While the words “back to school” may conjure up images of new backpacks and pencil boxes, for a very lucky few Dutch students it means moving into some very hip and well-designed dorm accommodations. Keetwonen, a student housing project in Amsterdam, turns shipping containers into 1000 units and provides all the amenities a student could ever want. And aside from the obvious green usage of surplus shipping containers, Keetwonen has integrated a rooftop to accommodate efficient rainwater drainage while providing heat dispersal and insulation for the containers beneath. Designed by TempoHousing and completed last year, this is a great example of large-scale shipping containers serving as functional and comfortable space.

Containers are home to not only the 1000 units that each have a private balcony, but a cafe, supermarket, office space, and even a sports area. Units are arranged in “blocks,” each block containing a service unit with centralized electricity, internet, and networking systems.

+ Keetwonen


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Scott Wright October 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

    You have so many community leaders that say no they don’t want this in there city. One city leader in Sanford, FL said no way looks like a trailer home. There are so many snobs out there, they make $190,000 a year and most of the USA does not even come close to that salary. If these rich people would get out of there ivory towers and come down to the street of reality, the could get a different perspective.

  2. benoitbenoit October 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    hi, i been thinking to make something similar like this, smaller though, maybe a 2o unit, 2 floors, and maybe as demand grows, additional floors, I can just do it right? i dont need patenting or something like that? i went to a patenting place downhere andthey said it would be difficult, becuase if somebody does just one small thing different its not the same so would not be copying

    you guys know if i can just start builing?

  3. jeffix April 27, 2010 at 8:43 am

    What else to say…it’s great! Modern and simple stuff doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. I am in the process of make-your-own, currently gathering information on shipping container houses and housing (found great ebook and hopefully will be able to document all on my website. Not sure why so many people have negative opinion, not all of us are rich enough to build mansions.

  4. Joel Leitson September 26, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Great stuff here!
    Containers / modular / prefab homes will offer solutions to the world’s housing shortage for the deprived, under-privileged and low income populations in society by providing a total system for basic, low-cost, quality built housing. The modular housing constructed with sandwich panels is the lowest in cost, most rapidly erected, simplest in design, and most structurally sound basic housing in existence today. Plus, you can ship 21 houses in a 40 foot container.

  5. Joel Leitson September 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Prefab Homes Kits for do it yourselfers & contractors,
    you can build a house out of material as resistant as
    block, as versatile as wood and faster, easier

  6. Joel Leitson September 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Great stuff here!
    Containers / Modular / prefab homes will offer solutions to the world’s housing shortage for the deprived, under-privileged and low income populations in society by providing a total system for basic, low-cost, quality built housing. The modular housing constructed with sandwich panels is the lowest in cost, most rapidly erected, simplest in design, and most structurally sound basic housing in existence today. Plus, you can ship 21 houses in a 40 foot container made from insulated panels..

  7. jvan April 1, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Sau and Sonu,

    So you’ve never heard of people from other nations coming to the U.S. to advise Americans on how to fix complex problems? Hmmm, in the U.S. we call these folks ‘immigrants’ (see also ‘engineers’).

    Everyone else: As for the housing, nothing is perfect so stop complaining. As a college student, I would have been thrilled to have these accomodations. Though compact, they certainly look more appealing than the run-down campus houses which reeked of old beer from previous years’ parties that I lived in. (And this was in the U.S. at an expensive private school where I was very lucky to get a graduates assistantship!)

  8. Swaeneveer September 29, 2008 at 3:10 am

    @ Mad

    I guess you are mixing up these shipping containers with other prefab student housing complexes in the Netherlands. The Keetwonen units in Amsterdam have a bathroom in which you definitely don’t have to lean over your toilet while taking a shower. Also there are no vibrating problems at all (there is no laundry machine within them; the complex has a Laundrette).

    Furthermore, if all students are really unhappy with their home; why would there be a waiting list to get a room of appr. 2 years??

    I (still) think it’s a brilliant and sustainable idea/solution!

  9. sahara August 15, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    While on the surface, the idea seemed like a good one––considering the level of design schools in Amsterdam, and the fact that the students hated it…whose idea was this, and were any students consulted in its design? Check it out Mad, I wouldn’t want to lean over my toilet to shower either. And, try studying in a vibrating box.

    Forget rent. Why is there the impression that having limited money should be equated with poor design? The reality is that you’re still paying. Okay, so it’s a box. However, the basic needs of us all, including the students I teach––to be clean, eat and study––should be accommodated in a comfortable fashion.

    Perhaps, the designers should have lived in the containers for a time. Even better, how about consulting the students?

  10. wicket69 June 21, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    the containers are currently reused but can easily be recycled, they are steel so the meltdown process is very simple and they can be turned into any metal source. currently in the united states we have acres and acres of container storage since we import more than we export. so it is not a consumption issue it is using what is already there which i thought that was the idea, obviously people have not educated themselves enough before they began cutting it down i have been in construction for 12 years and began green building 2 years ago green as in not taking anything else from the earth. i think it is an amazing idea it produces housing and commercial use without consuming more of mother earth.

