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Sustainable Store Design in Action

I recently had the pleasure of cracking open my first built project for Starbucks: Reclamation Drive-Thru in Tukwila, Washington. This small project came at a perfect time here at Starbucks as we challenge ourselves to deliver LEED-certified stores across the US. Pending LEED certification, this project is just one step toward our goal of universally building all new company-owned stores to be LEED-certified Starbucks Stores. I wanted it to be green, thought provoking and sustainable  the sort of project that stirs chatter. I think we got it.

So, what is Reclamation Drive-Thru? The store was inspired by the view (captured in the image above) outside the window of our headquarters on first avenue in Seattle, as the Seattle Times rightly reported last week. Shipping containers source our coffees and teas from around the world. But many end up in scrap yards once they reach their average 20 year lifespan. Reclamation Drive-Thru was inspired by a desire to help keep items used throughout our supply chain, like old shipping containers, out of the waste stream. The result: a 450 square foot drive-thru and walk-up store made from four end-of-life-cycle shipping containers. One small 20-foot container holds garbage, recycling and storage, but other than that, the whole store is contained within the shells of four containers that have been reclaimed, refurnished, renewed and revived. And it works!

Savings go beyond storage containers, as well. The store reduces material use with simplified, environmental signage. The building itself serves as a sign post, while form painting on the asphalt intuitively guides customers into the drive-thru. Rainwater collected from the roof of the drive-thru is used to nourish surrounding landscaping. Xeriscaping (selecting plants that naturally require less water) helps reduce water consumption. And in the event that the store needs a new location, the entire structure can be disassembled and moved.

We are now talking about ways to extend the thinking and learning from this project into other areas, perhaps in prefabrication projects or in exterior furniture and accessories. I’m not sure where this all will land, but the launch pad has now been successfully cleared and the resulting conversation has been positive. Our global footprint presents powerful possibilities to replicate and scale our green building efforts.

So where from do we go from here? A decidedly new way of thinking about how large our stand alone buildings could or should be, how they could look and function and about the possibility of off-site fabrication and more. These questions are exciting design challenges to bring to light, and we’re looking for creative, brand appropriate and business-savvy ways to solve them, while honoring our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint. Could sustainable design continue to influence our brand, our mission and our size? We think so.

Happy to chat anytime. Stay tuned for our 2011 Global Responsibility Report, publishing this Spring, which provides an update on our progress in sustainable construction. In the meanwhile, share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

comments (64)

Comment FAQ

    • socalsurfrunner
    • 2/20/2012 11:11 PM

    This is really cool. As a Starbucks partner I love seeing our company continually pushing to be better. Starbucks never fails to inspire me!

      • kbaumgartner
      • 3/7/2012 7:26 AM

      In reply to: socalsurfrunner

      Great idea! Perhaps, Starbucks could enhance their 2012 Global Responsibility Report by using this technology to construct a few scaled down versions of their Reclamation Drive-Thru’s to help address the food desert problem. Using similar materials and design features they could build the facilities and turn them over to not for profit organizations or entrepreneurs in neighborhoods where healthy food is not easily available.

      • 2/2/2014 9:15 PM

      In reply to: socalsurfrunner

      Such a great idea! Do you have pictures of how it looks in the inside?

    • jcolema3
    • 2/22/2012 9:58 AM

    These are good ideas but you could take this a step further by using waste
    materials available near the proposed locations and by employing local people
    near the proposed site to construct the buildings. Nonetheless, this is a good first
    step. Look into the concept of permaculture and you will be a little more ahead of
    the curve!

      • deneencook
      • 2/23/2012 9:36 AM

      In reply to: jcolema3

      I think this is a really cool concept and good for you!
      (Never should we give a compliment followed up by a "but")


        • cgtaylor2
        • 2/23/2012 9:44 AM

        In reply to: deneencook

        I feel it's perfectly acceptable to give a compliment followed by a "but". It lets them know you love the steps they have taken, and it also asks them to go one step further. Instead of being complacent and saying "Good job everyone, we're done helping the environment for the next 3-5 years" they'll be more likely to push the envelope sooner because people have indicated an interest.

        • Lheaverlo
        • 2/23/2012 4:20 PM

        In reply to: cgtaylor2

        Actually, if you add a "but" to your compliment you have just negated the good feelings by the recipient. There is always time to address your "but" thought separately. I don't recall EVER feeling the same kind of appreciation for something someone has said when they add a BUT to the comment - I just feel patronized.

        • carson8
        • 5/4/2012 4:53 AM

        In reply to: cgtaylor2

        I agree. A "but" , "moreover", "however", injects a new vision or direction on a good idea. Good ideas can morph into great ideas!

      • tankboi619
      • 2/23/2012 9:45 AM

      In reply to: jcolema3

      Seriously?!?... they built an entire store out of unused shipping containers and you can't just applaud that effort?

      Learn how to be appreciative of the gains we get in life rather than complaining for more and more.

      Great job Starbucks... one more reason I'm a regular customer.

