Shipping Container Solution for Rare Book Storage
Becca Hubert | Dec 27, 2023
At Falcon Structures, our expertise lies in helping companies solve problems with customized container-based solutions. We’ve partnered with businesses in a wide variety of industries, but this year we had the pleasure of working with a new-to-us industry to solve a unique dilemma: how to safely store rare and antiquarian books and manuscripts in a rural barn.
Funke Books researches, buys, and sells high-value rare books. According to owner Mark Funke, one of the largest business costs for the company has been storage. As they acquire and sell collections, Funke Books needs flexible storage space to keep up with their precious inventory.
“We were paying rent on multiple locations to store rare books,” Mark said. “We also own a ranch in northern California with two large barns. It felt imprudent to pay rent to store books while we also own large structures that could easily house all the inventory, provided the barns were converted into an environment safe for rare books.”
With that idea in mind, Mark began his search for a storage solution.
He considered traditional construction, but it quickly proved to be a poor fit for Funke Books’ needs. The location of Mark’s barns is very rural, so the cost of construction is above average. Plus, specialty contractors were located several hours away. Instead, Mark turned to a modular solution.
With the idea to place customized storage containers within the existing barn structure, Mark reached out to Falcon Structures to get started.
“We found Falcon through an internet search. We contacted several container build-out companies, but Falcon was the most professional and had the most interactive website,” Mark told us.
Falcon’s team worked with Mark to customize two climate-controlled storage floor plans. Since the containers would act as storage for rare and antiquarian books, some of which date back to the 16th century, the interior environment had to meet very specific requirements.
“The most important consideration for rare book storage is appropriate humidity,” Mark said. “This means the space needs to be well insulated on all six sides, have heating and cooling, and the ability to run dehumidifiers. The space also needs to be sealed so that small animals are kept out.”
These would be huge challenges in a drafty barn, but not for a modified shipping container. Falcon incorporated Mark’s list of modification requirements into designs for two 20-foot storage containers, including:
- Spray foam insulation on all sides, including bottom, for maximum climate control
- Extra outlets to run dehumidifiers
- PTAC unit for controlled heating and cooling
- 12”x12” utility port to run dehumidifier drainage lines
- Personnel doors for easy entry
- Durable and waterproof coin vinyl flooring
We finished the containers in a lively John Deere green at Mark’s request. Once the containers were outfitted with all of the necessities to safely store the delicate paper and bindings of Funke Books’ inventory, we worked with Mark to deliver the containers to a local crane company’s yard. The crane company then loaded the containers onto their trucks and undertook the delivery and offloading of them within the barn.
“Our containers are in essence a building within a building,” said Mark. “One advantage of containers is that if we ever want to change the use of the barns to something else, it would be easy to pull the containers back out. A container solution provides us with maximum flexibility at a lower cost.”
Mark calculated the savings of modular construction versus an on-site buildout to be 5-10%. But the upfront and long-term benefits of modified shipping containers ultimately swayed his decision.
“The containers provide flexibility to repurpose the space later, and the costs were more predictable. There were no cost overruns on the project. Whereas with stick-built there always seem to be change orders and unknown upfront costs.”
Mark calculated the total cost of the project, including installation and electrical hookup, and compared it to his rental expenses. Funke Books should recoup its container structure investment within two years and 10 months.
While this may be Falcon’s first project with a rare book dealer, it’s certainly not our first time helping a business solve a unique problem. Our specialty is helping companies of all sizes create and customize container-based solutions. And according to Mark, the rare book industry would benefit from following his lead.
“Booksellers always need flexible storage space. We are constantly buying and selling collections, and one of our largest business costs is space,” Mark told us. “A container is a great solution for this because the space can be easily insulated and by design is well sealed from the elements.”
Whatever industry we serve, whether it’s energy, construction, aerospace, or rare books, modular construction with shipping containers continues to answer this all-important question for businesses: How do we solve this problem?
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