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Barcelona unveils first emergency homes made from shipping containers

From January, 12 prefab apartments in city center's Gothic quarter will provide temporary accommodation for vulnerable families


16 December 2019 07:40 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Barcelona is putting the finishing touches to its first apartment building made from repurposed shipping containers aimed at providing emergency housing in the city center.

The so-called Aprop flats are located in the city's Gothic quarter, and in January will welcome their first tenants - a dozen families waiting to be allocated a permanent home.

Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, said on Monday after visiting the building that the apartments "are not only decent, but fully-equipped and much better for vulnerable families than precarious or temporary solutions in guesthouses."

Construction of the prefab housing began some months ago, and Colau pointed out that this type of building work can be completed much more quickly than with traditional materials.

Calling them "innovative, sustainable and efficient," the mayor said the apartments imitated similar projects in other cities, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Vancouver.  

Similar housing examples abroad

The Canadian city, for example, unveiled its first building made of recycled shipping containers with twelve 27-square-meter apartments back in August 2013.

Meanwhile, the Urban Rigger project in Copenhagen involves shipping containers stacked on a floating platform in the city's harbor to provide low-cost housing for students.

Yet, the housing has also drawn criticism in some places like the UK, where the children’s commissioner for England has called the apartments "unsuitable and unsafe."

London, Brighton and Bristol all use this type of housing solution, but some residents complain they are not only cramped, but too hot in summer, and too cold in winter.

Housing for people facing eviction

As for the apartments on carrer Nou de Sant Francesc in the Gothic quarter, they will temporarily house people who have either been evicted or who are facing eviction.

The tenants will be able to stay in the apartments for a maximum of five years, with each family paying a different amount of rent depending on their income and situation.

Four of the 12 apartments measure 60 square meters and have two bedrooms, while the other eight are half the size with one bedroom, with the first floor set to house a clinic.   

The building has cost 940,000 euros and features a lift and stairs, a facade, and a special exterior covering that allows ventilation for each of the apartments.

A new Aprop building in Sant Martí

The building in the Gothic quarter will not be the last, as a project to build new apartments in the city's Sant Martí neighborhood will go out to tender early next year.

According to the mayor, that building will be larger, with 42 apartments, 35 of which will have two bedrooms, and the other seven with a single bedroom.

"We will do everything within our means because providing affordable and decent housing for residents is a priority for the city," added Colau.


  • Interior image of one of the shipping container emergency homes (by Blanca Blay)

  • Interior image of one of the shipping container emergency homes (by Blanca Blay)