Starbucks' next stop in the drive-through revolution

July 1, 2013: 11:35 AM ET

Salt Lake City gets a retro-fitted shipping container-as-coffee shop from Starbucks.

by Beth Kowitt, writer

130701105920-starbucks-container-salt-lake-city-614xaFORTUNE -- Salt Lake City is the latest addition to the growing list of cities with a Starbucks drive-through constructed out of old shipping containers. The 386-square-foot store pictured here is scheduled to open today.

As Fortune reported in May, the container-as-coffee shop model is part of Starbucks' push further into drive-throughs. About 900, or 60%, of the 1,500 new U.S. stores that the coffee company has planned for the next five years will be drive-throughs. Expect a good portion of those to be made from shipping containers.

There's nothing new about using shipping containers in construction, but the fact that Starbucks(SBUXFortune 500)  has gotten into the game signals that the use of the container as a building block has reached a new level.

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"The container is no longer a fad," says SG Blocks (SGBX) chairman and CEO Paul Galvin. "It's a mainstream instrument of construction."

Galvin's company is one of Starbucks' partners on the endeavor and has made a whole business out of repurposing old containers for construction. Galvin says he's hearing more and more from blue-chip companies like Starbucks who are interested in using shipping containers. The fact that they're green is a big draw—using the retired containers for construction takes them out of the waste stream.

SG Blocks also is working on a project at Pier 57 in New York, where it will slide 456 shipping containers into the historic pier to house retail outlets.

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