Wednesday 22 November 2017

HEA considers container flats for student housing

BOXED OFF: Container House, on Fitzwilliam Street, Ringsend, is an example of the housing method. Photo: Fergal Phillips
BOXED OFF: Container House, on Fitzwilliam Street, Ringsend, is an example of the housing method. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Converted shipping containers may be used to house hard-pressed college students as the rental sector prepares for an unprecedented crisis in the autumn.

The 'Lego-style' apartments are already in use in a number of continental cities. Now, given the chronic shortage of suitable accommodation, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), says the use of containers to cater for some students cannot be ruled out.

As the crisis deepens, the Department of Education is due to release a new national student accommodation strategy in a matter of weeks. The report - which the HEA contributed to - will look to increase the amount of student accommodation available in Dublin and other urban locations.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, the Department refused to rule out the possible introduction of a container-style accommodation scheme in Ireland. Metal containers, repurposed as chic student housing, have been used in Amsterdam, Berlin and Stockholm. A new 'student village' in Glasgow using "huge metal boxes" stacked on top of one another was erected earlier this year.

In less than 10 weeks, an old industrial site was transformed, and is now capable of housing 500 students. Advocates argue that using shipping containers - rather than building accommodation units from scratch - will help provide a speedy solution to a rapidly worsening problem.

When piled on top of one another, the containers are easy to insulate.

They can provide a cheap living space, consisting of a sitting room and bedroom, as well as a kitchenette and a bathroom. Once converted to living accommodation, the containers are specially painted, and usually given an "external finish", to make what is on offer more appealing. When asked if the HEA believes the use of shipping containers should now be examined given the escalating crisis, an authority spokesperson stressed "no option should be ruled out".

However, it said such an initiative could also face issues with planning permission, as well as health and safety, security, and insurance considerations.

Meanwhile, property expert Ronan Lyons says this autumn could be "tougher" than last year for students.

He also believes the use of shipping containers, among other options, should be "explored" given the growth of our college-going population.

Sunday Independent

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