Danish students take to the seas in floating shipping container apartments

Ask college students what stresses them out the most during their university years and it’s almost a foregone conclusion a majority would quickly point to paying rent and bills before saying homework. A chronic struggle for any cash-strapped young adult, squirreling away money each month for rent is a stressful endeavor, one the Copenhagen-based housing startup Urban Rigger hopes to make much easier with its latest project. A reimagined take on student housing, Urban Rigger’s initiative aims to build low-cost modular housing in Copenhagen’s urban harbors. The cost? Roughly $600 per month. In Copenhagen, that’s an absolute steal.

To make the floating abodes efficient and appealing, Urban Rigger enlisted the help of renown Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels. Due in large part to the fact that both firms believe Denmark’s student housing shortage could have far-reaching effects on the country’s youth, they knew a viable solution was needed, and needed immediately. Because Copenhagen’s harbors are located near its city center, Urban Rigger and Bjarke Ingels were able to create a solution that was not only affordable but in a desirable part of town.

“My oldest son needed a place to live when he was going to university,” said Urban Rigger co-founder Kim Loudrup to Fact Co. Design. “When we went online to see the availability for student housing somewhere close to us [in Copenhagen], it dawned on us that it was a nightmare.”

All told, the $600 per month in rent nets renters a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen while offering them shared living spaces with other tenants. For both companies, the intent was to create a living situation which was capable of fostering positive growth among students without “cutting corners.” Community gardens, kayak landings, bathing platforms, and outdoor cooking areas are also provided at the houses, further promoting the advantages of communal living.

Because most universities in Europe reside near the urban core of big cities — the firms found 80 percent of schools in Europe are located in such areas — Urban Rigger hoped to find a way to get students into those prime locations, thus making it easier for them to commute while also promoting a positive community. Luckily, many major European cities feature ports near the heart of downtown.

“Most major postindustrial cities in the world are experiencing some sort of a transformation and decline of their port industries,” a spokesperson for Bjarke Ingels said. “You’re seeing cities all over the world where you actually have increasingly available port areas that can be transformed and could be the home for alternate forms of urbanization. You have a declining industry that makes and moves containers. So what we’re suggesting is to inject new life into it.”

Comprised of modular shipping containers, each housing unit figures to boast enough space to house upward of 12 students at the same time. With each container receiving power from photovoltaic arrays and utilizing the area’s thermal mass of water to heat up or cool down the interior, its heat-exchange system is incredibly efficient. Even NASA has contributed to the efforts, lending an advanced aerogel to seal the interior.

“What we tried to do with this first one is use a lot of very well-known established [sustainable] technologies,” Ingels continued. “Even though we’re trying to make very affordable super-efficient units, we can also include some of these elements that are more high end.”

As of now, the units are merely experimental, though both Urban Rigger and Ingels hope to expand the program to many other cities around the globe. Work has even begun on a 24-unit project in Sweden while Loudrop says the company has also fielded requests from interested parties in North America. If all goes according to plan, Loudrop thinks communal floating cities could be the future of residential living, and not just of student housing. While living in a shipping container on water may not sound all that luxurious, it’s not hard to see the benefit and cost-effectiveness of Urban Rigger and Ingel’s latest creation.

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