New zoning regulations passed by Edmonton’s city council in July, which will take effect Sept. 1, permit garage and garden suites in low-and medium-density residential zones. (Previously, the suites were discretionary, so city development officers could approve or refuse them, and neighbours could appeal.)
“I think there’s a huge market for this,” said AJ Slivinski, owner of Step Ahead Properties, which is building Westgate Manor, the city’s first shipping container apartment building at 16315 96A Ave.
The 20-unit apartment building was built with 48 shipping containers is currently under construction. The Calgary company Ladacor Advanced Modular Systems, which has also built a hotel in Bruderheim, Alta., out of shipping containers, is handling the construction. Slivinski said the plan is to have residents move in Oct. 1. Getting the apartment complex built hasn’t been easy. The company had to spend $100,000 to bring the landscaping up to code, upgrade the storm sewer for $60,000, negotiate the number of parking stalls required by the city, and delay construction because of all the rain this summer. But Slivinski said he expects more developers and homeowners will take advantage of shipping containers’ benefits. Honomobo is also at work on a multi-level apartment building, which they expect to be built this fall or early spring in the Queen Mary Park neighbourhood. Thanks to off-site construction, container homes can be built quickly and with minimal disruption to neighbours. Narine’s garage suite, which was built by the Edmonton firm novhäus, took just three months to finish after the containers were placed on his lot in March. Container homes are also very sturdy and designed to withstand the elements. With proper insulation, they can be quieter than normal homes and warm during the winter months. Shipping containers don’t always live up to their reputation as cheap, fast and eco-friendly options, though. It’s true that there’s a large supply of used shipping containers available, but they need to be extensively cleaned as they could have been used to transport toxic materials. Some homeowners even opt to buy new containers, which defeats the purpose of recycling used steel. According to Slivinski, 150 people attended an open house for Westgate Manor’s show home in late July. Though the company has been targeting millennial tenants who work on 170 Street, many of the people who showed up at the open house were seniors looking to downsize. Narine said he could see himself living in his garage suite eventually, though he has yet to convince his wife. He was drawn to the environmental benefits of building with shipping containers and he supports infill because he sees it as a way to make living in neighbourhoods like Brookside, where he has resided since 1998, more accessible.“It’s a great neighbourhood,” he said. “We feel we’re very fortunate, but it would be nice to share it with another family.”