Architecture

Shipping containers offer safe, affordable housing in Brighton

Shipping containers offer safe...
Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
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Richardson's Yard comprises 36 recycled shipping containers (Photo: James Farell)
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Richardson's Yard comprises 36 recycled shipping containers (Photo: James Farell)
The entire scheme cost £900,000 (US$1,443,292) in total, including all development costs and construction (Photo: James Farell)
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The entire scheme cost £900,000 (US$1,443,292) in total, including all development costs and construction (Photo: James Farell)
QED Property is hoping to build a similar development in London (Photo: James Farell)
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QED Property is hoping to build a similar development in London (Photo: James Farell)
Interior shot of one of the homes (Photo: James Farell)
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Interior shot of one of the homes (Photo: James Farell)
Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
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Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
The development is located in central Brighton (Photo: James Farell)
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The development is located in central Brighton (Photo: James Farell)
The development is based on former commercial land that would have otherwise remained underused, according to QED Property (Photo: James Farell)
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The development is based on former commercial land that would have otherwise remained underused, according to QED Property (Photo: James Farell)
Over 100 people originally applied for the 36 units, and the residents rental costs are covered by Housing Benefit allowance (Photo: James Farell)
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Over 100 people originally applied for the 36 units, and the residents rental costs are covered by Housing Benefit allowance (Photo: James Farell)
The development can be easily dismantled (Photo: James Farell)
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The development can be easily dismantled (Photo: James Farell)
To QED Property's credit, the firm has uploaded an independent report to its blog, that gives voice to those living in the containers (Photo: James Farell)
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To QED Property's credit, the firm has uploaded an independent report to its blog, that gives voice to those living in the containers (Photo: James Farell)
The entire scheme cost £900,000 (US$1,443,292) in total, including all development costs and construction (Photo: James Farell)
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The entire scheme cost £900,000 (US$1,443,292) in total, including all development costs and construction (Photo: James Farell)
Though we're big fans of shipping container-based architecture here at Gizmag, living in a large metal box does have some drawbacks (Photo: James Farell)
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Though we're big fans of shipping container-based architecture here at Gizmag, living in a large metal box does have some drawbacks (Photo: James Farell)
Many residents said that they did not feel very well insulated in winter (Photo: James Farell)
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Many residents said that they did not feel very well insulated in winter (Photo: James Farell)
Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
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Richardson's Yard opened in December, 2013 (Photo: James Farell)
The containers sport green roofs, which contain wild flowers and provide an additional layer of roof insulation to complement what's already installed (Photo: James Farell)
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The containers sport green roofs, which contain wild flowers and provide an additional layer of roof insulation to complement what's already installed (Photo: James Farell)

Britain has a housing problem. According to homeless charity Crisis, the recession, deep cuts to the benefits system, and a comparative lack of new homes being built have all contributed to increased levels of homelessness over the last few years. With this in mind, QED Property recently collaborated with WCEC Architecture and the Brighton Housing Trust to build a new shipping container-based housing development in Brighton, UK, for people at risk of homelessness.

Richardson's Yard opened in December 2013, and is located in central Brighton on former commercial land that would have otherwise remained underused, according to the developers

The development comprises 36 dwellings in all, that are constructed from a like number of standard 12.9-m (40-ft) shipping containers. Inside, the containers feature sleeping quarters, toilet and kitchen, and there's also an additional nine containers currently being installed at the site for use as office and community facilities. The residents' rental costs are covered by Housing Benefit allowance.

Interior shot of one of the homes (Photo: James Farell)
Interior shot of one of the homes (Photo: James Farell)

The containers sport green roofs, which provide an additional layer of insulation. There's also a solar panel array on-site, which reduces grid-based electricity requirements (surplus electricity is sent back into the national grid), and a food-growing initiative is underway.

Though we're big fans of shipping container-based architecture here at Gizmag, living in a large metal box does have some drawbacks. To QED Property's credit, the firm has uploaded an independent report to its blog, that gives voice to those living in the containers.

Though we're big fans of shipping container-based architecture here at Gizmag, living in a large metal box does have some drawbacks (Photo: James Farell)
Though we're big fans of shipping container-based architecture here at Gizmag, living in a large metal box does have some drawbacks (Photo: James Farell)

According to the report, most residents did not feel that the containers were too small and they also voiced approval on the interior decor. The only significant negative feedback appears to center around insulation; many residents said that they did not feel well-insulated in winter, and that heating costs were expensive. Still, overall, the project is a success, and the report states that 94 percent of residents felt the development was better or much better than where they may have been living before.

The entire scheme cost £900,000 (US$1,443,292) in total, including all development costs and construction. QED Property is hoping to build a similar development in London.

Sources: QED Property, Crisis (pdf)

8 comments
Wombat56
A floor plan would have been nice. It's a pity shipping containers aren't a little wider for residential uses, but I know they were not originally designed for that purpose. I assume they were using over-height units which are an alternative optional "standard". The price works out to only ~$40K per unit which is very cheap, not counting land costs.
VoiceofReason
So how hard it is to make panels that can attach to the outer walls the containers to improve the insulation rating? Duh!
Bob Flint
No details on plumbing or electrics, also barely insulated on the inside that takes away from internal space. Get some insulation on the outside & cover up the rusting shells.
Mag Kemp
Yeah - lets be clear about this. The place is no heaven on earth and is arguably not safe, not affordable , inadequately equipped and a cynical money making scheme and not for the good of the homeless in the least. This article makes interesting reading http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-spent-the-night-in-brightons-homeless-shipping-container-housing-project
Wombat56
@ Mag Kemp Yeah, that article changes things. I still think this could be a good idea if done properly, but it looks like another badly engineered rip-off scheme to make someone rich at the expense of the poor. Six hundred and fifty quid a month for the homeless to live in a box with poor security and inadequate heating?
WagTheDog
As mentioned, insulating panels could easily be attached to the top and sides. As for lack of "security," would be homeless be more secure sleeping in the streets than in an impenetrable steel box? And what's with all the photos of the pathetic plant life ... wouldn't it have made more sense to show not only the floor plan, but ALL parts of the interior? These are nothing more than comfy, if cold, prison-like cells with come and go privileges, and for the homeless, that should be a blessing indeed.
Ross Gilbert
It is important to set the record straight here: this scheme provides an innovative interim solution to some of the huge housing problems we have here in Brighton and Hove. The housing provided is safe, secure of lower cost (approx. £150 cheaper per month) and insulated to higher standards than a significant proportion of Brighton & Hove's existing housing stock. To add further perspective, please see what Andy Winter of Brighton Housing Trust had to say in response to the Vice article.....http://www.bht.org.uk/news/andy-winters-response-vice-magazines-inaccurate-sensationalised-article/ @Wombat56 if you would like some floor plans please feel free to contact me for further information
William H Lanteigne
I'm all for recycling things like shipping containers, but the cost of approximately $40,000 per unit isn't cheaper than traditional manufactured housing (mobile homes) of the same size or larger. A standard container size means the conversion could easily be modularized, with standardized, pre-wired, pre-plumbed modules simply plugging into place. Done in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of container units at a time, the costs could be quite cheap.