Around 200,000 people in Hong Kong live in so-called ‘coffin homes’, which highlights the seriousness of the city island’s housing crisis. The crisis is due to a rising population, a high demand for accommodation, skyrocketing housing prices, and land limited by the city’s geography. The 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability found that Hong Kong has the least affordable housing market in the world.
In response to the problem, the design firm James Law Cybertecture designed a micro home that would make affordable living a reality for many residents. In the future, people in Hong Kong – and city dwellers all over the world – could be living in houses built from concrete water pipes.
Homes built from old water pipes
The Hong Kong-based company has developed OPod Tube Housing, which is:
an experimental, low cost, micro living housing unit to ease Hong Kong’s affordable housing problems. Constructed out of low cost and readily available 2.5m diameter concrete water pipe, the design ultilises the strong concrete structure to house a mirco-living apartment for one/two persons with fully kitted out living, cooking and bathroom spaces inside 100 sq.ft. Each OPod Tube Houses are equipped with smart phone locks for online access as well as space saving furniture that maximises the space inside. OPod Tube Houses can be stacked to become a low rise building and a modular community in a short time, and can also be located/relocated to different sites in the city.
These tube homes are far removed from the cramped and deprived conditions of a coffin home. Company founder James Law envisions that these micro homes could be stacked on top of each other and would especially appeal to “young people who can’t afford private housing”.
Law states that his micro apartments would cost around £11,000 to manufacture and residents could rent them out for less than £300 a month, around the same price to rent out a coffin home. Currently, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong is over £1,500.
Each unit weighs 20 tonnes and can be lifted with a medium-sized crane onto a long flatbed trailer. This means they can be relocated relatively easily, which – as Red Planet previously reported – is also an attractive advantage of Sustainer Homes, and tiny homes in general.
The OPod Tube House is still a concept, although a prototype has been built. Alkira Reinfrank, a journalist at South China Morning Post was the first to try out living in one of these homes. She said that the unit was cosy, but noisy and chilly in mid-winter. She adds, however, that if a heater added it would fix the latter issue, and suggested double glazing for insulation to fix the noise problem.
Future homes for cities – and perhaps Mars too
There is a global housing crisis, so cities around the world could benefit from these low-cost and efficient homes. The idea of living in a tube home may not sound ideal, especially if you’re someone who wants a big kitchen or living room, but when you compare the monthly rent of the OPod Tube House (under £300) compared to, say, a one-bedroom flat in London (over £1,600), it seems that what you would save more than makes up for the space or possible amenities you would sacrifice.
NASA scientists are also coming up with concepts for houses on Mars. You save a lot of space with the OPod Tube House, and this feature could provide further inspiration for the design of homes on the Red Planet.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, tech, agriculture, and nutrition.