This is part two in my series of blog posts examining existing container housing communities or developments around the globe. These include examples of the earliest known projects, the Esperanza Farmworker Community and Sean Godsell’s FutureShack. With the exception of Future Shack, I am concentrating on community or village type developments, as opposed to singular homes or commercial applications, as that is our goal at Container of Dreams, to initiate a Container Housing Development. More and more of these are springing up every day all over the globe, so I'll start with a few ground-breaking examples before I move into the more recent and exciting offerings in later posts.
Esperanza Farmworker Housing - 1990's
One of the first documented projects to use shipping containers for community housing is Esperanza Farmworker Housing in Mattawa, Washington in the United States of America. Considered to be ground-breaking, it was constructed and operated by the local housing authority of Grant County in the 1990s. The community was made up of 26 converted 40 foot shipping containers. These containers were transformed into housing units with the inclusion of windows, air-conditioning and heating. Kitchen and bathroom facilities were also installed. This provided 240 beds for seasonal farm workers.
The cyclic influx of migrant workers requiring housing was overwhelming small agricultural communities in the USA, often resulting in the lack of accessible safe and affordable housing. Each year hundreds of itinerant workers and their families resort to camping illegally, creating serious health and safety risks. Esperanza was one of the first developments to address the shortage of seasonal farmworker housing in rural USA. The container homes have since been removed to make way for new, updated buildings and site amenities.
Future Shack - 1984
Australian architect, Sean Godsell, claims to have designed one of the first repurposed shipping container houses in 1984, which he titled Future Shack, for use as emergency shelter. It was intended to be mass produced and stockpiled for deployment in natural disasters or times of conflict. Godsell believes that architects have social responsibilities and designed the Future Shack to respond to this obligation.
The building is designed around the shell of a shipping container with very little alteration made to the exterior of the original container. The interior is lined with plywood and features in-built furniture. Future Shack is entirely self-contained, packed with solar power, water tanks and even a satellite receiver. The design is simple and efficient, using minimal materials to allow for mass production, ease of deployment and affordability.
Tempohousing - 2006
Tempohousing in The Netherlands are considered pioneers in the field of container housing. What initially began as a means to address a student housing shortage in Amsterdam, Tempohousing has now expanded into new territories including hotels and social housing. They have completed several successful large scale projects including Keetwonen, the largest container community in the world. Their student housing developments are ideal examples of successful containerised accommodation models.
Keetwonen was completed in 2006 and was originally built as a temporary housing experiment. In acknowledgement of its success, Amsterdam authorities granted the development permanent status in 2011. Keetwonen’s extraordinary success has captivated both architects and housing organisations around the globe who are looking for inexpensive solutions to address deficiencies in housing provision.
The Keetwonen project consists of twelve separate accommodation blocks. Each block consists of individual container units arranged in stacks of five high and varying in lengths to accommodate a total of 1034 modules. The development also houses a supermarket, café, launderette, office spaces and even a basketball field.
Richardson’s Yard - 2013
Brighton Housing Trust in the United Kingdom has established a housing project on a vacant lot of land with the aim to provide temporary accommodation to some of the city’s homeless. The development, shown during construction phase in the image, consists of 36 shipping container homes placed on a former scrap metal yard, known as Richardson’s Yard. Andy Winter, CEO of Brighton Housing Trust, understands that some people will have reservations about the idea of housing people in containers. The concept can invoke images of people being transported in appalling conditions by people traffickers or being held in overcrowded warehouses. Winter initially thought the idea was an April fool’s joke and that “…we had lost all concept of decency” but soon altered his standpoint once he considered how it could transform people’s lives. The people being housed in the units also find the idea of being self-contained much more desirable than the sharing of facilities in sheltered accommodation or share houses.
After some initial teething problems concerning anti-social behaviour and effective insulation, the project has been declared as remarkably successful. Winter believes that this type of housing could be more widely used to address housing affordability issues including using them as starter flats for young people, “We’re all on a housing journey. For some people, having their own place with their own front door is a great first step” (Winter 2015).
Oneesan Container Housing Project - 2014
CEO of Canada’s Atira Women’s Resource Society, Janice Abbott, always maintained conviction regarding the concept of utilising upcycled containers and declares that their project proves "how liveable small spaces can be". The agency studied the cost of container housing and believed it to be cheaper and faster in terms of construction, as well as environmentally friendly.
The Oneesan project in Vancouver was created as a housing prototype and accommodates twelve women in twelve containers on three levels. It is an outstanding example of a container community and has won acclaim from both the community and industry for its innovation and sustainability including an International Best Practice Award for Innovation in Housing. The Oneesan project was Canada’s first development of recycled shipping containers and the residences are so popular that additional developments are already in the pipeline, including the tallest container-housing complex in North America. Atira’s strong social values have made them leaders in the area of social innovation. Atira acknowledges that by being the first and now to be the tallest has aided in raising the profile of their organisation.
