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Aboriginal interests

Attawapiskat–thinking outside the box

On 03, Dec 2011 | In Aboriginal interests, Blog | By markrutledge

Since the situation in Attawapiskat has hit the main stream media, there have been many articles written about how the Canadian government is to blame for the situation, and how poorly the Chief and Council have managed their funds. All this rhetoric hasn’t solved the housing problem. Now I don’t need to go into the details of the politics here, I’m nor educated or qualified enough to do so. However,  I know one of the more feasible solutions comes from non other than Mike Holmes himself.

To quote: “Stop building junk on reserves. Solutions lie in the willingness to embrace ideas others may want to dismiss out of hand. Maybe we can make better choices about building materials that may initially be more expensive but last longer and won’t burn or be susceptible to mould. Maybe we can consider buildings not based on a wood frame, such as steel shipping containers converted into comfortable homes.”

“Let’s look at the building technology,” says Holmes, whose ideal First Nations home would be about 1,100 square feet and built with wood and other materials that won’t burn or be susceptible to mould. “I don’t care if you want a box. I don’t care if you want it off the ground. I don’t care if you want a foundation. It’s using all the products that make sense, nothing but mould-free, nothing but zero VOCs [volatile organic compounds]. This is not hard.”

I wanted to feature some of the shipping container concepts. These are very popular in Europe and for very good reason. Affordable, flexible and transportable.

Project Keetwonen, Amsterdam
Here, containers have been used to create 1,000 dorm units for Dutch students, making it the biggest container city in the world. It was launched by Tempo Housing in 2006. Not only does it look hip and provides all the amenities a student could ask for, it also has a rooftop used for rainwater drainage, heat dispersal and insulation of the units below. The award-winning project has received a lot of international attention and is so successful that its planned relocation after 5 years has been postponed until 2016.

Container City, London
Developers Urban Space Management used a flexible, component-based container construction system to build this city in the London Docklands in 2001. The demand was so high for these homes made from 80% recycled materials that by 2002 they had built a second city right next to it. Rather than following the 1 container = 1 unit concept, architect Nicholas Lacey and partners and engineer Buro Happold used component pieces to create adaptable living and work spaces.

One-Container House, USA
This 40-foot one-container model, called Modular Dwelling Unit (MDU) by New York-based design company LOT-EK is colorful, shows a clean design and was built with reused industrial materials. According to the company website, MDUs have been designed for “individuals moving around the globe.” That takes the question if one’s shipment has arrived to a whole new level!


There is even a Victoria, B.C. company, Zigloo that is now building container homes. Designer Keith Dewey built his own home out of eight end-of-life shipping containers. For an excellent Canadian perspective please read the 3-part article “Green and Affordable homes, out of the box” by Monte Paulsen for The TyeeYou can also click here to download a copy of the entire series in PDF.

Let me know your thoughts, I know I’m excited to know that there is an affordable housing solution.


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