top of page

Amid Refugee Plight, Shipping Containers Can Provide Relief

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Amid refugee plight, shipping containers can provide relief
Amid refugee plight, shipping containers can provide relief © Al Jazeera

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of the shark, says Warsan Shire. Our living conditions play an integral role in our mental well-being. We know that better spaces are associated with a sense of control and self-worth, resulting in increased wealth accumulation and happiness. But unfortunately, some people are deprived of their rights & tend to leave their space. Yes, you heard right, we are talking about homeless people. Have you ever thought about why a large segment of the population is homeless? Basically, these people are either refugees or economically improvised. Amid refugee plight shipping containers can provide relief by offering comfort and security.

Having examined and studied the reasons, we found that homelessness occurs primarily due to natural disasters, wars, crime, disease outbreaks, and identity crises. Social causes such as addiction, family breakdown, mental illness acts as driving forces for homelessness adding to poor economic conditions & fewer mental health services. It brings an immense paradigm shift in all activities around the globe. The substantial outburst that happens after these terrible events is the continuous fear of a shelter. Can you think of some solutions to prevent this scenario? Can we provide them with sustainable compact house design to make their life better?

According to statistics, there are hundreds & thousands of living scenarios where refugees live in the most stinky & suffocative localities. Numerous issues surround them, making them unproductive for themselves and their offspring. Water, food, and even dry clothing are left unmet, resulting in unhygienic and adulterated food. The insecurities of shelter and the lack of proper medical care prevent them from getting back on their feet. As a result, they become mentally deprived, losing their senses. Improving their living shelter from run-down neighborhoods to the best-suited shipping container shelter homes is one of the best manifestations of brotherhood. A house with a small space architecture plan can benefit them a lot.

Refugee Statistics UNHCR
Refugee Statistics UNHCR

You can build a small luxurious living space through a sustainable compact house design in a shipping container. There are millions of outdated containers that are perfectly suitable to use. You could use them for various purposes instead of disposing of them in landfills. We will discuss a few pros and cons here. The major pros of such homes are the predicted costs due to their construction at the factory site. Delivery, foundation, and onsite assembly are the only variable costs. It is possible to transport a prepared container onsite & place it on a preoccupied foundation through channels available. The scope for shaping them into the desired demand at the site makes it simpler & quicker. Talking about the space, the minimum a container provides is 100 square feet of an area acquired with various safety measures, sufficient for housing. Amid refugee plight shipping containers can provide relief through their spectacular small space architecture plan.

Among the main problems associated with the shipping container is rust spreading & corrosion. And so for a well-maintained home, rust spots should be treated & repaired before they spread. When selecting a shipping container, it is beneficial to see the material. For example, all alloys have a lower tendency to degrade than plain steel. So choosing alloys over plain steel is a modish decision.

Moving on to the valuation, the small space architecture plan house ranges from $10,000 to $35,000 & more advanced homes range between $100,000 to $165,000 based on certain factors included. Those factors are the design & layout, finishing done with flooring & electricals. Additionally, insulation over the exterior walls makes it more comfortable and long-lasting.

Pricing gap between a tiny house and traditional house in United States
Pricing gap between a tiny house and traditional house in United States ©

In this decade of advancement in technology & habitability, we have the resources to address the problem in the best possible way. As discussed, initiating with the minimal & micro-living setup of the shipping container is the most suitable & pocket-friendly way. The foremost requirement is the consideration of demographic factors with their effect over climate & accessibility of basic amenities like land & water where accommodation neither impacts the environment & contrary it contributes to shelter place. With the increased population, it is mandatory to move on sustainable compact house design that not only fulfills our needs but also takes care of nature. It is necessary to manage constraints, such as limited space, and optimize comfort methods for extended stays. These can also be used as multipurpose homes serving various activities & services, leading one more step towards extensive social ties. When built with deep insight considering design aesthetics, it helps in impacting their psychological & mental wellness.

Amela Koluder says that a refugee is someone who survived & who can create the future.

There is a simple idea that will not only allow your creativity to soar but also address the problem at the same time. Amid refugee plight shipping containers can provide relief by not comprising their basic needs of the shelter. You might be familiar with the concept, but this article is about implementation. So here it goes.

The latent scenario of the refugee shelter.

In the past few decades, the refugee population has increased by double around the globe. The percentage has gotten even higher in African and West Asian countries where countries like Turkey with 3.7 million are at their peak. They are the product of war & hunger, so they are considered unfit for the nation. In the last 80 years, climate change has displaced millions of coastal residents. Persecution of people tends them to become refugees whether it is social, national, or political reasons. The latter is due to needs rather than choice. But, why do these refugees become national security for the concerned nation? These refugees tend to seize all the lower-level jobs there. They start conflicting against their origin country operating from their camps & in no time with their increasing numbers can change the demographic of many regions. This matter also relates to the living conditions of these refugees. Deprivation & overcrowding of the camp infrastructure & resources make life even harder where clean water, food, medicine & proper sanitation is not available. Appropriate sanitation conditions are crucial to prevent communicable diseases while ensuring good health. Although, during the pandemic situation the health facility was not stretched to the capacity & did not have proper monitoring access in camps, especially in larger ones. This mishandling only escalates the situation.

