The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Monday, 29 January 2018 01:00cat

Flats hosted inside water pipes may be a solution to Hong Kong's housing crisis

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A local architect, with his ‘Opod Tube Housing’ project, aims to build low-cost, stackable apartments using sections of 2.5m-wide concrete water pipes

For the past 12 straight months, home prices shatter historic records in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. As a result, thousands of families are forced to live into tiny apartments, with about 200,000 individuals living in 6m2 (62ft2) flats, while caged beds offer the only living space for some of the very poor. There have been creative short-term solutions (like converting shipping containers into temporary homes), and now, Hong Kong studio James Law Cybertecture has developed a microhome inside concrete pipes.

His work, called ‘Opod Tube Housing’, proposes the conversion of concrete water pipes - some measuring 2.5 meters in diameter - into a 120 ft2 mini-apartment for one or two inhabitants, with living, cooking and bathroom spaces. Apart from their low cost, these microhomes could also be stacked between the city’s highrises and utilize space otherwise being wasted. Besides, since they weigh20 tns each, they can easily be relocated to other sites in the city. Law believes that they would appeal to "young people who can't afford private housing", while he has already created a prototype and is currently seeking government approval for his project. He claims his micro apartments cost approximately US$15,000 each to manufacture, and could be rented out for $416 a month , when the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is currently over $2,000.

On the other hand, there are voices saying that pipes and containers could provide temporary reprieve, but the government should tackle the housing shortage the soonest. “We welcome any possibilities to speed up the provision of temporary housing,” said Lai Kin-kwok, convener of Platform Concerning Subdivided Flats in Hong Kong. “But I want to stress these can only be short-term arrangements. Ultimately the government must speed up the construction of public housing.” 

OPod prototype 

A prototype apartment of 9.3 m2 has been built, containing facilities for living, cooking and bathing. The interior curved concrete walls are tiled with neat white hexagonal tiles, and the pipe has been paved with a flat wooden floor to make it easier for the occupant to move around. Its entrance is a fully glazed front panel that doubles as a door and window, while its rear part is been screened off to form a bathroom compartment with a shower and a toilet. A bench seat can be folded down to also function as a bed, with the cushions doubling as a mattress, and there is also room for a mini fridge, a microwave cooker, a rail to hang clothes from and a stand to place a suitcase on. The microhome also features smart technology, as the occupant can unlock and enter using only his smart phone. 

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Images courtesy of James Law Cybertecture

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