Atira Women’s Resource Centre In Vancouver Uses Recycled Shipping Containers For Community Housing

Atira Women’s Resource Centre – which helps support women in need through creative and resourceful programs – may have a perfect solution to Canada’s current lack of healthy community housing.

With over 24 million empty shipping containers worldwide, Atira Women’s Resource Centre has partnered with Imouto Container Housing Project, and together they’ve created a plan to address environmental, social, and economical issues in Vancouver’s East End.

The solution? They incorporated recycled shipping containers into clean, modern, and safe residential units!

Photo Courtesy of Fei Wang/ Atira Women’s Society

Located at 502 Alexander Street on the east side of Vancouver’s Downtown, the pilot property offers 12 self-contained units, and makes use of the remains of defunct shipping containers.

Compared to other typical housing projects, the container’s simplicity in structure also reduces construction time by half, which translates into substantial financial savings.

Photo Courtesy of Fei Wang/ Atira Women’s Society

Although Canadian social housing has a sullied past – mostly due to programs which concentrated on poverty isolation, marginalized living conditions, and unwittingly incorporated design flaws like a lack of defensible space – contemporary efforts are helping change outdated perspectives.

Today, integrating smaller well-designed and well-constructed buildings into the fabric of existing communities are changing the way communities perceive ‘community housing’.

This particular project – unveiled in 2013 – is home to mature women (over the age of 50) on fixed incomes.

Photo Courtesy of CBC News

These amber, glowing steel walls offer a splash of character to Vancouver’s East Side neighbourhood.

The Le Corbusier inspired façades, with slight projections and large windows, are tempered with wood paneling that brings warmth to the cold steel.

The result? A lovely unified piece of architecture that houses a community in need.

Photo Courtesy of Fei Wang/ Atira Women’s Society

Although the the project promotes neighbourhood density, focusing on the utlilization of every square inch of space, each suite feels private.

Photo Courtesy of Fei Wang/ Atira Women’s Society

Atira Women’s Resource Centre’s mission for this project was to showcase how good design can foster healthy resilient communities, regardless of income. Consequently, the architect, Barry McGinn of McGinn Engineering and Preservation Ltd., mandated the use of as much sustainable materials for construction as possible.

In fact, taking their ‘green’ mandate even further, they cultivated an inexpensive collective garden for the community to enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of Fei Wang/ Atira Women’s Society

I fully support innovative projects that elevate design and reincorporate materials – like recycled shipping containers – can re-invent our housing into more economical livable spaces.

Without question, this development is exemplary!

For more information on the Imouto Container Housing Project and it’s forward-thinking design, visit Atira Women’s Resource Centre Website.

Researched and Written by Sarah Iserhienrhien, BID Interior Design, Ryerson University

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