Indian refugee camp
Indian refugee camp © Al Jazeera

Amid refugee plight shipping containers can provide relief: Discuss?

Before designing your shipping container home, it is crucial to understand the basics. How did they get there? You know that these were in service for a period. They carried various goods, including toxic chemicals. Hence, it is beneficial to check whether it is suitable to use. One of the benefits of shipping container homes, they are sturdy & durable and can last over a few decades. Their construction cost is down the line & relatively reasonable to homes. But when metal containers are recycled after they are no longer serviceable, they leave behind a lot of metal and mostly rust. This rust allows many containments to seep into the soil & waterways, affecting the earth around it. The best way to reduce these impacts is to repurpose them as sustainable homes, offices, and other structures like small businesses. To give a brief account of the situation, the steel used in containers is enough to make ten house frames that are similar in size. Wasting such an enormous amount of remaining metal in junk has its reversal effects with more piles of dump collects & more metal mined for new product development. It is more viable to use tiny compact containers that are easy to convert into various shapes & sizes. If managed rationally can accommodate a couple or a family of four comfortably with all amenities available. They are waterproof, and with proper insulation of walls from outside, they can become thermally stable. An added advantage is the movability of homes where traditional homes lack. Their counterparts like tents are fragile & cannot withstand these conditions for all those years. They are more suitable for a short duration of time during an emergency. But the containers are the best fit for extended stay & predetermined hostile situations.

What are some fundamental elements needed in any shelter?

Apart from the amenities, when considering building your home, there are a lot of elements that need in-depth concentration & suggestions for starters. A lot of stuff and systems need to be taken care of for a comfortable living. It is similar to your proper housing method but more compact & space conscious. These elements include adequate sanitation, bedroom, dining, kitchen area, fuel within the allocated space with optimum storage, lighting, and comfort. It is an endless list as per individual requirements. When we talk about homeless people, it is vital to take care of their comfort and needs too. Hence, amid refugee plight shipping containers can provide relief.

Joshua Becker says,

"You do not need more space. You need less stuff",

what can be more right than this. We will try to cover all the key elements that are primarily essential. Here are some segments that one can refer to.

Making up the living room.

Your home should be a safe & enjoyable place. The living room is the mainframe of your home. It gives you a space to immediately sit down & unwind your day. By simplifying and embracing minimalism, you set the standard for your home and define what the rest will look like. It acts more like a canvas to your family where you are rid of possessions. However, a shipping container shelter should blend in well with the rest of your home. We have decided to make one by sustainable compact house design.

Starting from catching a corner with a sofa cum bed & a table cum cabinet for dining that can also be used as a study, having it in a central part of the home. There should be enough natural light in this space by cutting out windows right across the sofa. Another pivotal aspect to keep in mind is what kind of flooring would it be? Floor mats like Duramat indoor mats can help with cleaning, damping of objects, and fatigue of walking over hard surfaces. Still, you felt something is missing. A fresh breeze is the best way to rejuvenate indoors when plants are present. They should be placed across the window at the door to improve lighting by reflecting it. Some essential design hacks are using a mirror in front of the direct source of window light for displaying the smaller space as more spacious.

Summary: An organized living room is an essential part of any home, as it brings the whole family together. Sofacum beds help save space and provide comfort as well. As a quick tip to handle clutter, this can also have storage. You should ensure that your area in front of the sofa has a lot of natural light. It is necessary to cut openings for windows or doors for glass panels. For optimum lighting, you can place plants in the area.

Corner of a living room
Corner of a living room © Reddit

Living room makeover Before and After
Living room makeover Before and After © Reddit

Making up the Kitchen.

The center of the house filling up the appetite needs to be accommodated well with its utilities. A gallery-style design would be a perfect fit due to the narrow space occupancy in the container. The design elements suggest a pantry (cabinets & open shelves) wall over one side of the kitchen with a single slag to the next corner & an acquired basin. The best way to utilize the remaining space is by fitting a washing machine below the basin area. Considering compact space the best case scenario is, by leaving no stone unturned for space management like the below slab area, best for storage by installing cabinets with moisture resistance boards for extra protection. Perfect for small spaces, multifunctional items fit best for your kitchen. The use of other utilities such as baskets, handles, pans, potholders, etc, is also permissible. Being more cost-effective and using heavy-duty appliances will be better in the long run. Summary: It is possible to have an open kitchen space in the left corner of the living room. The open kitchen area can have a stove with a washing machine underneath. You will also need to provide tolerable racks for storage and cabinets. Adding kitchen platforms all around the room is an excellent idea. Installing organizers like pan racks will also save space. There should be a basin at the corner for washing all the utensils. It is possible to cut a window directly in front of your stove for exhaustive purposes.

