SnapSpace Solutions Inc. (SSI), Brewer, Maine, loaded a fully constructed building onto a jumbo jet Saturday at Bangor International Airport. The restroom structure was commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid children and families after a typhoon devastated Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
SSI, which makes structures from recycled steel shipping containers, says the building will allow children to return to school for the first time since October while the island rebuilds.
“These restroom units were specially constructed for the school system in Saipan. Children will finally be able to return to school in this devastated country,” SnapSpace CEO Chad Walton says.
The structure marks SSI's first FEMA contract and gives a glimpse of the company’s recent growth, says Walton, who is starting to build a new manufacturing plant in Florida to better serve the East Coast.
Some estimates suggest 11 million shipping containers made from recycled steel are unused across the globe. Walton, a creative entrepreneur, saw the opportunity in 2003 to recycle intermodal steel building units (ISBUs) into tiny homes, storage units, restrooms and disaster relief structures, while helping the economy.
Walton says SSI brought hundreds of construction jobs to the Maine area after the ZF Lemforder plant closed in 2010. In the future, SSI plans to recruit and train 75 new employees and subcontractors. The company, which has built everything from a high-end boathouse to a retail incubator in Portland, aims to “broaden the public’s opinion of repurposed shipping containers.”
“ISBU technology is on the forefront of efficient, durable and cost-friendly structural architecture, and increasing demand has resulted in a hiring plan that creates many new direct jobs for Mainers,” SSI says.
Using recycled shipping containers allows SSI to cut down on cost and the time it would take to create a traditional project. SSI says container homes can be assembled in “weeks rather than months.”
Aside from the Florida manufacturing plant, the company also has capacity in Connecticut and South Carolina and plans to double capacity at the Maine facility.
Brien Walton, director of Husson University's Center for Family Business, who works with the company on finding “Opportunity Zones,” says SSI’s revenue increased 550 percent in 2018. He says SSI is a “quiet company that’s about to roar.”
The company’s innovative, eco-friendly processes resulted in SSI receiving an award from Dwell Magazine's Best of Design 2018 competition for innovative buildings and multiple federal contracts for disaster relief.
Walton calls building the structure for children in Saipan a “milestone” in SSI’s history.
“SnapSpace Solutions and our team were able to land our first FEMA contract after several years of hard work and this building is the culmination of our efforts,” Walton says.