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Atira plans 7-storey social housing project made of old shipping containers

A Vancouver-based non-profit plans to build a seven-storey housing project made entirely of old shipping containers.

The building, which will be located at the corner of Hawks and Hastings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, will be the tallest of its kind on the continent, consisting of 26 living units made from 90 shipping containers.

The Atira Women’s Resource Society is using shipping containers, many of them obtained from the nearby port, because it believes it is an affordable way to build homes, costing about a third of traditional wood and concrete buildings.

Using shipping containers for housing also keeps them out of landfills.

“There are 25 million shipping containers sitting in junkyards around the world,” say Abbott. “So it’s an upcycling of something that’s been junked.”

The shipping containers serve as the building’s exoskeleton, which is insulated, drywalled and finished to look like any other living space.

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“They’re glass and steel; they look very modern,” says Abbott of a shipping container housing development they opened last year. “On the inside they look like any other apartment.”

Their first development, which consists of 12 fully self-contained units that range in size from 280 to 290 square feet, was constructed to meet the same building codes as any other structure in the city.

Abbott says that hard construction costs for the first project were $82,500 per unit. She hopes they’ll manage use economies of scales to build the new units more cheaply.

The society hopes to have shovels in the ground by the end of 2015. Once open, it will offer affordable housing to women and children with rents at about $570 per month.

“We need more housing,” says Abbott. “This is one way of building and we believe it may be less expensive than other forms of construction that are currently being practiced.”

-with files from Jennifer Palma