Bjarke Ingels creates a housing solution

Nick Myall
Friday 23 Sep 2016

The first batch of new affordable floating homes for students have been completed in Copenhagen, Denmark

When you're a student on a tight budget with little income and struggling with debt finding an apartment in a crowded city can be tricky.

Across the globe students are struggling with spiralling rents and severe housing shortages. In Denmark alone, it's estimated that 40,000 new beds are needed to satisfy demand.

However a company called Urban Riggers has come up with an unconventional architectural solution. Build low-cost modular dorms using shipping containers that can float in urban harbours, bringing students into the city centre without the exorbitant rents, and recruit Copenhagen's own architectural star, Bjarke Ingels, to design them.

"My oldest son needed a place to live when he was going to university," says Kim Loudrup, Co-founder of the Copenhagen housing startup Urban Rigger. "When we went online to see the availability for student housing in Copenhagen, it dawned on us that it was a nightmare."

According to the web site fastcodesign, Loudrup and Ingels think the student housing shortage could have far-ranging implications for cities, since it makes it difficult for students to attend schools in urban areas where they could contribute to knowledge-based economies. "The education of our youth is one of the best investments any society can make," Ingels says. "To make it possible to find someplace to live that is enjoyable and will enable them to become better students. In that sense, not investing in our future is simply the worst place to cut corners."

Urban Rigger, which Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) owns a 10% stake in, recently completed its first project in Copenhagen, a series of floating dorms priced at $600 per month to rent, a decent rate for a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen and shared living areas. The startup envisions replicating their model in other cities that are trying to deal with housing shortages—and rising sea levels.

As many of the developed world’s ports are suffering some degree of industrial decline Urban Rigger, Ingels and Loudrup have hit upon the idea of turning these ports—which have a reputation for being messy and dirty—into residential areas. This idea is catching on in other European cities too with Hamburg and Malmo adopting similar schemes.

Each modular shipping container that forms one housing unit can house up to 12 students. Photovolatic cells are used to provide power and an aerogel developed by NASA insulates the interiors.

"What we tried to do with this first one is use a lot of very well-known established [sustainable] technologies," Ingels says. "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." Indeed the units can be as luxurious or as simple as budgets will allow. 

The floating dorms are put together at a shipyard in Poland which can produce 100 units a year at $700-800 per sq ft with the first development completing in Copenhagen harbour this week.

"The first Urban Rigger that arrived is a proof of concept," Ingels says. "Based on the experience with this one, we’re going to make a 1.1, a 1.2, and eventually a 2.0."

The WAN Residential Award 2016 is currently open for entries until 31st October. If you are interested in putting a project forward, please get in touch with Christina Ingram: christina.ingram@builtenvironmentmedia.com  or call: +44(0)1273 201 123

Nick Myall

News editor

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