Everyday Tourist looks at Calgary's efforts to provide affordable living options in one of its most expensive City Centre communities.
Our City Councillors continue to talk about the need for more affordable housing but nothing seems to happen. The latest rant came from Councillor Woolley who was invited by CBC News to write a New Year’s message to Calgarians as part of its “Calgary at a Crossroads” series of guest editorials. Woolley’s, piece “Why we need to work our asses off,” focused on the City’s need for more affordable housing. He stated that over the past two years, the City of Calgary had not put a single new subsidized home on the market, adding “On Council, we commission dreamy reports that are long on process but short on action.”
Okay the, its time for Woolley and his colleagues to start walking the talk. I challenge Council and Administration to design and approve a residential development for the unique city-owned containR site in Sunnyside at the corner of 2nd Ave and 9th Street SW by the end of 2016. It is my understanding the site has been earmarked for a mix of affordable and market housing for years. I also understand the immediate neighbours and community are more or less on side, subject to seeing actual design plans. So why has nothing happened?
I also challenge Council and Administration to make this Calgary’s first large-scale sea-container building, knowing Sunnyside Councillor Farrell has suggested in the past that container construction has many advantages for affordable housing. Surely it can’t be that difficult to make this happen.
Container Construction 101
There are many benefits to container construction for residential development. The biggest being it is very cost effective. It is cost-effective because 80% of the on-site activities are moved indoors, meaning optimization of materials and labour, reduction of theft and fewer lost hours due to inclement weather. As well, because it is metal, it is non-combustible, making it safer. Also it doesn’t warp or shrink and has the capacity for superior sound-insulation between units, making container buildings quieter. They can also be constructed to heights of 12 storeys, making them ideal for affordable housing projects on larger sites.
And when it comes to infill development, neighbours and communities will love the fact that on-site, container-based construction happens 30 to 50% faster than conventional construction, meaning a significant decrease in the inconvenience of road and/or sidewalk closures and noise. Container construction is also environmentally-friendly given the repurposing of surplus shipping containers.
Backstory: Calgary, as one of North America’s largest inland ports, has a surplus of sea containers. Yes, literally thousands of sea containers arrive in Calgary every month via rail or truck from China and other countries full of everything from electronics to furniture. With nothing to send back many become surplus.
From a design perspective, container buildings don’t have to look significantly different than current new multi-family residential buildings, both in their exterior or interiors. From the street, they can have a funky, colourful, industrial urban look or they can be clad with vinyl siding to fit with neighbouring suburban homes.
In a nutshell, container condos are “cheaper, faster and better” than conventional wood or concrete multi-family residential construction. This makes them very attractive for affordable housing construction.
Calgary-based Ladacor has developed an “Advanced Modular System,” a proprietary modular construction method that allows for high quality container construction, which meets if not exceeds all Canadian Safety Approval standards. Ladacor is on the leading edge of container construction in North America, having already built the largest container hotel in Canada. A local demonstration container project could be just what Calgary needs to create more jobs and become North America’s leading contain construction headquarters. What’s holding us back?
It is almost too good to be true that Sunnyside’s temporary containR park (with several containers already on site) is the perfect location for Calgary’s first affordable housing project in a few years and our first container building.
My plea to Council, Administration and Sunnyside community - please fast-track the design and approval of the “Sunnyside Container Village” as model affordable development by the end of 2016, with people moving in by early 2018. Let’s be “short on process and get those asses working.”