News & Media


Oneesan Container Housing Project Report

Check out pictures, construction facts, and more information about Canada's first Recycled Shipping Container Housing Project!

Atira Women’s Resource Society’s Recycled Shipping Container Housing Development is located at 502 Alexander Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and provides six social housing units for older women as well as six units at Housing Income Limits rental rates.

The housing was constructed using a base structure of 12, recycled shipping containers. The first shipping container was dropped on location on November 30th, 2012 and the project was completed in July, 2013. Download the press release here

The project was inspired by BC Hydro’s “House of the Future,” a recycled-shipping-container housing demonstration project, which was located on the front lawn of BC Hydro’s downtown office during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. BC Hydro donated The House of the Future to Atira in the summer of 2010. Two additional units were donated by Frank Lo and MC Quarters. The remaining eight containers were purchased though a broker from the Port of Vancouver.

Technical Specs

  • Hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit
  • The studio units range in size from 280 – 290 square feet net living area.
  • The units are fully self contained, with kitchens, bathrooms and in-suite laundry
  • The development meets all current building codes and in some case exceeds code, e.g.
  • insulation and sound transference
  • There are 12 units on a standard City of Vancouver lot; 25” x 119”


Frequently Asked Questions

How much did the unit cost?
Hard construction cost is $82,500 per unit. This cost includes premium elements that would not normally be installed in non-market housing (e.g. curtain walls and in-suite laundry), but which were incorporated because this is a first-of- its-kind project and we wanted it to show well.

How does this compare to other non-market units?
Housing constructed using shipping containers as the base structure are significantly lower in cost per unit as compared to typical social housing projects. For example and while a proper analysis needs to be conducted in order to have confidence we are comparing apples to apples, a 320 sq ft unit at Sorella Housing for Women cost $220,000 while the 290 sq ft units at 502 Alexander cost about $82,500 per unit. Again, these are hard construction costs.

What would the units sell for, if stratified?
Our informal survey of real estate agents suggests these units in this location could sell for about $199,000 each.

How big are the units?
Each fully, self contained unit is between 280 and 290 square feet, net living area.

Does this project meet current building code?
This project meets and in some cases exceeds minimum building code; for example in sound transfer and insulation.

There are 12, self-contained units on a standard city lot (25’ x 117’ feet).

Is the project Green?
While budgetary constraints limited our ability to make “greening” the project a priority, an informal and conservative process suggests the project would qualify for LEED certification based on four measurements including our focus on securing a sustainable site, choice of materials and resources, innovation in design and meeting some of the regional priority requirements.

Why Recycled Shipping Containers?
Shipping containers are thought to have a useful sea life of 10 – 15 years; this is with no maintenance and withstanding whatever Mother Nature can throw at them. It is expected they will last “practically forever” with proper care and maintenance. There are an estimated 24 million vacant shipping containers in the world. Repurposing them is good for the environment, provides a base structure that reduces the cost of construction and construction timelines and as you can see, they look great!

How much did the project cost, including land?
The full project, which includes the heritage restoration of the Single Room Accommodation Hotel next door, cost $3.3 Million and provides 31 units of non-market housing.



Imouto Housing for Young Women, the building next door, won a City of Vancouver Heritage Award in 2013 as well as an International Best Practice Award for Innovation in Housing for the program it houses, which supports young women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.



We would like to thank our generous donors for all their support!

The full project, including the heritage restoration of Imouto Housing for Young Women at 120
Jackson Street next door, cost $3.3 million and provides 31 units of non-market housing.

Capital Funders
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Streetohome Foundation
The City of Vancouver
BC Hydro
Central City Foundation
The Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia
The Golf for Good Charitable Golf Tournament

Individual Donors:

Ken Shannon
David Cottrell
In kind contributors include:
Eagle Crane Services
Tri-R Transport Ltd.
Reagle Terminals Inc
MC Quarters
Instant Bedrooms Manufacturing Inc.

Financing provided by:
BC Housing

Units staged by:
Dekora Staging Inc.



This report provides an overview of the approach taken to up-cycle obsolete shipping containers for residential housing from conceptualization to completion. The report describes the design, technical, cost and approval elements of developing the innovative Oneesan prototype project within the City of Vancouver, British Columbia.


For more information

Imouto Housing
Phone: (604) 215-0369
Media contact: