Seah Liang Chiang spent a decade working in IT. But after watching the Netflix show ‘Tiny House Nation’, Ella Seah decided to change careers. He set out to become a hotelier, specifically building small hotels out of shipping containers.
Seah and his wife Lorraine launched a hotel chain called Singapore Container Hotel, and in 2020, they opened their first hotel in an industrial enclave in central Singapore. Then they opened another hotel in Singapore’s famous hell theme park. In both hotels, the living space is made from a single shipping container.
But Seah still dreamed of something bigger: He wanted to build a luxury hotel out of four double-decker shipping containers.
“I wanted to dispel the idea that recycling shipping containers is a cheap experience,” Seah told Insider.
This month, Seah opened his third hotel, called the Garden Pod, in Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre park overlooking the iconic Marina Bay Sands. The hotel took around two years to build.
Seah’s first step was to purchase shipping containers, which form the hotel’s main living space. Seah said that she bought 10 containers from a container yard in western Singapore.
The hotel was designed by the local architecture studio Laud. In early 2020, Seah began building the hotel with a team of architects and engineers. He estimates that he spent about 1 million Singapore dollars, or about $700,000, to build the complex.
Seah said the containers, which are 2.4 meters or around 7.8 feet long, cost around SG$8,000 each.
The first step was to make sure the containers were sturdy enough to be transformed into living spaces. In the courtyard, the containers were cut down and reinforced with steel beams.
The team then installed aluminum frames on the cut portions of the containers. Heat-soaked glass was placed in these frames, which could resist the force of the container being lifted into the air.
The hotel structure was built in Gardens by the Bay. The land was leveled and reinforced slabs and steel bars were used to fortify the ground so that it could support the weight of the containers.
Approximately 50 million people have visited the park in central Singapore since it opened in 2012. It is known for having the world’s largest glass greenhouse.
To operate the hotel in the park, Seah has to pay rent to Gardens by the Bay. Seah declined to disclose rental costs at the park.
A Gardens by the Bay representative told Insider that business deals are determined by factors like market rental rates and the “overall value provided to visitors.” The representative would not comment on how much rent at the park costs.
“The Garden Pod is a pop-up hotel concept that Gardens by the Bay developed with the Shipping Container Hotel,” the representative said. “We are always open to new proposals from business partners to bring new and interesting experiences to our visitors.”
The hotel is not a permanent structure at Gardens by the Bay. Seah built the hotel in a modular way so that it could be reassembled elsewhere.
“You had to be able to remove the steel beams; you couldn’t cast it in concrete,” Seah said.
One of the most notable features of each loft is a spiral staircase, which Seah likened to a sculpture. The hotel has four staircases in total, each of which was raised after the first floor of the hotel was built.
The hotel was fitted with fire-resistant walls and ceilings in line with Singapore Civil Defense Force guidelines, Seah said.
Electrical wiring had to be hidden within the walls to prevent fire hazards to the hotel, Seah said. Rockwool was also inserted into the walls so that it would not get as hot inside the container, especially in Singapore’s tropical climate.
Seah added that building a tiny house in Singapore is “difficult” due to strict government safety guidelines, explaining that even temporary structures are held to the same standards as permanent ones.
The interior of each loft is designed with a modern twist. Marble counters and floor-to-ceiling windows create the illusion of a spacious living room.
Each loft, which measures 70 square meters, has a large outdoor patio, a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, a living room and a dining room.
An overnight stay isn’t cheap: It costs SG$600 to accommodate four people.
Thiang Yong Chan, a guest who stayed at the hotel in September, said the loft was not “your typical small container” and is on par with more established hotels.
“A good place for a short getaway,” Thiang wrote in a Google review. He added that one of the hotel’s downsides is the lack of privacy due to the tall glass windows.
Seah said that while the process of building the shipping container hotel complex was challenging, it was worth it as it is “the closest thing we have to living off the grid.”
Seah said that it is expensive and tedious to build a tiny house structure in Singapore, which is the opposite of what people usually look for in a tiny and mobile life.
“A lot of people are drawn to the hotel because they’re intrigued by the closest thing we have to living off the grid,” Seah said. “I build these hotels so that people can experience life in a tiny house in the city.”
Source : www.insider.com