Prefab containers become hotel-quality student housing in Scotland


The rooms cost the same to build in China as they would in the U.K., but construction was up to 20 percent faster.
For months, the U.K.’s been abuzz with hand-wringing over the country’s housing shortage and calls for the construction industry to “modernize or die.” Industry folks are looking to prefab homes as a potential savior, and a new student development in Glasgow could be at the front of an wave of modular construction delivered straight from China.

True Glasgow West End is an $81 million luxury building where each of the 592 rooms were fully manufactured overseas, shipped to Southampton, and trucked some 425 miles to the site where a massive crane would stack them in place. Built by the Chinese container behemoth CIMC, the modules are custom designed specifically for housing, and not repurposed industrial containers. The design, created in partnership with engineers at Arup, includes stability-reinforcing connections so that a stack of rooms is structurally self-supporting.

Everything but the mattress and the TV is installed in China—plumbing, appliances, trash cans, and even curtains. The complex is aimed at students, but don’t imagine spartan dorms. These are hotel-style accommodations, lightyears beyond what one might normally think of as student housing. There’s even going to be a slide from the library to the lounge.

“If I’ve had any criticism it’s that we’re giving students too much of a good thing,” said Marc Carter, managing director of developer True Student Ltd. “The quality of what they’re staying in is rather nicer than what their parents had 30 years ago at university. Sometimes there’s a bit of resentment about that, but it’s unashamedly high-quality, premium accommodation for the discerning student.”

Students are expected to move in this September. Meanwhile, the company is already at work on two more student housing developments built with containers.

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