Container Homes Offer Cargo Space To People Shortchanged On Housing

Container homes have sprouted up in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of a phenomenon sweeping the globe, reacting to the demands of an exploding population. A stack of shipping containers has been transformed into eight apartments in a Phoenix industrial lot. Similar scenarios exist in other parts of the United Sates, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia, Germany, Chile, the Netherlands, London, Denmark, Japan and China, to name a few.

According to the April 30 edition of Arizona Daily Star, the Phoenix apartments made of two corrugated shipping containers each have the appearance of modern homes with epoxied wood floors and white walls. A one-year lease is $1,000 a month, slightly above Phoenix’s average rent of $898 for a one-bedroom apartment, and Air Force staffer Patrick Tupas, who signed a lease with his wife, shared his views.

“It doesn’t even feel like a shipping container. It’s also insulated really well. It just feels like a regular apartment.”

“Cargotecture,” a coinage by developers, manifesting itself in Las Vegas, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and even Denmark, has a ready market in urbanized younger residents and baby boomers who like to be close to amenities. Cheaper, eco-friendly, and quick to install, the homes either mask their industrial origin or show it off in the homes’ design.

Container homes in Japan

According to Organics, a shipping container typically costs between $1,800 and $5,000 or as little as $800, depending on size and pre-use. Containers shipped to their final destinations are usually too expensive to ship back, hence the bargain-basement pricing. These containers are also made eco-friendly as they are converted into homes instead of being melted down when they are scrapped or shipped back empty. Indestructibility is also factored in, because while typical homes seem like they are made of paper, containers are built to handle heavy loads, harsh climate conditions, and rough handling by cranes.

Michael Plesner, co-founder and partner at C.P.H. Containers, does container transformation for a village of student homes in Copenhagen. He explains why.

“In Denmark, there’s a lack of 20,000 student homes. If scaled up, container villages can actually help push down the price on the general housing markets of cities, which would benefit everyone.”

Inspiration Green pegs the number of shipping containers in existence at 30 million, filled and floating, or sitting empty harbour-side. Eight feet wide by 8.5-feet high, and either 20- or 40-feet long, the shipping container follows the globally standardized transportation module set in 1956. About 1,000 unused shipping containers are available for purchase in the United States, where a used model before home-conversion can sell for a low $1,000.

The container homes’ value varies according to perceptions of residents relative to their environment, “hurricane-worthy” in Costa Rica, “earthquake-proof” in Chile, or both qualities in Japan. In Germany, containers have been made habitable as an emergency measure to cope with the flood of refugees and have been targeted in protests by ordinary citizens, neo-Nazis, and counter-demonstrations by anti-fascist groups.

Some 400 asylum-seekers are being housed in the Köpenick block of container homes erected in a record five weeks. The brightly-colored block is the first of six planned “container towns” around Berlin, with more on the planning board for Pankow, Lichtenberg, Marzahn, and Lichterfelde. Typical room setups are twin-bed or family rooms with communal kitchens.

German container homes

The concept of container homes was new in the Netherlands when Tempohousing picked up on it to produce Keetwonen in 2006 with 1,000 units, now called “the biggest container city in the world.” Keetwonen has become a huge success story among students in Amsterdam and is the second most popular student dormitory.

Arizona Daily Star mentions architect Brian Stark of Scottsdale, Arizona, naming his downtown development The Oscar, after Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch who lives in a trash container. It’s Stark’s way of riding a joke thrown at him by developers.

“They always ask ‘How are the garbage can homes going?’”

[Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]