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Shipping container social housing makes debut in Vancouver

Back in 2010, former Tyee reporter Monte Paulsen proposed an unconventional solution to Vancouver's housing problem: use recycled shipping containers to build green, low-cost homes in the city.

In his three-part series, Paulsen found that these big steel boxes are essentially the ideal building blocks, "not only far more environmentally friendly but also significantly less expensive than the heavy concrete construction that has reshaped the city's skyline."

His articles highlighted several innovative projects in London, Amsterdam and even Victoria.

Three years later, shipping container housing has come to Vancouver.

Yesterday, Atira Women's Resource Society, unveiled a 12-unit, three-level social housing project made of 12 recycled shipping containers. It's the first development of its kind in Canada. Each self-contained unit ranges from 280 to 290 square feet. The first occupants are expected to move in next month.

According to Atira's chief executive director Janice Abbott, the hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit; significantly less expensive than the $220,000 cost per unit in a conventional concrete housing project.

Abbott told The Province that preliminary work has already begun on another shipping container housing development.

Colleen Kimmett is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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