Living in a box
This year, according to the UN, the planet’s urban population outnumbered people living in rural areas for the first time in human history. In the last decade, a plethora of firms have sprung up worldwide offering shipping container accomodation from beach huts to (small) family dwellings. Keetwonen in Watergraafsmeer, Amsterdam, is Europe’s largest container city, with 1,000 units of student accommodation, while in USA, the Nomadic Museum was built from 152 shipping containers in 2005, and has moved from New York to California, Tokyo and Mexico City.
A standard steel shipping container costs around €1,000. A fully converted container home costs around €20,000, or €667 per square metre. The average selling price of apartments in Amsterdam is €4,437 per square metre.
According to figures from Japan’s 2003 Housing and Land Survey, the average size of an owner- occupied housing unit in the country was 95 square metres. A standard steel shipping container is 30 square metres.
Little house on the prairie
If the idea of living in 30 square metres sounds unnecessarily spacious, or you fancy a more traditional façade than corrugated steel, there is always the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Properties begin at a positively bijou six square metres.
The brainchild of Jay Shafer, these tiny houses were inspired partly by his concerns about the environmental impact of modern living. The smallest property he produces, the XS-House, costs around $39,000 (€28,000), or $16,000 (€11,500) if you choose to put it together yourself. It has a double bed (in the ‘loft’), kitchen, office/lounge, shower unit and composting toilet, and is completely portable. Shafer lived in one for a year before upgrading to a relatively luxurious 8.3 square metres.
The biggest pad he has – the B-53 – is a three-bedroom house squeezed into 81 square metres, the parts for which will set you back around €41,000 (with construction costs on top). See www.tumbleweedhouses.com for more info.