Man Starts Living In A Box, Authorities ‘Unbox’ Him Over Safety Concerns

This is a major setback for the box-living movement.

A 25-year-old San Francisco man who had started living in a wooden box to save money has had to move out because city authorities deemed his dwelling unsafe.

Peter Berkowitz had been living inside a tiny, specially-constructed wooden box for the past few weeks. The box was parked in the living room of an accommodating friend and Berkowitz had been paying $400 as rent (or more appropriately, as parking charge).

But no more.

The city authorities got wind of his “novel” living arrangement through media reports and decided to shut it down. According to the authorities, Berkowitz’s box had violated housing laws and was also a fire hazard.

William Strawn, director of public affairs for San Francisco’s department of building inspection, told the Guardian that Berkowitz’s box would fail all tests if it were checked for compliance with state and local codes regarding bedrooms.

“The housing codes, the fire codes and the building codes are fairly restrictive in terms of what you can do inside, in terms of coming up with another enclosed bedroom. With these types of, what I’ll call creative efforts to try and cope with what everybody recognizes is a tough housing market here, you still have to follow some basic safety rules.”

Strawn painted a grim picture of things in the event of a fire, a scenario that may have caused Berkowitz to promptly dismantle the box and move back with his family.

“If there were a fire in the building, it [the box] could go up in a hurry. Anybody inside it would essentially be toast.”

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Berkowitz has prudently avoided a toast-like fate by halting his experiment with radical habitation, though it is not clear if it’s a permanent stop or whether he will go back to the drawing board and create a “modified” box adhering to safety norms.

The original box had been created without worrying about worst-case scenarios.

Berkowitz, an illustrator, was in need of a cheap, quiet place to live. But the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco came to around $3,500, way over his budget. So, he started thinking of innovative solutions for a cost-effective dwelling, got inspired by Japanese capsule hotels, and hit upon the idea of a personal pod.

The box was born.

It was an eight-foot long, three-and-a-half-foot wide wooden structure, built with the help of a few friends, and lodged in another friend’s living room. It had a door (with a curtain!), a “window” of sorts, a foldable desk to work on, good lighting, a comfortable bed, and a nook for keeping clothes and books. In short, everything a frugal young man of 25 would need.

Everything except space for an additional human. The SFist blog put it so very delicately.

“While I admire the Zen-like existence, and am jealous of the $408 he’s spending in rent, I have to assume that Pete isn’t intending to get laid anytime soon — or it will have to be an out-call situation. And with only a curtain there, quiet masturbation will of course need to be very, very quiet, lest he create more awkwardness with his four [flatmates].”

Berkowitz needn’t worry about awkwardness anymore, the way things have turned out.

His dream of making more such boxes for like-minded people will in all probability remain a dream now, unless he comes up with something totally out of the box — and safe.

If he ever designs something resembling his old box, with all the safety mechanisms in place, would you be interested in living in it? What other equally absurd habitations can you think of?

[Image via YouTube]