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Shipping containers see new life as affordable Box 500 apartments in Salt Lake City

The six-story building now opening is one of the tallest buildings in the world made from the steel boxes, builder says.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Box 500 apartments on 500 South in Salt Lake City, made from shipping containers is set to open later this summer, following years of roadblocks,Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Box 500 Apartments — built out of shipping containers stacked six stories high and locked together like LEGO bricks — is set to open in July at 543 S. 500 West in Salt Lake City.

The 83 units were awarded city incentives to be affordable and rents will range from $829 to $1,204 a month, said Amanda Best, a specialist in the housing development program. Tenants have to qualify to rent them by earning 60% or less of the city’s median income, said builder Rod Newman.

Best said maximum income levels depend on household size, but will initially range from from $38,760 to $59,760 annually.

With white walls, light fixtures and appliances, the apartments feel modern, if on the small side. On a recent tour, one kitchen designed in a classic L-shape was windowless and had limited counter space — but a bathroom was arguably more spacious than some in older city housing.
The 48 studio apartments are 320 square feet. There are 18 one-bedroom and 17 two-bedroom units, which are about 640 square feet. One of the units with bedrooms will be used as office space, but all of the other units are currently available. Prospective tenants can get on the application list by emailing [email protected] or calling 358-247-6683.

Using shipping containers as the framework reduced costs, Newman said, and shows that the steel boxes can be used to provide more affordable housing as the Salt Lake Valley’s population and housing prices boom.

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The industrial exterior maintains the look of the shipping containers, making it stand out from some of the other construction in the area.

“We could have made it look like anything on the exterior, but we left it,” said Newman, who owns the development firm Eco Box Fabricators, as well as Metro National Title. “I think it looks pretty neat.”
Is it safe to live in a shipping container?

If the thought of a home inside stacked shipping containers concerns you, staff at Salt Lake City’s planning division said they’ve worked with Box 500 to ensure the building meets current fire safety standards, particularly reliable exits and a sprinkler system.

The building also can withstand earthquakes and the high-speed winds of the valley, said Orion Goff, deputy director of the city’s Department of Community and Neighborhoods.

Shipping containers are a sturdy building block, he noted. “Those shipping containers are very, very stout from an engineering standpoint,” Goff said.
Box 500 Apartments is one of the tallest buildings in the world made from shipping containers, Newman said, and city regulators pushed for more design and engineering reports than traditionally constructed buildings may have needed.

Models showed Box 500 can withstand 7.2 magnitude earthquakes and winds of about 140 mph, the builder said.

Building with shipping containers also is more environmentally sustainable because the containers would otherwise be discarded, he pointed out.

The practice, referred to as “cargotecture,” has been used for everything from restaurants to offices to seating at a baseball stadium. A small Salt Lake City firm called Little City offers refurbished shipping containers for office spaces. Utah also has seen containers used in building single-family homes and accessory-dwelling units, known as mother-in-law apartments.
Salt Lake City faces a housing shortage of about 6,000 or more units, said Lani Eggerston-Goff, director of Housing and Neighborhood Development. BOX 500 is just one small piece of the solution.

“It’s a very small percentage, but as our department likes to say, every place that somebody can live matters,” Eggerston-Goff said.

The city is encouraging a variety of new housing developments — both in building materials and unit sizes. With the growing population priced out of their homes and the lack of available land in the city to develop, Eggerston-Goff said, innovative approaches are necessary.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

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