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From Indirect Competitors to Allies: What Shipping-Container Clinics Could Do For You

31 March 2012

In an earlier post I discussed the idea of indirect competitors, and how these unknown entities can sneak up and eventually replace an architect’s services. An article recently published by Fast Co. Design, “How G3Box Turns Shipping Containers into Clinics,” provides a perfect example of how knowing about an indirect competitor could create a major growth opportunity for your design business.

My previous post details the growing healthcare trend of mass-market retailers (like Target and CVS) including walk-in medical clinics in their stores. With G3Box, we find yet another “outside” threat to those offering architectural services for small-scale medical facilities.

G3Box, the brainchild of two Arizona State engineering students (Gabrielle Palermo and Susanna Young), turns shipping containers into easily transportable medical clinics for developing countries. As the founders state, “G3Boxes are better than modular buildings because they can be ready to go at a location in a couple of hours, and are more secure and durable than tents.” While repurposing shipping containers is not a new idea (note past ideas for offices and housing, for example), these women are finding a way to make a readily available everyday object into a potentially industry-changing product.

While these containers-turned-clinics have been conceived for use in disaster situations (like post-earthquake Haiti) and developing areas (like mining zones in remote areas of India), there is no reason G3Boxes can’t be used in the US for less extreme situations. For example, if a flu epidemic is sweeping through a certain region, Target could deploy a few G3Boxes (dressed up a bit and sporting the Target logo, of course) to the affected area. What’s even better, these “clinic appendages” would operate outside of, but adjacent to, the store proper, preventing contact between hapless shoppers and contagious clinic patients.

Industry-altering innovations pop up all the time. For an architect who offers design services to medical professionals, being aware of these container clinics and their possible uses could prove to be a great advantage. Savvy architects out there should be lining up to talk with Palermo and Young; who knows what fantastic partnering opportunities could result?

Best of luck to you, Gabrielle and Susanna!

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