GOODFIELD – Step inside the soon-to-be home of Zeller Electric, nearing completion, and it's not hard to imagine one has wandered into a giant Lego play set.
What might be harder to imagine is that the old shipping containers stacked at various angles will soon be offices, meeting rooms and work areas.
Yet that is exactly what Brian Rieke, Zeller's vice president of operations, visualized as he contemplated how to fit “x” amount of people within the square footage of the steel building with tall ceilings and an open floor plan a short distance from Interstate 74 on the south side of the village.
The building is owned by Crossing Properties and Zeller Electric is renovating the space inside. A portion of it will be used by Halo Solar, a solar energy company that partners with Zeller.
“The idea came to me when I was considering the cost of conventional framing,” said Rieke, as work went on around him to complete the interior of the building. “I figured this might be a good fit with this open space. The shipping containers are very reasonable, especially in this state.”
Eight standard 40-foot shipping containers are being used for the project. Each is roughly eight feet tall and eight feet wide. They are being cut to fit the needed sizes, which Rieke mentioned was more cost effective than buying standard 10 or 20 foot containers.
With the natural look being “in,” the exteriors of the containers will be left in their current state so the "used patina" is evident, with various numbers, letters, logos and warnings, such as “very heavy.”
The interiors will be painted. Openings are being cut for windows, but the large doors with vertical metal bars will remain largely intact.
"There are a lot of people starting to do things with shipping containers," noted Rieke.
Blake Knapp of Atelier is serving as architect for the project.
“I'm really excited about it,” said Rieke. “We'll get some cool work spaces.”
The company expects to vacate its Morton location at the end of the month and occupy its new space some time in February.
Zeller Electric has been in business since 1979 and does industrial, commercial and residential electrical work in addition to green energy projects involving solar and wind power. Zeller was involved in the wind turbine project at Heartland Community College on Normal’s north side.
The company was founded by the father and uncle of its current president and chief executive officer (CEO), Seth Zeller.
“It's nice to be able to carry on the legacy that they had,” said Zeller.
Speaking of the new location, Zeller said, “We wanted it to be a space where our employees and customers felt inspired. A fun space to work.”
The move from their current location in Morton to Goodfield is being done, in part, to ease travel times, Rieke explained. About 20 employees live in Bloomington-Normal and about 20 live in Peoria, he said. Each is about a 20-minute drive. He added it is about an hour and 10-minute drive from Champaign, Galesburg and Springfield.
“It's right in the middle of our market,” said Rieke. "The village of Goodfield has been great to work with."
Two side-by-side containers are being outfitted as a meeting room with a conference table that will seat 16 people. Stairs are being built to access the second-level containers. The second level also will include a gathering area on the “roof” of one container, surrounded by railings.
“The core of our business is the good quality employees we have and giving them the best opportunity to be productive at work,” said Rieke.
The design includes collaborative spaces.
Zeller said, “In Central Illinois, many office buildings tend to be drab and boring. We wanted to spice up things.”
Heartland Fabrication of Congerville is doing a lot of the custom work on the project. while Titan Industries of Deer Creek, Residential Steel Services of Congerville and TCI Plumbing of Goodfield also are involved.
“We're trying to keep it local,” Rieke said of the fabricators and suppliers being used.