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The French Guiana Job

Charles Hall
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The French Guiana Job

There is never a dull moment when I’m on an install and it certainly takes you to some
interesting places. I was telling Charlie one of my many tales the other day and it got me
reminiscing. Back in my hayday, when I was a younger and more adventurous man, I was asked to supply and install an entire school in French Guiana. Made entirely from flat pack materials.
A strange sensation washed over me, that I had been there before, albeit briefly (more of
that later), so after grabbing a map and reading Lonely Planet for some extra advice, I
jumped at the chance of re-acquainting myself with this remote, beautiful and surprising
county.

The outline of the project ( a school for children of Foreign legion soldiers) was to get six
classrooms, an assembly hall, a food hall, sanitary block and various offices into a remote
region called Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, a small town in the far west of the country that
bordered Suriname. Famous for the prison where Papillion was incarcerated , I can safely
say that this is one of the remotest parts of the world I have ever visited.

3 months later the final spec was agreed , we manufactured the flat pack buildings and
shipped them to French Guiana. We then transported them by road some 400 miles to the
site, and let me tell you that alone was an adventure in itself.
My role was to train the local team in the art of flatpack building installation, then oversee
the project through to completion.
The morning of our first meeting was finally upon us, and after a restless night in 40 degree
heat with no air conditioning, yet another new experience to add to my belt , I set off in my
hired heap of a vehicle for the site.
The area had been cleared of jungle ready for the new build, and I was greeted ( a term I use
very loosely) by a couple of bedraggled looking local men. After 10 minutes of trying to
work out what each other was saying, with one throwing his hands up in the air and walking
away when it seemed no communication was inevitable, It dawned on me that this was my
‘team’.

A map of French Guiana

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Birth of the XPandaStore

Birth of The
XPANDASTORE
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Charles Hall
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Birth of the XPandaStore

The original idea for our flat-pack, man-portable buildings was formed from experiences in military tents during my fathers (Andy) time in the army in the 1980’s.

Tents were either very cold or very hot, depending on the weather, not to mention draughty and unsecure. There had to be a better way to accommodate personnel and goods, whilst keeping them man portable. They would often operate in locations with no heavy lifting gear and only basic tools. So, Andy started to work on new ways to improve on their current soft-walled structures.

Many years passed while the idea was being slowly developed!….

Various prototypes were tested, and finally in 2002, we launched the Mk1 XPandaStore. This single skin structure was the very first of its kind in the UK, and was designed for the storage of goods, and could be assembled in previously inaccessible locations. The concept was good, and multiple improvements have been made over the years to make it stronger and more secure.

It should be noted that some of our competition are still selling a copy the Mk1 XpandaStore under various brand names, so it has certainly stood the test of time. Almost 20 years old!

storage containers near me

The Original Mk.1 XPandaStore

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