Container housing debuts in South Africa

South Africa’s first formal container housing development has reached completion in Johannesburg’s Windsor East suburb north of the city with residents flocking to apply for occupation.

The controversial project, involving the use of defunct freight shipping containers as housing units, initially had residents up in arms when first mooted several months ago.

The project took four-and-a-half months to complete from start to finish, ending up with a three-storey development which would probably have taken ten to 12 months to build using conventional methods, says architect Kobus Coetzee.

Coetzee explains the project was not without its challenges: “You deal with tight spaces and have to make it liveable and really nice. How do you prevent sharp corners after you cut steel? We had to figure that out.”

He adds: “It comprised steel containers with polystyrene and mesh, which had to be fixed with galvanised straps drilled into the containers through the polystyrene and the mesh. And then it was plastered conventionally.”

Maintenance, he says, is a cinch with a touch of paint needed from time to time.
The project cost R8m according to container housing brainchild from Citiq Properties, Arthur Blake and its CEO, Paul Lapham. That included landscaping, paving, boundary walls, the recreational rooftop and heat pumps.

Blake says without the trimmings the structure itself would probably have cost half of its bricks and mortar equivalent.

Lapham says the genesis of the project was: “How do we get good homes to people at an affordable price? Building conventionally doesn’t let you do it. Container housing has been touted internationally as a cheaper alternative, by 20% to 30%.”

He says: “This is a triumph of design and building. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Coetzee says the company has been approached by people from Nigeria, the Congo, Gabon and Zambia wanting to emulate the development. “It’s like a veld fire right now.”

Windsor Action Group chair, Louise Mynhardt, was part of a lobby group opposing the development when the freight containers arrived on the scene in April 2012.

Residents were up in arms saying sub-standard housing was being introduced to the area that was already struggling to regain some of its dignity related to the eighties and nineties.

Mynhardt has since changed her view: “As we’ve watched it grow, it’s been amazing. What they are doing will have a positive result in the community. I think it’s a marvellous example of using alternative materials. The neighbourhood has a new zest for life.”


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