Pushing the Limits of Shipping Container Homes

Posted January 13, 2015


You’ve no doubt heard stories of and maybe even seen a home built with shipping containers, for example, possibly Canada’s greenest home in Victoria B.C. by architect Keith Dewey, made from 8 shipping containers. Or the recently built shipping container house for a homeless family in Ireland by Ceardean Architects.

But what about social-housing? On a much larger scale, Oneesan, a 12 unit social-housing complex, the first of its kind in Canada, was completed last year by the Atira Women’s Resource Society in partnership with the city of Vancouver.


Inspired by BC Hydro’s model shipping container house at the 2010 Olympics (which it donated to the project), the Oneesan units are all soundproofed and insulated to or beyond building codes. Each has its own kitchen, bathroom and laundry, and was created to provide affordable housing for women older than 50 in a low-income neighbourhood. According to Atira's chief executive director Janice Abbott, the hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit; significantly less expensive than the $220,000 cost per unit in conventional concrete housing in Vancouver at the time.


Read the original Metro article by Emily Jackson. View the CTV News video

The tallest container building on the continent

Following up on the success of Oneesan, Atira is hoping to build what will be the tallest shipping container building on the continent. They’re planning to include 26 social-housing units in the building, which will use about 90 shipping containers stacked 7 (storeys) high.

“The city’s building code has been revised since Atira built Oneesan, which opened last year, so this new container structure will have to meet even stricter codes for fire safety, electrical, energy efficiency and more.”

Janice Abbott, Atira’s chief executive, sees the container-building model she’s been working on as one that will allow many other groups to build more housing at a lower cost.

Read the original Globe and Mail article by Frances Bula.

Outside of Canada, many more innovative and inspiring projects can be found in London, Amsterdam, Germany and elsewhere.

Aside from these amazing projects, building homes and providing social-housing built with shipping containers is still a relatively new idea. What do you think? Should shipping containers be used for social-housing. Is this a tipping-point for this kind of construction in Canada or just a flash-in-the-pan?