Onagawa Temporary Housing Project - 2011
Shigeru Ban has made considerable works exploring temporary housing, addressing humanitarian relief and designed the Onagawa Temporary Housing Project in Miyagi, Japan in 2011 after the country's devastating earthquake.
The interim housing development is made up of repurposed shipping containers. Containers were chosen by Shigeru Ban for this application to speed construction. These were stacked three stories high and assembled in a chequerboard pattern. This arrangement enabled the creation of open and airy living spaces in between the containers and offered outstanding seismic performance. Shigeru Ban considered the standard government issued temporary housing to be inadequate and insufficient so conceived the idea of the container housing to counter this failure. He expected this style of housing to become a precedent and translate into an improvement in Japan’s delivery of evacuation facilities and temporary housing therefore developing new government standards. Consistent with my own convictions, Ban also believes that this form of housing doesn’t need to be temporary and can certainly be used for permanent residences.
This concludes part two - in the next installment I will examine the down side to containerised dwellings and why they suffer from a bit of an identity crisis.
Thanks for reading!
This week I launched our new crowdfunding campaign. Tiny Homes for the Homeless, including Bushfire victims.
Bushfires are raging across the entire country. These Bushfires are creating a whole new homeless. At Container of Dreams we are very concerned about all the people who have lost their homes. Already more than 700 homes have perished in these devastating fires. As I write this I hear even more homes have been lost in the Blue Mountains. And it's only the beginning....
I can no longer sit around and do nothing, I have a sense of community and a sense of right and wrong. Right is to help your fellow man/woman. Wrong is to do nothing - absolutely NOTHING AT ALL.
That is why I have started this campaign, to do something more than just "thoughts and prayers".
I have been personally impacted by these fires. The community where I live was the first to experience the unprecedented conditions when the first fires of this season started in September at the Long Gully fire in Drake, NSW. Our beloved community has now experienced it's 5th bushfire emergency in 9 months. 4 of these in the last 2 months. These recent fires destroyed over 50 homes in our area alone and sadly killed 2 people, which I knew personally. Before that we lived through the February Tabulam fires which destroyed 23 homes. In almost 26 years of living here we have never witnessed anything like this before, NEVER.
Container of Dreams was established to help provide housing to the disadvantaged. I believe that losing your home in a bushfire emergency qualifies. These bushfires are creating a widespread accommodation crisis. It's time to help.
I am trying to estimate the human cost of these fires and it is overwhelming. With over 740 homes burnt to the ground and 1000's more damaged that equates to 1000's of people who will spend christmas without a home and 1000's more who will have a rotten christmas because of the financial toll of the fires. Then there's the volunteer fire fighters, the volunteer relief workers and others on the ground helping out. The human cost is enormous.
I don't like Crowdfunding
I must say that I hate crowdfunding. I really hate having to ask people for money. I hate it even more when I think that it should be our government who is paying to help these people. Crowdfunding relies heavily on friends and family networks to donate. I have already harassed my friends and family enough. That is why I won't be asking my friends for money, so I am putting the campaign out there on social media and I will approach businesses and people I know who have money to give, but that is all. If we don't get any donations, or only a few, then so be it. Although I really hope everyone will consider making a donation, no matter how small. Imagine if everyone gave just $10. You probably wouldn't miss it but it could make a huge difference to someone who has nothing or has lost everything. I can't help thinking about what sort of christmas those who have lost everything are going to have?
I will give a big Thank you to Janelle Saffin, Member for Lismore, for kickstarting the campaign with a $250 donation - she's good people!
I also realise that Christmas is a shit time of year to be asking for donations, as nobody has any spare cash. That's why the campaign will go for three months to allow time to gather resources to build the tiny homes. It's an ongoing program and will need ongoing funds. Maybe you will consider making a donation when the silly season is over and done with.
What we are doing
We are extending our Tiny Homes for the Homeless program to include those who lost their homes in the bushfires and were not insured. We want to assist the relief effort by helping rebuild people's lives.
We are raising money to fund the purchase of construction materials to build more Tiny Houses. These will be given to people who are finding themselves homeless through no fault of their own.
Click on the link if you want to support our crowdfunding campaign to give tiny houses to the homeless, including those made homeless from the bushfires. All money collected will be used to purchase construction materials to build Tiny Houses.
Thanks for listening!
NOTE: Even while I wrote this blog post I was interrupted half way through by the thick smell of smoke in the air and the looming cloud of smoke engulfing our property. I went outside to check on conditions. The current fire is some way from us, however, We remain vigilant! ...the new normal :(