chemical toilet
AU$207,200.00 (excl GST)
Near equivalent features to standard set up
AU$142,005.00 (excl GST)
The Future – Site Hub 3.0
Future development of the Site Hub is underway in collaboration with customers currently using the product on sites across Australia and New Zealand.
Enhancements include reconfigurable internal space for multiple layout options to suit different customer requirements, remote monitoring of energy consumption and production, and reporting of onboard tank levels as well as increased grey water tank capacity.
“We are continuing to innovate and develop version three with everything from more on-board power to enable customers to run more products through to construction of the Site Hub for cyclonic wind regions,” says Garson.