  11. dougx June 4, 2008 at 12:06 am

    These containers are also being used by some people as nuclear bomb or above ground disaster shelters. Dig a big hole, seal the container watertight, then drop it into hole. Dig a cellar type tunnel to the container underground. There you go.

  12. Khangal February 24, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I find this idea is brilliant!!
    I saw some negative comments about the project, and i would probably tell them that these type of housing is not for hollywood stars or for someone who never been in need of housing when they can not even afford corner of apartment.
    I understand that there gotta be building standards and requirements which suppose to be checked by health department and architectures or that mets the city code.
    I studied 7 years to get my BA and MA Degree in my home town and in foreign country, biggest headache i always had was my rent money not my academic results. For students, rent is high everywhere in Mongolia or even in USA except in some ghetto areas of course.
    Now i work for university in Mongolia as Director of International Relationship and Cooperation.
    Need of Student Housing is getting truly urgent and serious in year to year in Mongolia. Especially for ones, who are from most vulnerable families and who are from suburbs. And i was browsing internet for ideas like this for my STUDENT HOUSING PROJECT. And i was really surprised.

    I love this project and idea.
    Is someone out there who can give me more information about this project or any other ideas?
    I would really really appreciate it neither do my students


  13. luis January 11, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Indeed these habitational units were made out of new containers, in China, and shipped “turn-key”.

    However it is possible to recycle shipping containers that are not suitable for transportation, as long as the frame is not out of site, that means has not received major structural damage. Many containers are left out of their function becouse of broken doors or other minor conditions. Containers are heavily loaded and must achieve high security standards.

    There is as well the possibility that actual market rules (the fact of being cheaper to get brand new container in origin than shipping back empty units from destination) makes container market allow the possibility of using containers that have no other use to be upgraded to habitational units, really then achieving a recycling attitude.


  14. none December 18, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Take a look at

    a prime example of what could be done if planned right with some shipping containers.

    This article here is a great start to something bigger and better. Personally, it would be a great starting point to some disaster relief situations. Use the containers to ship relief items, then use the container itself as a starting block to new housing.

    If you look on, you’ll see, it a great starting point for a house that then gets finished off quite nicely. repainted exterior gives it a new clean look and it retains the neat feature of corrugated steel.

    With that said, I hate all the negative people who feel a need to be negative for no other reason then the fact that they ARE negative. Instead of bashing an idea, why not try to find solutions to the problems so that it can become an ever better, more effective, more appealing, more cost efficient, and possibly even more environmentally friendly. Negative people suck.

  15. mark October 17, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    Inside info – The containers were not prefab. they were built from start in a container factory… as brand new student accommodation, they were never rusty or old!

  16. Juan Pablo August 31, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Soy de Argentina, aca el deficit de habitabilidad y de relacion sueldo-vivir es alarmante. En la universidad de Buenos Aires todos los niveles de talleres se ocupan de tratar ese tema y encontrar soluciones dentro del diseño, entendiendo la problematica sociocultural presente.
    Poniendome en lugar de este ejemplo, creo que en mi pais simplemente no funcionaria. Es mas, estoy casi seguro que eso no responde a una arquitectura genuina. La relacion de arquitectura y orientacion aca no existe. Eso da algo alarmante a lo que es uso de energias.

    Distinto es un prototipo Kaufman–Kaufman.

    Usado como espacio para estudiar o como oficinas, en mi caso, no me gustaria estudiar o trabajar en un lugar asi. Tal vez es tiempo de entender que los legos son un juego de niños… no de arquitectos.

  17. Scott August 31, 2007 at 10:36 am

    HI, Good comments everyone. My main issue with this is that it (obviously) uses more energy to recycle or reuse these things than to not build them in the first place and then have to recycle them. Shipping containers are built to ship things, and not house students, so they have to be extensively retro-fitted anyways. And shipping containers are a little overkill structurally for a five story building. Maybe if this trend is going to… shudder… take off, they could make container like structures without so much material. Plus, come on… this thing is supposed to be environmental, but looks like a feedlot. Who designed it? Take some inspiration from Habitat 67 or something…

  18. J August 28, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    mad- I was wondering about all that…I knew living in a steel shipping crate couldn’t be as much fun as this write up would like us to think it is.

  19. rek August 28, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    *sigh*… Why does prefab always mean ugly?

  20. mad August 28, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Hehe, I was living next door to one of these housing complexes in Holland, and knew a lot of the students who were living inside the so-called ‘living containers’.
    They hated it! It might be a cute idea, but the reality of living inside a box is not as pleasant.
    The bathroom is so cramped that you have to stand half over your toilet in order to take a shower. One student had a box above the laundry room, and if more than two machines were running at once it vibrated the whole time!

    In Delft when they introduced some of these ‘living containers’ for international students, most of the students were so outraged to be put in a box that the housing organisation had to refund their money and find alternative accomodation for them.

  21. Damir from Kazakhstan August 28, 2007 at 6:20 am

    Very nice project. And can be implemented in many countries and regions.

