Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unpacking container condos

The least expensive way to develop new condominium housing is to take existing apartment blocks and convert them to condos. Already more or less up to code and conforming with zoning regulations, old apartment buildings are, depending on the condition of the block, basically straight forward renovation-scale projects.

But conversion can only take Winnipeg's lower-end condo market so far, with just a limited supply of apartment blocks available (and that is excluding the implementation of some kind of reactionary, conflict theory-inspired "condo control" regulations).

One emerging building style that would be more expensive than a standard apartment conversion, but less expensive than building entirely new, is container housing.

Container housing is built mainly by using the steel shipping containers that carry goods across the ocean. As one local developer explained, since Canada isn't shipping anything back to China, thousands of used containers sit empty in the country's western ports. This presents an opportunity for Canadian builders. By saving on labor and building material costs, using shipping containers lowers the selling price of the units.

From here... here. Container condos would suit the industrial aesthetic of neighborhoods like South Point Douglas

Throw in some modish furniture, and you're set

Already being used in building developments around the world, Winnipeg's first example of container housing is in the works for South Point Douglas--a neighborhood where it often does not make financial sense to build new, relatively cheap dwelling units. Unlike conventional structures, container buildings can be built cheap without looking cheap.

So far, planners at the City of Winnipeg are cool to the idea of building residences out of shipping containers, particularly used ones. The developer in South Point Douglas has been told that new, never before used containers may be acceptable, but this reduces the affordability.

For City of Winnipeg planners to look at the successes of reusing containers for housing in other cities and allowing their construction here, could open up a new and innovative way to build more of these relatively affordable types of dwelling units.

"It ain't about me!" Frank and Nicky from The Wire might not oppose containers used as condos, but just don't build them on the old grain pier