A hostel made out of shipping containers in Le Havre, France A hostel made out of shipping containers in Le Havre, France A hostel made out of shipping containers in Le Havre, France. (Photo: Igor Plotnikov / Shutterstock)

Affordable student housing in the form of … shipping containers?

This small house/sustainable architecture trend is heating up.

Shipping containers are sturdy, reliable and fairly inexpensive, attributes also desired in a house, which is why it should come as no surprise that in recent years in the United States, shipping container homes are popping up everywhere.

In cities such as Atlanta and Washington, D.C., they’ve come to dot neighborhoods; in fact, in the nation’s capital an entire apartment building made out of shipping containers was recently erected. In places as far flung as Huntsville, Texas – where a local contractor built a 24-unit apartment with shipping containers to house nearby college students – developers have come to see the benefits of building with these big metal boxes. Even big brands such as Taco Bell are getting in on the act.

A shipping container home under construction in Atlanta, GeorgiaA shipping container home under construction in Atlanta. (Photo: Robert Kimberly/Flickr)

The trend isn't limited to North America. The very same factors led two towns in Israel to build shipping container complexes. “There are millions of these containers that can be used. They are usually discarded after only two or three years, and the companies don’t know what to do with them,” Effy Rubin, director of partnership at the nonprofit student organization Ayalim, explained to the Washington Post.

Shipping container homes in SderotShipping container homes in Sderot (Photo: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

In Sderot, a city in the south of Israel, a new container "village" will house 86 students in 36 three-room apartments. Another 200 students are expected to fill another 127 units by the end of this year. Monthly rent will clock in at just $160 a month per person.

“This is an opportunity that can’t be missed for students in Sderot,” Bar Asaev, a student of industrial management at the local Sapir College, told the Washington Post. “My school does not have student housing, and this really gives us a good solution.”

In Lod, a city located at the center of the country, units can currently house 36 students. Demand in both places has been such that those awarded housing have been asked to commit to local community service as a reciprocal gesture.

Part of the increase in using shipping containers is that they have gained a certain cache. Where once there was a stigma surrounding this type of industrial living, it’s now become acceptable, even cool, to be associated with shacking up where once there was only meant to be shipping. As one student living in the Lod container village said, “It looks great inside, and I am very excited to be part of a new project. I like being the first one to try something.”

So what, exactly, makes shipping containers so attractive? Travis Price, an architect for a developer in D.C., told the Washington Post it’s a matter of practicality. “They are weather-tight, can be outfitted to be off-grid, and they are a faster way to build. You can build at a third of the cost in half the time; a building can go up in six months. It’s Legos-meet-luxury-high-rise modern living.”


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