  22. TUMUNDOESONLINE »... August 28, 2007 at 3:01 am

    […] Lo hemos encontrado en Inhabitat […]

  23. adrian August 28, 2007 at 1:14 am

    This is what must be done in peru cause the earthquake, someone who have contacts with goverment should help them out with this kind of project.

  24. J August 27, 2007 at 10:38 am

    sau – hey no problem, you don’t want to collaborate and work together to come up with solutions, then fine, we won’t send any aid then. Ian just made a suggestion, instead of getting all resentful you could pilotely suggest something else. The worlds problems won’t be solved by international bickering and puffed up nationalistic spitting contests.

  25. Patricia Meeks August 26, 2007 at 11:53 am

    sau and sonu:

    Well said!

  26. sau and sonu August 26, 2007 at 8:00 am

    so now according Ian we shall be shipping surplus conainers to third world countries to help them, great could you also send some of your waste along as they also suffer from food shortage….
    i mean where do u people get these impressions of the 3rd world from, i hope it is not your news channels or hollywood i hope…stop patronising and you can keep the containers where they are, thank you.
    it always amazes me that every american who comes to india thinks that they have “solutions” to complex economic and social conditions…. i cannot imagine a similar condition where a student from the so called third world would come and start advising the natives as to what they should do to improve their cities..

  27. &raqu... August 26, 2007 at 7:07 am

    […] Plus d’infos et de photos ici. Cet article a été écrit par admin et posté le 26 août 2007 at 12:53 et placé dans la catégorie Société. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Ecrire un commentaire or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Transformez vos écouteurs ipod… […]

  28. Ian August 26, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Richie has the right idea – but why just the USA? Disasters in third-world countries are often much worse and less well responded to. A German company had the idea of using giant airships to transport modular hospitals and the like, as the problem is often the logistics of getting resources to disaster locations. Unfortunately, the company went broke and their giant production facility is now an indoor tropical resort. Can’t governments get this idea up and running again? It does have serious commercial applications as well.

  29. Chap! August 25, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    if somenone actually enjoys livin there, then i don’t see a problem…

  30. Nick Simpson August 25, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    …Totally agree Richie, seems a bit of a no-brainer to me…

  31. Patricia Meeks August 25, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    I went through the site and read through the brochure. I could not find one mention of “recycled”. Has anyone else find mention of recycling on their site?

  32. Richie August 25, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Absolutely Brilliant ! Now where would this stacked TEMPORARY apartment complex design work in the USA ? Maybe someplace on the Gulf Coast whose name starts with an ‘N’ ? “New..’ something ?(The last name starts with an ‘O’ ) FEMA Wake up !

  33. saurabh August 25, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I agree with Scott but also understand what sevensixfive is saying but then instead of finding ways to use the containers isn’t the key issue to look at how to make international policies & transportation infrastructure such that these containers can be reused, & not as hostel accommodation for students but as containers…I mean its like saying we shall continue making cars…and reusing them as furniture…but the point is you are still OVER PRODUCING and OVER CONSUMING….

  34. »... August 25, 2007 at 6:49 am

    […] my roundup of this week’s Inhabitat picks, here is another interesting example for sustainable housing: using surplus shipping containers to convert them into student accommodation. Keetwonen is a […]

  35. Nick Simpson August 25, 2007 at 6:44 am

    Scott – years ago people invested in these containers as they’re needed for shipping transport and could effectively be hired out. The only problem was too many people invested and we ended up with a surplus.

    As for the thermal properties, they’re externally insulated. The steel makes a brilliant vapour barrier.

  36. DW August 24, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    i think its a great idea. and i bet they are easy to build and are structurally safe because they are designed to carry tons of weight across the seas so i think they can support a student and his futon.

  37. sevensixfive August 24, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Scott – it’s a trade deficit thing, there are many places, like the States and Northern Europe, that get a lot of heavy imports in and export a lot less substantial stuff: think sneakers vs. software. It’s actually cheaper to just make more containers near the point of origin than it is to ship empty ones back, so they pile up, hence: surplus.

    Usually they’re easily cleaned, repainted, and insulated, you’re not likely to catch people living in naked steel boxes.

    As for the semiotics? That’s a different issue …

  38. moving container - PREF... August 24, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    […] … it means moving into some very hip and well-designed dorm accommodations. Keetwonen, a student housing project in Amsterdam, turns shipping containers into 1000 units and provides all the amenities a student could ever want. … by Emily at 4:17 PM […]

  39. Scott August 24, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I don’t understand all the hype over “surplus” shipping containers as housing. Why would they produce “surplus” shipping containers in the first place. Aren’t these really just “used” shipping containers? And then, wouldn’t they be dirty and rusty, and if they aren’t up to a high enough quality for shipping, are they suitable to live in? I’m all for “prefab”, although it usually just means smaller, which is something easy to accomplish anyway. Why is it so environmental to make a huge box, and then ship it somewhere, instead of shipping more compact supplies. I’m all for cool housing, but this seems kind of pointless. Ever seen IRobot? Are all the students going to stand in one corner and look all sad? Probably, because the shipping containers they live in are contaminated from the chemicals that we ship from China, because we don’t want to produce them here. What is the insulation value on corrugated steel anyway?

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home