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October 19, 2017
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Various container homes. Sources: poetichome.com, alldoing.com and dezeen.com.

When you were asked to draw a picture of your family in primary school, the image probably consisted of five to seven wobbly sticks (depending on the gender), circles or ovals for faces, straight or squiggly lines for hair (if your family members were lucky enough), a tree (a deflated cloud on top of a string) and a house (a square with a scalene triangle sitting on top). You learned that these lines and geometric shapes universally represented people, places and things.

Since then, your visual mapping abilities have likely evolved; hopefully you've seen more than one type of tree and you no longer believe that all people ought to be size double zero. But, what about your perception of the ideal house? More often than not, it's conditioned by price - not everyone can afford their dream home, especially during such turbulent economic times. But the "box and triangle" structure still dominates the home-buying market.

So, if home buyers are presented with such an innovative, green, and one-of-a-kind solution, why does the cookie-cutter "square and triangle" house still dominate?

The word "house" can be interchangeable with "home," a word linked to the intangible values of family life, shelter, comfort and warmth. On the other hand, the words "steel," "reuse," "mobile" and "container" rarely come to mind when brainstorming about your dream home. But, at its most basic level, a reused steel structure is what you get with a container home.

Prefabricated (prefab) homes and container homes are not new concepts; they gained popularity in the early 2000's thanks to Dwell Magazine’s interest and open-invitation to create a home that could be mass-produced. These structures, however, are rare sightings.

Optimistic and diplomatic, Pierre-Mathieu Roy, President of Steel Space Productions, believes that, "design and approach can make the difference [to a shipping container home]." Steel Space Productions specialises in reusing shipping containers by converting them "into a unique event and marketing experience." The company's colourful spread of clientele gives a sense of the concept's popularity with national and global brands: Red Bull, DKNY, The Body Shop, Jagermeister, KTM, Bell Canada and Virgin Mobile, to name a few. The success of container showrooms and marketing spaces - as well as constant inquiry from partners and friends - has given Steel Space Productions the confidence to venture into the housing market. Partnering with Hatem Architecture from Quebec City, Roy believes that, "[Hatem's] design capability was the key to this new project. We will offer a turnkey solution, but having an architect / design firm as a partner will complete the full offer."

Interior of Container House Maison Cube+
Photo courtesy of Steel Space Productions.

And why not? Roy points out that a container house is a responsible investment. Reusing a shipping container prolongs its life and avoids wasting precious natural resources. It's extremely cost effective - although Steel Space Productions hasn't set prices for its houses, some container homes, such as those featured by MEKAWORLD, are selling for US$147,200 for 1280 square feet. It's time-saving - importing a shipping container takes a lot less time than building a house - and its minimalist design, although set to taste, is effortless and moldable. "So many possibilities," smiles Roy.

Container homes may be an optimal fit for the current real estate market. "I think people are looking for greener solution[s] with a mix of design," states Roy. Noting that they are stepping into a scarcely explored world, Steel Space Productions and Hatem Architecture are prepared to take the risk and explore the container concept in 2012. When asked to identify the challenges of "building" container homes in Canada, Roy exclaims, "insulation!" He reassures me that they have a lot of ideas that they plan on testing this year.

Source: mekaworld.com.

At one's first introduction to container homes, doubts and insecurities might surface; "glamour" and "comfort" are not synonymous with "container," "shipping" and "steel." Yet, these homes are striking and humbly beautiful. A very simple, melodic and down-to-earth beauty is created with bamboo flooring and wall paneling, a generous amount of window space (perhaps some colourful plexi-glass to play with the incoming natural light) and open concept design. 

So, if home buyers are presented with such an innovative, green, and one-of-a-kind solution, why does the cookie-cutter "square and triangle" house still dominate? Perhaps we ought to think inside the container to effectively think outside the box.


Steel Space Productions & Hatem Architecture plan to reveal their concepts at SIDIM 2012 in Montreal, May 24-26 2012. 

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