      • saraha630
      • 2/23/2012 9:49 AM

      In reply to: jcolema3

      Here in the USA shipping containers are waste! America is buying so much merchandise from other countries, primarily China and selling so little back to them that shipping containers are actually becoming an environmental hazard. Apparently it is cheaper to manufacture new ones on the opposite side of the ocean than transport them empty back to where they originated.

      • resourcesforlife
      • 2/23/2012 10:43 AM
      • DonnaMR96
      • 2/23/2012 2:04 PM

      In reply to: jcolema3

      Did you know that there is a high performing upholstery fabric called WoJo that is made out of Starbucks waste coffee sacks?

    • Samphen
    • 2/23/2012 9:40 AM

    This is the best! we need more creative buildings like this! props to the designer. @samphen

    • xfhyfdk
    • 2/23/2012 9:41 AM

    I LOVE it! I ABSOLUTELY love it! I want a home like this!!!! (and if it included a barista, all the better!)

    I accept the Starbucks Terms and Conditions and attest that I am over the age of 18. In fact, I protest that I am so many years over 18!

      • Cuppa_Joe
      • 2/23/2012 2:18 PM

      In reply to: xfhyfdk

      They maka homes out of shipping containers. I have seen them used in Europe and Japan. It is a great idea to use them in that way, rather than discard in landfills or scrapyards.

      • CarlaWalton
      • 2/27/2012 9:03 AM

      In reply to: xfhyfdk

      Go to for great examples of homes built with containers!

    • rhondau55
    • 2/23/2012 9:42 AM

    Put footprints leading to the door!/I love this concept.i feel the warmth!

    • 2/23/2012 9:42 AM

    I just realized I could build a home like that.Cool!

    • trolsgirl
    • 2/23/2012 9:43 AM

    Beautiful and recycling at its best!

    • Cruel_Phate
    • 2/23/2012 9:45 AM

    We drove by this location on our way to the Museum of Flight, and just had to make a stop on our way back home. It's REALLY cool!

    • bootsboy02
    • 2/23/2012 9:45 AM

    This is amazing! I really like this idea and design!

    • sheri2000
    • 2/23/2012 9:54 AM

    Puma did this in Boston a few year ago.. really cool idea

    • RavenFall
    • 2/23/2012 10:02 AM

    Oh, my, what a great idea. This could be done for so many other businesses that only need a small footprint. I applaud Starbucks for doing this.
    One other thing I thought of right away was housing for the homeless. I know, I know, who would pay for it? I don't know that. But ... it would put the containers to good use.

    • 2/23/2012 10:17 AM

    I love it...Geat Job!!!! Bring one Jacksonville, FL

    • Deemin
    • 2/23/2012 10:24 AM

    Can't wait to check out this new store. I've always wanted to see one of the building made out of shipping containers. Way to go *$s.

    • notAnn
    • 2/23/2012 10:27 AM

    I hope there's a small elevator in it or attached to it. I'd love to use the coffee lounge on the upper floor but I can't take stairs.

      • AmyKasprzyk
      • 2/23/2012 10:58 AM

      In reply to: notAnn

      I don't believe the upstairs is a lounge, it is only a walk-up and drive-thru store.

      • toadrudolph
      • 2/23/2012 11:26 AM

      In reply to: notAnn

      If their is public acess to the top heir has to be a elevator. If not it would be in violation with the ADA. I love the look. How are they insulated?

        • AnthonyPerezUs
        • 2/25/2012 9:07 AM

        In reply to: toadrudolph

        We used a high density soy based spray on foam called Demilec. brilliant insulation value, LEED certified, no/low VOC. this allowed us a give as much space as possible to our partners inside. Highly recommended partners.


        • dcoopsd
        • 3/19/2013 6:04 AM

        In reply to: toadrudolph

        Actually, not having an elevator would not make it in violation of ADA so long as the square footage of the 2nd floor falls under the minimum requirements set by the ADAAG.

    • emevans55
    • 2/23/2012 10:33 AM

    what is the address, please?

    • emevans55
    • 2/23/2012 10:36 AM

    what is the address, please?

    • ndroukas
    • 2/23/2012 10:36 AM

    It's on E Marginal Way in Tukwila, WA. Just south of Boeing Field.

    • 2/23/2012 10:41 AM

    Great job, love it! The next one should have indoor seating so we can spend more time there enjoying it!

    • levi.bradshaw
    • 2/23/2012 10:48 AM

    As a Partner this puts a HUGE smile on my face. I have never been so proud to work for a company that does so much to lighten its footprint in the world we live in. Not only here in the US but abroad. Its not just about the ability to be LEED certified, its about building schools for children, working to provide fresh water to communities and providing the people who make it all possible with a sense of importance. I am privilege to call myself a Partner!

    • alicenz
    • 2/23/2012 11:12 AM

    I'm from Christchurch New Zealand and our city center was destroyed after a few large earthquakes (including 2 starbucks) and they have built a shipping container shopping complex in some of the empty sites of demolished buildings. Starbucks should open one up here. I haven't had a decent coffee for a year as the only starbucks is in a shopping mall most people would rather not go to as we are still having pleanty of after shocks. Please Please Please :)

    • ann_marie_99
    • 2/23/2012 11:31 AM

    I think it looks fantastic! What a great idea.

