Garden Pod takes the shipping container hotel concept in new directions

By Micheal Mascioni

Shipping container hotels have been on the rise, as hoteliers increasingly develop flexible alternative hotel forms at reduced costs to meet the needs of more adventurous guests. The Garden Pod pop-up hotel, which was installed in a garden park in Singapore by Tiny Pod Pte, Ltd in partnership with Gardens by the Bay, takes the shipping container hotel concept in new directions. 

The upgraded, sustainable container hotel was launched by Seah Liang Chiang, founder and CEO of Singapore-based Tiny Pod Pte., Ltd. and former IT entrepreneur. “The hotel’s structure is mostly made up of metal and incorporates lofts with spiral staircases, some of which essentially constitute sculptures,” he says. “It also incorporates solar panels.”

Suites or “pods” at the hotel accommodate four guests, occupy 47 sq. m. and run around $600 Singapore dollars.  “We’ve had around 4,000 to 5,000 visitors to date,” says Chiang, adding, “The key audience for the Garden Pod hotel is young modern families looking for a unique hotel in a unique location. The hotel can be re-assembled for installation at other locations once their tenure at Gardens by the Bay is up. We also have two other hotels.”

Chiang believes shipping container hotels, especially Garden Pod hotel, offer a number of advantages, inlcuding:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Shipping containers are readily available and relatively inexpensive compared to traditional building materials. They can be re-purposed into hotel rooms, which can significantly reduce construction costs.
  • Speed of Construction: Container-based construction is often faster than traditional methods. The modular nature of shipping containers allows for simultaneous work on multiple units, leading to quicker project completion.
  • Sustainability: Re-purposing shipping containers contributes to recycling and reduces the environmental impact associated with traditional construction materials. Additionally, using shipping containers can encourage a focus on sustainable practices throughout the hotel’s design and operations.
  • Mobility and Portability: Garden Pod was designed to be mobile, allowing the structure to be re-located to different sites in Singapore. As a temporary structure, its tenure at Gardens by the Bay is limited to a few years.
  • Unique Aesthetics: The industrial-chic aesthetic of shipping container structures is unique and eye-catching for guests, making the hotel stand out in a competitive market. 
  • Reduced Site Disruption: Container-based construction can result in less disruption to the surrounding environment, as the majority of the fabrication and assembly work can take place off-site in a controlled environment. 

Chiang contends the Garden Pod hotel enhances the environment in numerous ways. “We recycle all waste generated from our guests,” he says. “Up to 80 per cent of our power requirements comes from solar panels that are mounted above the shipping containers. We installed an IoT-based water monitoring system so we can detect leakage in the inflow piping system for toilets and kitchens. The system provides early alerts and warnings before huge damage to property and conserves water wastage.”

The company used igloohome’s mobile-app enabled locks, which enable them to reduce the need for a physical front desk so hotel guests need not interact with our staff when checking into their suites.

The hotel’s walls are made from recycled glass from Isotec Pte, Ltd. and for the plants in the suites, they use Soil Social, which is a high-quality compost using local waste. Soil Social methodology ensures an optimal environment for beneficial micro-organisms, fungi and arthropods to thrive in compost. This ecosystem breaks down organic matter into accessible nutrients for plants’ uptake, boosting plant health.

But shipping container hotels, including the Garden Pod Hotel, face some key technical challenges, including:

  • Insulation and Temperature Regulation: Shipping containers have limited insulation by default, and maintaining comfortable temperatures within the rooms can be challenging. Proper insulation and climate-control systems are essential to ensure guest comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Structural Integrity: Shipping containers are designed for stacking and transportation, but modifications for accommodation use may affect their structural integrity. Ensuring that the containers remain structurally sound over time is crucial guest safety.
  • Soundproofing: Metal containers can transmit sound easily, potentially leading to noise disturbances between rooms or from external sources. Adequate soundproofing measures need to be implemented to ensure a peaceful guest experience.
  • Adequate Space: While shipping containers provide a unique space, their compact size can be a challenge when designing functional and comfortable hotel rooms and amenities. Space optimization is crucial to creating guest-friendly layouts. The width of the shipping container at the Garden Pod Hotel is only 2.4 meters and therefore it’s a challenge to design a practical living space in such a narrow container. 


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