Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Could 'micro-homes' offer housing solution?

By Eoghan Macguire, for CNN
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
A group of 36 shipping containers has been transformed into urban living space in Brighton, England. A group of 36 shipping containers has been transformed into urban living space in Brighton, England.
HIDE CAPTION
Thinking outside the box
Shipping container homes
Nomad micro-home
Compact living space
Tengbom Architects
Levitt Bernstein converted garages
Tjep Isolee
Abaton APH80
Diogene
Museum of the city
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A city in southern England has transformed shipping containers into compact urban living space
  • The cost of homes and rented accommodation has risen sharply in recent years
  • Some experts believe 'micro homes' may provide a cost effective and sustainable housing solution

Editor's note: One Square Meter explores the leading architectural designs, city plans and demand for property investment in emerging markets. Join CNN's John Defterios as he visits some of the world's most dynamic cities for an insight into the fast-paced world of real estate development.

(CNN) -- Shipping containers have long been a sturdy mainstay of global maritime trade.

In the city of Brighton, on the southern English coast, the durable metal boxes now also provide a low-cost housing option.

In early December Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) and property developer, QED, opened 36 shipping containers retrofitted with kitchens, bathrooms and insulated plaster-board walls.

The units have been erected on spare land in the city and will be used to house local homeless people, the number of which has been increasing steadily in recent years, according to BHT chief executive, Andy Winter.

Living in a shipping container

See also: Where is the world's most valuable property?

"There's a chronic shortage of affordable housing in Brighton," Winter told CNN. "I was initially very skeptical about housing people in metal boxes ... but the containers have been converted to an extremely high standard."

Temporary accommodation like this "could really make a difference in the short term," he added.

While the concept of transforming shipping containers into housing units has been experimented with before -- including in Amsterdam, where containers are used to house students, and London, where they offer a quirky waterside abode beside the Thames -- Winter believes the idea, or similar iterations of the concept, could offer a timely solution to urban housing challenges the world over.

Low supply, lack of available land as well as stringent planning laws have seen rents and property prices soar in many major cities in recent years. Houses prices in London increased by 10% in a single month in October, according to property experts, Rightmove.

See also: Mumbai's rising property starlet

Small, unobtrusive and easy to assemble housing could, as such, provide a quick and cost effective solution to these growing concerns, Winter believes.

Various prototype designs and inventive micro-homes concepts have popped up in the likes of Germany, Sweden and the United States in recent years. Some come in the shape of standalone miniature structures while others consist of entire apartment blocks.

According to Ian Kent, the president of Nomad, a Canadian company that has designed a 10 foot by 10 foot "micro-house" that can be purchased for as little as $25,000 and shipped to virtually any location in the world, the concept could solve all manner of growing housing problems.

See also: China's crazy property bubble

"Cities all over the world are letting us know they are in dire need of this. The size by default makes everything easier to build (and) maintenance while running it. It becomes a great solution for housing," Kent said.

He also highlights the possibility of their use in developing nations with fast growing cities, as a emergency accommodation in the aftermath of natural disasters as well as being collected on a piece of property as a community, like a university campus.

Check out the gallery above to see some of the most creative and challenging micro-housing designs of recent years.

Stephanie Ott contributed to this story

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0321 GMT (1121 HKT)
A new kind of location service could change the way we look at the world.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
It's the townhouse that twists like a Rubik's cube, to bask in the summer sun and shield itself when winter bites.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Could you fit your life into 300 square feet? Developers are betting on it, with new, tiny living spaces for urban millennials.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1716 GMT (0116 HKT)
Luxury hotels pry open Oman's parched but beautiful Jabal Akhdar mountain.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Simon Chardiet sports a 'Die Hipster Scum' shirt while posing at Rockaway Beach on August 18, 2012.
Is the creative class ruining urban communities?
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Dubai is gearing up to host Expo 2020, but could a property bust spoil the party?
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 0821 GMT (1621 HKT)
Sanctions empty Tehran's poshest properties as prices sky rocket.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0441 GMT (1241 HKT)
Where are the world's tallest skyscrapers being built?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
How do you feel about buying property? Scared of a bubble emerging where you live? Add your voice to our mood map.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
A room in a property valued at $1.1 million in London.
The garden is overflowing with weeds and trash is strewn across the lower floors. And it could be yours for $1.1 million.
ADVERTISEMENT