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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

EX-CONTAINER Project in Japan by Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

April 20th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

EX-CONTAINER is a temporary housing can be converted into permanent one.

This is a pre-fablicated house which is completed in the factory including interior and exterior. By using ISO shipping container module, we can realize same quality as permanent housing with temporary housing costs. Conventional temporary housing must be removed within 2 years, but after being used temporally in public spaces like parks and school playgrounds, EX-CONTAINER can be transfered to a new site and reuse as a permanent housing. EX-CONTAINER is a reasonable alternative for the disaster victims who do not have money to spare. For more information please go to our website:

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Aerial View

[ PLAN ]

TYPE1: Temporary housing – Standard

Most similar to common temporary housing

– 20 ft container + 20 ft container (horizontal)

– Approx. 28sq.m (Bathroom with sink, bathtub, toilet / Kitchen / Living room )

– Target budget 3 million yen (approx. US$36000)

TYPE2: Temporary housing – Two storied

Two-storied housing for small site areas

– 20 ft container + 20 ft container (vertical)

– Approx. 26sq.m (Bathroom with sink, bathtub, toilet / Kitchen / Living room )

– Target budget 4 million yen (approx. US$48000)

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

TYPE3: Permanent Housing

Unit with an interval between two vertically placed ex-containers

– 20 ft container + interval + 20 ft container

– Approx. 50-60sq.m (Bathroom with sink, bathtub, toilet / Kitchen / Living room)

– Target budget 5 million yen (approx. US$60000)

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects


Q. What are the benefits of converting temporary housing to permanent?

A. Temporary housing is used for about two years and each unit costs 2.3 million yen (= $27,000+) to build. Its seemingly inexpensive construction comes down to more than 120,000 yen (=$1,412) per month, higher than the local average rent. Besides, we must consider the total expense to cover such a large affected area. In this case, estimatedly 6 million units are needed as of April 2nd, 2011 and the overall expense will exceed 140 billion yen (=$1.6 billion) to build what would be removed in two years. By implementing Ex-Containers that can later be converted into permanent housing units, we can save enormous amount of money and resources that will otherwise be redundantly invested to temporary and permanent housings.

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Q. Why use ISO container module?

A. By using the existing container module, we can transport them with finished interior and exterior that requires no further modification to serve as housing units. Our ideal scheme is that governmental entities set them up temporary and sell them inexpensively to individuals and municipalities. Later excontainers can be relocated to be set up permanently, especially given that many people might find it difficult to return to their original place despite their will due to economic circumstances.

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Q. How realistically is this idea being implemented?

A. We will work to the best of our abilities to implement ex-container despite uncertainty concerning laws and trading regulations that blur a clear prediction of the outcome. The maximum quantity of emergency prefabricated housing that Japanese domestic manufacturers can construct is believed to fall short of the actual demand. That means the quantity that can be stocked is less than needed. In fact, following the Great Hanshin earthquake, Japan imported around 3,300 temporary housing units from overseas to aid the shortage. For that reason, there is a realistic chance for at least a small amount of convertible temporary housing to meet their needs. Thanks to its unique convertibility, excontainer continues to be an affordable choice for permanent housing even if it would not be served as temporary.

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Q. How many units will be constructed?

A. At this moment our vision is keeping our production scale as compact and manageable as architects usually deal with, rather than mass-producing thousands of units within the temporary phase, which lasts for 2 years after the earthquake. We are planning to build 20 ex-container units in 6 months and 50 units in a year.

Q. Is there any option to use existing buildings instead of constructing new temporary housings?

A. We strongly agree with using existing houses that are intact or still habitable outside the evacuation area. Key elements in the immediate phase of recovery are both making “optimal use of existing materials” and “getting one foot in the door” for permanent housings. A concern is, however, that communities may suffer functionally if existing facilities divide their members sparsely, especially where neighbors have lived together decades after decades. We believe that times like these when we have to build to keep the existing community functioning.


Q. Would it be challenging to live in a ex-container-only town?

A. The affected people need to live on while they are waiting for recovery and reconstruction in their community. Since ex-container units are transportable, they can meet the immediate needs under adverse conditions without affecting the future redevelopment. Our objective does not focus on reconstructing a city by solely using containers.

Q. What about conventional prefab houses?

A. Japan’s federal government does not have reserved emergency prefab houses on stock. Hence, the private sector plays a critical role as they have pursued essential functions of prefab housing and have prepared for an emergency. It is obviously necessary to stock a large quantity of temporary housing to prepare for future catastrophic disasters. However, the scale of the damage this time is too large to consider temporary and permanent housing units separately. We think that the recent disaster that deviated from expectations by Japan’s pre-existing recovery highlighted the need for such an alternative approach as excontainer that transcends the conventional distinction between temporary and permanent housing.

Image Courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

Q. How will the donations be used?

A. First, we will build a prototype unit. The prototype enables us to demonstrate how effective ex-container modules can be toward the federal and local governments, Japanese Red Cross, individuals and companies. We can send the sample unit to the affected area afterwards. Your donation will be used for construction and transportation of the units as well as a minimum expenditure necessary for outsourcing. The design process is done by volunteer professionals. If the donation exceeds the production cost of the prototype, we will discuss with the affected people to identify their specific needs such as cafes and shops and donate excontainer units to cater those needs.

Contact Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects and Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects


Category: House

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