    • ikimmybee
    • 2/23/2012 11:55 AM

    iSupport! X3

    • neekholas08
    • 2/23/2012 1:23 PM

    This won't be allowed to happen in Colorado! It is illegal in the state to collect rain water! But nice try guys! Pretty cool you care!

    • TheAliJoJo
    • 2/23/2012 2:34 PM

    This is unbelievably innovative! Is the future of business portable? Imagine an America where a street could have Starbucks, McDonald's, etc one day & the next day have a variety of other businesses! Proud to work for this company!

    • jurren
    • 2/23/2012 3:04 PM

    That is really cool!! Going to visit that store quickly. Just wondering where exactly it is in Tukwila.

    • susan99504
    • 2/23/2012 5:43 PM

    Great the xeriscape concept as well. You could even take this 1 step further...prefab the units & ship them across the US to create new Starbucks! I definitely will try to stop by the Tukwilla location next time I am in SEA.

    • univex
    • 2/24/2012 4:01 AM

    I love it. Beyond the noted sustainability benefit, it looks cool. Unpretentiously modern.

    • Lpeantal
    • 2/24/2012 1:52 PM


    Great looking project! Would I be able to make another LEED qualifying suggestion?

    Would you or someone else be interested in my small onsite renewable generator? Small footprint, yet scalable for the different locations and manufacturing locations.

    Please let me know, Thank you,

    Lions Power & Electric LLC.

    • AnthonyPerezUs
    • 2/25/2012 8:51 AM

    Happy to chat. Let me know how to connect to forward information.



    • CarlaWalton
    • 2/27/2012 9:01 AM

    Check out ... a leading manufacturer of custom designed, earth friendly living spaces and structures using recycled containers!

    • arvindbhandari
    • 2/27/2012 9:32 AM

    this is one of the good example of Drive.thru store and followed withj all the standards
    of Sbux........good job done...keep it up

    • lexiheigh
    • 2/29/2012 9:22 PM

    It is perfectly acceptable to give a compliment followed by a "but". It lets them know you love the steps they have taken, and it also asks them to go one step further. Instead of being complacent and saying "Good job everyone.....

    • Reddington
    • 3/2/2012 3:10 PM

    Concept is cool- aesthetics are bad- they could have dressed it up more- something is missing here- why not take the square look of the containers and do something round to offest it, kind of like an "opposites attract" theme? A wind turbine on top like the one I saw from UGE with its egg beater style of blades would really make this building look a lot nicer, and with the turbine spinning it would attract even more attention!

    • coolryper
    • 3/4/2012 3:21 PM

    Love it, love it, love it! Can't wait until my store gets this kind of LEED
    treatment. To Anthony P. and his team: well done, and wanted to let you
    see where my kids go to school here in L.A., since they used shipping
    containers in the interior design as well. They're used as room parti-
    tions, individual reading lounges, libraries, storage areas, meeting
    rooms, offices, etc. Check out: for pix.

    • bobandrachel
    • 3/20/2012 8:53 AM

    Here is a great story about using containers to build safe affordable housing.

    • Metro-Art
    • 12/24/2012 4:31 AM

    I love these designs. As an owner of a mural company, it would be great if we had some way of bidding for local jobs for Starbucks. I have a lot of great custom ideas for local historical and artistic relevance. We are also a green company. Anggelyka V. Apostle, lead artist & owner

    • thebuzzed
    • 1/21/2013 2:36 AM

    I'm sorry but I don't want to go to a shipping container to have a drink.

    • 10/22/2013 1:02 PM

    I totally agree with you.
    what about using LED lighting in your container stores?
    Please check
    Swedish American joint venture Largest LED lighting producing company in US.
    Thank you for helping our environment with others who are trying to reduce environmental footprint.

    • 3/11/2014 5:55 AM

    great initiative.. was it through LEED NC? I would appreciate if you can share some information about your experience with the LEED certification process.


    • 5/9/2014 7:40 AM

    Anthony...The efforts to reduce the environmental impact is incredible and the reuse of containers is incredibly interesting. Kudos to Starbucks for the innovative approach to retail in the U.S.

    I'm an Urban Planning grad student on the east coast and would really like to learn more about the process Starbucks went through with the 5 locations established, if possible.

    Hope to hear from you or your team soon! Congrats again on making a positive impact through design!!


    • morgantg
    • 5/19/2014 1:55 PM

    Do you have an ongoing list of "alternative" stores i.e. different than your in-line and standalone retail prototypes?

    • jlpuebla
    • 8/6/2014 9:13 AM

    Excellent green solution. I just went to visit the Ballard location (It is amazing). I'm in the process to build a house using shipping containers and I would like to see if you can share some ideas or information to avoid too many obstacles about this kind of alternative building solutions. My house will be build in Duvall WA. Keep going SB, our future depends of this kind of leadership!

    • 4/28/2017 6:48 AM

    Hey do you might want to expand this green project worldwide or only in US ?

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