Cargotecture: Affordable Housing for the Homeless

24 May, 2018

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Shipping containers’ lifespan at ports is rather short. However, this doesn’t mean that these containers lose their value. Even if they’ve been discarded by the cargo industry, these massive and sturdy metal boxes can be repurposed for many different uses, and one of them is affordable housing. (Related topics: storage containers for sale)

Around 57,794 people are sleeping in the streets of Los Angeles on a daily basis, which has driven the city to be constantly on the lookout for solutions that are innovative enough to help generate new affordable housing, at scale and fast.


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From converted motels and miniature backyard houses to the traditional trailers that are already being touted by public officials as short-term solutions and effective ways of providing shelter for the homeless temporarily or permanently. There are other solutions that must be taken into consideration to solve the homelessness issue. One of the solutions to be considered is cargotecture, a term coined to describe architecture built from repurposed shipping containers.

Cargotecture is cheap, durable, and, in many cases, very pleasing to the eye. These corrugated steel structures have become very popular amongst American retailers and restaurateurs.

A Los Angeles local architecture firm, KTGY Architecture + Planning, is planning to transform shipping containers into homeless housing when they break ground on Westlake’s Hope on Alvarado project, this July. The project is meant to comprise 84 units of transitional housing within a four-story complex that will be set around a central courtyard. It will also include supportive services and bike parking for each tenant.

For many, the big question remains on how to make cargo containers habitable for humans. According to the project’s head architect, it is all about cleaning up the containers and ensuring they’re free from any harmful chemicals and paints used to preserve the containers as they go back and forth overseas.

Then, it’s just the routine process of converting a box into a living space. Insulating the space, adding windows and doors, drywall, plumbing, power lines, and flooring. However, in order to shorten the construction time, this project is being developed directly with manufacturers, henceforth, they’re converting the containers into residential units right in the middle of the manufacturing process. In this way, it can all be done way faster and the units can be delivered quicker.

The building will be located near the intersection of Alvarado St and Beverly Blvd and once the structure is completed, the 400- to 480-square-foot units will be carted to the site and stacked like Lego bricks atop the traditionally constructed ground floor of the building.

On the project’s website, it’s been stated that the total construction process will take around six months. And just as money starts flowing into homeless housing from $1.2 billion city bond measure HHH, and council members work to approve 222 units in each city district by July 2020, don’t be surprised if you see a few more of these quick-to-build corrugated constructions cropping up the coming months as KTGY is already working on plans for three similar complexes around the city.

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