Building with shipping containers may be a sustainable way of creating solid structures from a fairly ubiquitous repurposed material, but now it's also forging its place in social design as well. Last year, the Brighton Housing Trust built 36 homes out of converted shipping containers in order to house some of the area's local homeless population. The compassionate project organized by the housing trust and QED Property stemmed from the desire to help those in need locally and to establish a pattern of social design with the low cost, durable material.
The modular shipping container block structures were designed by QED Property in collaboration with WCEC Architecture and are located in a former scrap metal yard, referred to as Richardson’s Yard. Set on two lots, the buildings have a five year agreement to stay on the site.
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A year after construction, the pioneering development is considered an overall success, according to QED’s director, Ross Gilbert, “Generally things are very positive. The scheme has been well-received within the local community and satisfaction amongst residents is high.” Additionally, the director points out that the program is much more than putting a roof over someone’s head, “A food growing initiative is well under way and will continue into 2016. In September, we held the first pick-and-eat event, which was attended by 11 residents who clearly enjoyed the chance to gather in a different social situation.”
Although the project has been commended by most for its success over the last year since the residents moved in, a few drawbacks to building with shipping containers have come to light. As is common, proper insulation is fairly problematic and some of the residents of the Richardson’s Yard community expressed concerns about the high cost of heating their units during the wintertime.
Gilbert explained that the matter is under review, “From our point of view as the developer, post-occupancy monitoring has been put in place and the data is being collected for full review early next year. Data on energy consumption, internal and external temperature and humidity, as well as internal CO2 levels to determine ventilation levels, will help inform the debate on this type of housing.”
The project continues to grow as nine more containers are currently being installed as office space and community facilities.