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Congratulations to two University of Guelph students for winning first place in the York Region’s competition “Make Rental Happen”.  Dan Foch (B.Comm. Real Estate and Housing) and Kyle Foch (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) proposed to solve some of the costly technical issues that make housing less affordable by using shipping containers.

Their idea of “Cargotecture” needs to be understood as stylish and not as illegal-immigrant chic (see pictures on last page of their proposal or here).

A single shipping container is 160 sq. ft. with 8.5 foot ceilings. (FYI: the first container ship was built in Canada more than 60 years ago.) In addition to being relatively inexpensive as a basic box ($3,000- $5,000 before making it a home), they are built to withstand punishment on the open seas and when on-loading or off-loading. This structural integrity means that a building project can save money on foundations. With all of the extras needed to make a box into a home, like windows, the cost works out to about $25 per sq. ft. (vs. $90- 250 for a regular mixed use project).

The design also has the advantage that it can be scaled up easily and, consistent with government policies to encourage infill and intensification, fits easily into small areas.

It is also worth noting that the initiative and the idea came entirely from the students. The first I heard about the competition was when somebody monitoring Twitter told me that they had won. The comments from the jury noted that they were impressed by the quality and the attention to detail in the 42-page proposal; a good mix of text, graphics, use of Google SketchUp, market analysis and financial analysis. Given the nature of the site, the proposal included shifting traffic patterns in the area.

So, the congratulations to Dan and Kyle Foch are well deserved.