Could shipping containers be the solution to Ghana’s housing crisis? | Housing

Accra, Ghana – At a construction site on the outskirts of Accra, the energetic figure of Eric Kwaku Gyima directs the hectic activity.

He wears sturdy work boots caked with floor dust, his well-worn jeans bear the marks of long hours in concrete and steel, and he wears a high-visibility vest over his shoulders.

Over the noise of loaded shipping containers and heavy machinery, his voice rose above the noise as he issued instructions to his employees.

To him, this is more than just a construction site. Here, discarded shipping containers are transformed into eco-friendly homes, offering a potential solution to the West African country’s housing crisis.

“This isn’t just a business. It’s a movement,” he declares.

Eric Kwaku Gyima with staff at a construction site near Accra, Ghana [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

Ghana’s housing crisis has been worsening for some time. The Ghana Statistics Authority reported that approximately 6 million people out of Ghana’s population of 33 million are in urgent need of housing.

Some of these people are homeless, but most live in dangerously overcrowded slums that have grown over time on the outskirts of Ghana’s larger towns. The number of people living in slums soared from 5.5 million in 2017 to 8.8 million by 2020, according to the latest United Nations tally.

One reason for this is rapid urbanization driven by both rural-to-urban migration and natural population growth. As more people move to urban areas in search of economic opportunities, demand for housing exceeds supply, leading to the proliferation of informal settlements and slums.

Additionally, economic challenges and limited access to financing make it difficult for many Ghanaians to buy or build homes.

Eco home using shipping containers under construction [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

This new venture aims not only to address immediate housing needs, but also to present a more affordable and sustainable housing model.

“In the face of Ghana’s staggering housing shortage, it is imperative that we provide more than just structures. We need to offer a vision for sustainable living,” Jimma said. Masu.

“We are not just providing shelter, we are preserving the environment for future generations. We are creating lasting power, one home at a time, while paving the way for sustainable living models. We aim to create an impact.”

Birth of an idea

Gyima, who grew up with 17 siblings in Akim Swedol, 180 km (112 miles) from the capital Accra in eastern Ghana, said he dreamed of becoming a banker or an artist.

But Gyima’s interest in sustainability was deeply rooted in growing up in an area known for its rainforests, streams, hills, and rivers. He witnessed rapid deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitat caused by construction and illegal mining. So, despite studying banking and finance, he decided to pursue his passion for carpentry.

His journey into home design began with a simple idea. He offers stylish accommodation for pets, especially dogs, “so they can have a better life,” he says. When he came up with the idea of ​​reusing shipping containers, he immediately started working on designing homes for people.

Cozy interior of one of the shipping container houses made by Gyimah companies [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

“I decided to repurpose shipping containers, which are normally discarded at the end of their useful life at sea, into chic and comfortable living spaces for people to live in,” says the father of three. he told NDMT.

If his business hopes to have any impact on housing demand in Ghana, affordability is paramount. Therefore, his homes are primarily aimed at individuals and families looking for affordable yet sustainable living solutions. The price of these houses varies depending on the design and ranges from $ 7,000 to $ 10,000 for the simplest option. “This amount is for the building only, excluding furniture,” he added.

A more complex multi-story design with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom can cost as much as $35,000, but when compared to traditional brick and mortar designs, the cost of these homes is still significantly lower.

According to the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association, it costs between $50,000 and $70,000 to build a new two-bedroom brick and mortar home.

According to the Ghana Real Estate Center, a one- or two-bedroom home in the capital, Accra, costs about $100,000. In contrast, shipping container homes are “more cost-effective than traditional concrete structures, and we want to make home ownership more accessible to more people in Ghana,” Gyima says.

Shipping container houses can be arranged over several stories [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

In contrast to brick and mortar, shipping container homes can be built quickly. A very simple shipping container home design can be completed in a few weeks, but more complex layouts can take up to a year to build.

“It doesn’t take long,” he says. “Besides, the materials used in the construction of these ship houses are environmentally friendly. After all, it is mobile. You will save 30 percent of what you would spend on block buildings. You will also save a lot of land space. You can save money.”

“Starting small in 2019 with a single shipping container converted into an office was just the beginning,” says Zima. Since then, the business, IWoodz Creation, has grown and now employs 25 local staff.

In addition to the 52 private homes it has built, the group has converted disused shipping containers into stores, offices and cafes.

To reduce energy use, these homes take advantage of natural ventilation by placing windows and vents more strategically to dissipate heat more efficiently and reduce energy-intensive equipment such as air conditioning. It reduces the need for cooling systems,” Gyima explains.

Move the shipping container into position on site [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

Too little, too late?

But Gyima’s approach has been criticized by some. While the environmental benefits are clear, planning experts say such a solution would have only a marginal impact on Ghana’s housing problem. It’s also unclear how long this kind of house will last, but Gyima says it should last just as long as a traditional house, as long as it’s properly maintained.

“Repurposing shipping containers into housing may seem like an innovative solution to Ghana’s housing crisis, but it needs to be approached with caution,” says Accra-based urban planner Abrahim.・Mr. Soi Day says: “While these structures are a quick and cost-effective way to provide shelter, they do not necessarily address the root causes of the housing shortage.

“We must ensure that these container homes are integrated into comprehensive urban planning strategies that prioritize long-term sustainability and community well-being.”

Mohammed Awal, a housing activist who advocates for affordable housing and tenants’ rights in Ghana, said container homes should not just be a “cheap” option for poor residents. “Container homes must meet appropriate standards of safety, comfort and dignity for their occupants. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that marginalized communities are not further marginalized by being relegated to container housing solutions. there is.”

Living space inside Gima Eco House [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

Despite these concerns, Felix Asante, a 45-year-old married father of two young children, says he is very happy with the new three-bedroom shipping container home his family built. .

He couldn’t hope to buy a brick-and-mortar store of similar size with his budget, he says. “He spent nearly 40 percent ($18,000) less than he would have spent building a traditional concrete home of the same size and style.”

He added that the home has its own small garden, spacious living area, plenty of natural light, good insulation and solar panels for energy.

2 story shipping container house [Courtesy of Eric Kwaku Gyimah]

Next goal – helping flood victims

In October 2023, the Akosombo Dam, a hydroelectric dam that provides electricity to most of Ghana’s 16 regions and neighboring Togo and Benin, collapsed.

Located on the Volta River in the Akosombo Valley in southeastern Ghana, the dam rests on Lake Volta, which was created during its construction.

As highlighted by the United Nations in Ghana, when this river burst its banks last year, the devastating floods displaced more than 40,000 people, including a significant number of children; This includes those who are most vulnerable in these situations. These floods not only caused people to lose their homes and belongings, but also disrupted access to essential services such as livelihoods and education in the three regions. Schools in the affected areas have been destroyed or become inaccessible, disrupting the education of many children, who now rely on support from organizations and individuals for survival.

Moved by the plight of those affected by the floods, Gyima is exploring ways to use her business to address the urgent need for housing solutions for displaced people. He hopes to work with disaster management organizations to pioneer the creation of mobile adequate housing solutions for displaced populations. He envisions these mobile homes not just as shelters, but as “symbols of resilience and hope” for people affected by natural disasters.

“We are considering building safe shelters using shipping containers in areas where flooding is a problem. These can be used as temporary shelters for displaced people, especially women and children. Or it could function as a classroom for children during disasters,” Jima said.

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