This is an odd thing in the UK as there is thousands of houses left empty and the worst offender is the government. Failed regeneration schemes, buying out of buildings for other reasons as well as empty caretaker and other ex use homes from past government posts are laying empty all over the place. Working inside the government housing sector before previously the issues are often more complex than they seem.
First issues are many have been left empty for years meaning for them to be utilized by government for social housing it would require considerable investment for any property due to the strict regulations. E.g. rewiring, re-plumbing,renewing the gas installation including all pipework, renewing bathrooms and kitchens over 25 years old etc. etc. these are all part of “politics”. You see what happened is people started to set housing standards that the government past on to its social housing these standards in general cannot be met for multiple reasons the main one being cash flow but also the quality of tenants isn’t great but their expectations and needs have increased.
What happens then is this situation where councils have properties they can neither renovate or rent out and although some of its down to stupidity often more than not its more to do with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I remember an allocated property lot we received from the Royal Air Force for the housing association I was contracted with at the time. They had specific requirements to be brought up to standard yet even the basics were behind coming from another department. E.g. Our guideline is no more than 25 years on a kitchen or bathroom yet every property we received hadn’t had any major work done for at least 35 many still had coal bunkers and exterior toilets. Although they had a new bathroom installed at some point (still well past 35 years ago) which gave them a toilet indoors you get the picture of the state of these homes.
Why is this all relevant to shipping container homes your wondering? It shows the madness of society we live in where there is so much red tape and legislation that even the government creates problems for itself which also means getting your shipping container home through planning may be an initial battle. BUT the important thing here is the more people push through the more acceptable it becomes and the more people can do it. Personally I think there are many developments the social housing sector could benefit from using shipping container homes themselves as a long-term solution if not short-term for the housing shortages in the UK.
The other way to look at it is most of these houses are old and rundown the investment into them would be extremely costly and a stalemate is currently what we are seeing. Often its easier to rip out and start again rather than renovate and the shipping containers are a cheap option to the solution.
Yes this gets away from the green solutions but there are very few options open for these homes currently not in use and over 2 million families regardless as homeless in the UK but its a thing to ponder on how would you fix the problem?
With the downward spiral of the economies around the world one thing is for sure the housing market has well and truly stalled. The main reason being not that there is a lack of demand but the mix of speculative building and the crazy loaning of before 2008 has left many homes oversized for what people can afford. I worked in social housing before and could see it all over the UK where 1 – 2 bedroom homes are shunned for 4 – 6 bedroom luxury homes. Often the smaller homes were remodelled and extended or bulldozed to build a bigger home. Issue with this today is there is a lot of spaces out there that aren’t seeing construction take place as corporations and landowners sit waiting for the next bubble to begin before starting construction again. This leaves many empty construction lots all over the world which could be utilized for urban farming as we see in the photo above. Its all being done in crates so highly mobile. This feeds local needs as well as creates jobs on land that is currently stuck in limbo hope we will be seeing more of these styled projects to remove eyesore land into useable farm lots.
You may be wondering yourself are shipping container homes the future? in reality its not far from the truth as we are looking at huge population growth world wide and possibly starting to have to think seriously about food sourcing and land use.
Hong Kong is the best example I can think of where shipping container homes would be an acceptable use of construction for housing as many of the properties there already fit into the criteria dimension wise. Land is expensive due to being regulated to specific areas which for me makes a lot of sense as long as the density doesn’t get out of control.
Living in a shoe box as some people would phrase it may not be the way most people want to live but at the same time I have found I would rather have larger outdoor spaces than indoor. Give me a garden over a porch any day!
It takes me back to school when someone asked a teacher of mine why they have a small bag and his response was because its full, if I had a bigger bag it would still be full but this way I make sure I have what I need with me at all times and anything else isn’t that important.
He was right and this is how people live in many ways with a big bag, we have lounges, dining rooms, hallways, conservatories,porches,games rooms etc. etc. in reality do we need them?
Personally I think its led to social decline as I would much rather play pool (billiards!) in a bar than in my games room which may mean half the time I play alone. I would much rather have a communal pool that has a life guard than a private pool especially after living in a country that has a strong divide between rich and poor. The community spirit got zapped over the last few years as we got into this economic mess and consumer culture. We lost sight of the fact we don’t need most of this stuff and in fact we let many things fall into decline like community swimming pools and libraries things that once were and should be the backbone of a society.
So are shipping container homes the future? I hope so as it brings in a new phase of responsible living. It brings in a new society that functions and wants to be together, building bonds together and concerns for each other. The demise of “hello” being the only word you spoke to your neighbour and instead a game of cricket with the kids in the evening as a community. We need at least the concept of the modular space of a shipping container to be the home of the future with its outside spaces being utilized properly to form up real communities. Alienation of sub groups has created many of the problems in society yet we have a solution that could work at our finger tips.
Displaced people due to the natural disasters that hit japan in Onagawa in the Miyagi prefecture are getting to see a solution using shipping containers is not only rapid but practical and functional.Shigeru Ban Architects came up with the idea and it uses a 3 level stack of 6 containers with the initial construction offering 188 temporary homes to homeless japanese.
For me it also shows how practical using old shipping containers can offer a solution to other countries with housing issues as the conversion costs are reasonable and the availability of containers in many places are abundant.