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The Town Where the Homeless Live in Shipping Containers

Updated on April 6, 2016

BHT Shipping Container Project

In October 2013 old shipping containers started arriving at the site of a former scrap metal yard in the New England Quarter of Brighton, England. However this was not a delivery of goods from the Far East, it was the beginning of a unique project to provide homes to 36 homeless men and women of Brighton. Initially six units arrived and by the end of the week a total of 36 containers had arrived on the site.

The containers are more than just the standard metal boxes carrying cargo across the world. Each container is fully converted into a home, thermally insulated, walls lined, fitted double glazed windows and doors at each end and feature a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and living/sleeping area. The containers are arranged in two blocks of 5 x 6 and 3 x 2 stacked on top of each other with communal stairways.

The project by Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) and constructed by QED has planning permission for the containers to remain on the site for a period of 5 years with tenancy's ranging from 6 months to 2 years.


Delivery of the containers started in a October 2013 and after finishing touches such as connecting utilities and installing stairwells and walkways residents were moved in by Christmas 2013.

Kitchen/dining area of one of converted containers.
Kitchen/dining area of one of converted containers. | Source
Sleeping area.
Sleeping area. | Source
Kitchen area.
Kitchen area. | Source
Toilet/Bathroom.  Permission for photo use granted by BHT
Toilet/Bathroom. Permission for photo use granted by BHT | Source

Shipping Container Homes

The units were designed and constructed in Holland by TempoHousing for a social housing project in Amsterdam that fell into difficulties which meant the containers could be purchased at a reduced rate by BHT. The entire project cost £900,000 which means the cost of each unit is around £25,000 ($41,000). This may seem high but when you consider the average price of a studio flat of a similar size (combined living/sleeping/cooking area and separate bathroom/toilet) in Brighton is in the region of £110,000 the project becomes far more economically attractive. The total floor space of each container is similar or larger than many studio flats available on the market right now. Due to the fact that the containers were constructed & converted off site the fees and costs normally associated with planning and construction of bricks and mortar dwellings were not incurred although some planning permissions were required. The site only required the ground to have tarmac laid, no foundations were needed. The containers can be also be relocated if the site is redeveloped in the future without the need to demolish and rebuild.

Inside Each Unit

Each unit is basically a self contained apartment with an approximate floor space of 26 sq. meters with a kitchen/dining area at one end, sleeping/living area at the other end and a small bathroom/toilet in the middle. This may not be ideal for everyone but each resident has their own front door, their own secure property, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen & balcony right in the center of one of the most expensive places in Europe.

This for many people who were previously living in temporary accommodation, hostels, bedsits with shared bathrooms or on the street is a massive improvement.

Similar Projects

Shipping containers have been used for many years as temporary offices on construction sites, however this is one of the first projects in the United Kingdom utilising shipping containers for homes. This method has been used most notably in Amsterdam to create student housing comprising of approximately 1000 units and 'Container City' in the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of London which was constructed in just 4 days in 2001 to create live/work and work spaces spanning 4800 sq. foot over 12 work studios. Due to its popularity Container City 2 was constructed in 2002 comprising of 22 units with over 8000 sq. meters of space. There are even hotels created from shipping containers.

Container City London

Container City London
Container City London | Source
Container City London
Container City London | Source
Container City London
Container City London | Source
Similar project in Amsterdam using shipping containers to provide student housing
Similar project in Amsterdam using shipping containers to provide student housing | Source

Container To Home

Each container is made from steel and due to its original purpose is very strong, weatherproof and stackable. Shipping containers come in various sizes but the most common size used for conversions is the 40 ft. container with internal measurement of approximately 39.5ft x 7.8ft x 7.10ft. The floor space before conversion is roughly 28 sq. meters but containers can be constructed on top of or next to each other and access panels cut to create larger areas or multiple floors.

As they are designed to be loaded and unloaded frequently, stacked on lorry trailers and moved around a container home can be quickly deployed at almost any location and relocated if needed at short notice.

Stairwells and Walkways

Communal stairwells and external walkways lead to each unit to give a modern and attractive aesthetic appearance. This may not be to everyones liking but it is cost effective and practical, not only providing access but also acting as fire escapes.

Environmentally Friendly Project

The containers are used and have travelled an estimated quarter to three quarter of a million miles each. Due to the recession many are surplus to requirement and therefore can be purchased at a reduced rate, usually around £1500 each. After conversion with thermal insulation many residents living in them in other locations report reduced heating bills. The BHT container project will employ rainwater harvesting, roof mounted solar panels to generate electricity with any surplus being fed back into the national gird which will actually generate revenue. Because of the acute lack of car parking in Brighton a 15ft container on the site has been converted into a cycle store to accommodate up to 15 cycles to encourage bicycle use.

Location Of Shipping Container Homes

Would You Live In a Converted Shipping Container?

Would You Live In One Of These?

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Build Your Own Shipping Container Home

If you are thinking about building your own shipping container house they are easy to source and can often be delivered to your desired location. Shipping containers can be used for a number of pursposes, not just homes. An old shipping container can be used as a garden shed, a storage unit, a car garage, a workshop, a studio, an office and many things, the limit is only your imagination!

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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Wow, I had not heard of this idea before. How great to help provide homes for the homeless, as you share here. Shipping containers being so strong, seem like such a great idea! Toward the end when you mention having them shipped anywhere, is so interesting too, to use for whatever is needed. Storage would be great, for instance. Thanks for sharing this most interesting and informative hub.

    • AndrewHil93 profile image

      Andrew Hill 2 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      I have a post similar to this in regards to a business venture I am thinking of launching. Check my hubpages for more information

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for your comment AliciaC

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an excellent plan for producing homes for people who need them! I hope more communities copy the idea. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank You!

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for your comment sehrm.

      As soon as I heard about the project I just couldn't wait to do a write up on it. If this Hub inspires just one more simliar project to help people I will be happy!

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Cool hub!

    • sehrm profile image

      sehrm 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      This is so amazing! Architecturally, first, these are both hip and practical. Its nice to see these being implemented in humanitarianism. Very well written, too! Thanks for this information.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I'll have a think about interviewing them!

    • Tolovaj profile image

      Tolovaj 3 years ago

      This looks like very useful project. It would be interesting to hear some feedback from people living there.

    • pmarinov profile image

      Blogger at Best 3 years ago from Detroit MI

      Very interesting! Great hub! Voted up and useful!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Excellent way to reduce costs of homeless. They are attractive as well.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for your comment. I just really loved the idea when I heard about it and the national UK media picked up the story but I felt none of them really did it justice so I decided to write something myself. I hope we see more projects like this.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I think they really are amazing as they are designed to be put on the back of a lorry, they can be delivered anywhere or moved to another location easily.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      This is so creative. Some friends were looking into bringing one of these homes to Equatorial Guinea where they work. Most intriguing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I saw some of these pictures online a few months ago and wrote a hub about it. Brilliant solution for the homeless housing problem. Now all we need is a few thousand communities to be willing to make it work. :) Thanks for raising awareness about this.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Traci,

      Thanks for your comment. I am more than happy for you to share the article, if you need anymore information please send me a message or leave another comment.

    • Traci Ruffner profile image

      Traci Ruffner 3 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      This is incredible =) If you don't mind, I would like to share your article with some people I know here in Raleigh, NC who work with the homeless.

    • SpaceShanty profile image
      Author

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi prasetio30, Thank for your comment, I hope too that people start to recycle and reuse more.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful. I hope this hub become inspiration for us who want to recycle shipping containers into beautiful house. Very inspiring hub. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up!

      Prasetio