Tiny house kitchen
Tiny house kitchen © Reddit

Spice containers arranged in pocket hangings on door
Spice containers arranged in pocket hangings on door © Reddit

Clean kitchen platform of a compact home
Clean kitchen platform of a compact home © Reddit

Family in a small space kitchen
Family in a small space kitchen © @livealittlechatt / Instagram

Making up the Bedroom.

More people are starting to see the benefits of shipping container homes & want to make the best out of it. Bedrooms that might not be spacious but showcase your personality. To plan effectively, create a list of things you do in your bedroom & visualize how it can work in sync with other factors of overall home design. Now, you want to place your belongings most conveniently, starting from the bed. A double fold-over bed provides the most space-saving solution for a small room. If you want more space, storage under the bed is perfect for stacking your bed sheets, curtains, shoes, winter wear apparel & more furnishing items. Windows should be positioned concerning your bed if you want them. More accessories like a small lamp would satisfy your approach to minimalism & suites best at your bedside. For enhancement, multifacet lights can be placed on a dark background illuminating the light-colored sidewalls to tie it all together. To distinguish the bedside wall, geometrically install some shelves and leave some area to contrast nature through plants. Summary: Even though the bedroom is a vital element of any house for comfort, building one in small spaces can be difficult. Therefore, it is recommended to place the bedroom opposite the kitchen. Level up the platform so that it can demarcate the entire area. Include a mini bed with lots of storage inside. Additionally, shelves beside the bed can be helpful for storage and utility. A window should be in front of the bed for pleasant mornings and of course, ventilation. There can even be glass panels on the ceiling above the bed.

Bedroom on the second floor of a small house
Bedroom on the second floor of a small house © Reddit

Bedroom with glass ceiling and window
Bedroom with glass ceiling and window © @susanteare / Instagram

Making up the Bathroom.

The design of this space in a home remains subtle & varies on an individual taste. The planning for various features starts from the location & size of the toilet, shower & sink, which needs to be pondered because of designing in constrained space. The most preferred location for bathroom placement is the end of the container. It will help you reduce the cost and easy installation of outlets for water & waste management. Some homes have narrow bathrooms & sectioned-off rooms where all the outlets of water & waste can be taken on the same side delivering easy installation. In these bathrooms, it is considered to make a partition between the toilet & shower by a glassdoor, it increases the visual size & makes it more suitable for the person. Adding the color contrast, which is an individual choice & goes by his personality, enhances the remaining outlook of the bathroom. The next step should be considering the temperature conditions & for that, use a wall-based pipe heater. It will help in cold weather and does not require additional space. Summary: Bathroom design is as tricky as it looks. At the end of the shipping container, there can be separate panels covered by curtains or glass. It can be preferable to use a composting toilet. Additionally, water tanks that collect rainwater or can be refilled by a local supplier can be installed outside the shipping container. The pipelines can be arranged in such a way that it provides water to both the kitchen and bathroom. Furthermore, cabinets can be used for the storage of clothes. A wall-based pipe heater is beneficial to use in cold weather.

Bathroom of a compact house
Bathroom of a compact house © @littleblack_cabin / Instagram

Making up the Storage.

Shipping containers are much more capable of storage than you might think! They are highly customizable & you can develop a variety of storage arrangements during designing layouts. A good place to focus our walls. Think about how all the area from floor to ceiling is available. Wall shelves can be mounted that can hold boxes, cups & books. Depending on your ceiling heights you can have above the door area for certain particulars that can fit. A built-in bookcase is one necessity that can utilize an entire corner wall. People who prefer elevated beds for their comfort have more storage spaces under the bed. It can store a lot of daily necessities like your clothes & accessories. On the contrary, your laundry clothing can utilize the room under the bathroom basin. Summary: Storage can be everywhere. Cabinets, basins, and wall shelves are the standard storage options. You can also add storage to the furniture. Beds, couches, and chairs can all have storage underneath them. Furthermore, there can be extra bookshelves for this purpose. The elevated platform used for the bedroom demarcation can too have storage.

Shelves installed in a small house to provide storage
Shelves installed in a small house to provide storage © Reddit

Making up the auxiliary elements.

Some shipping container homeowners are drawn to additional elements that can make their home more sustainable & systematic. Apart from the fundamental requirements and accommodation, some things can add value & ease of comfort to life. The only way out to take care of homeless people and even the low budget home problem is by small architecture plan. In addition to the floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding doors provide fresh air. The bathroom consists of composting toilets. Utilizing jute strands used for cleaning utensils are some best waste management methods. A sustainable alternative to conventional roofs is to install solar roofs to utilize exterior space and increase power efficiency. You can use propane as cooking fuel.

Summary: For electricity purposes, one can have solar panels. Thermal insulators must be encouraged to safeguard from electric shocks. Liquid propane serves the purpose of cooking fuel.

Container House
Container House © Living Big In A Tiny House / Youtube