Each 40-foot container houses up to eight people. They sleep on bunk-beds to save space for small furniture items Image Credit: MEGAN HIRONS MAHON/Gulf News

Dubai: A shipping container as a house? Well, if a contracting company is to be believed it's not only possible, it's also very practical.

Alsahel Contracting Company LLC (ACC) said it had introduced the idea in Dubai during the construction boom in recent years to help find ‘practical' housing solutions for on-site workers.

Ahmad Etman, Managing Partner, ACC, said there was nothing questionable in the arrangement that started three years ago. "It's safe and we've got government approval," he said.

Respectable look

"It looks respectable, it's decorated and has the usual housing facilities," he said. These containers are normally used for transporting goods worldwide.

Last week, XPRESS was granted rare access to one of ACC's labour camps made up of containers stacked together, near International City.

Each 40-foot container houses up to eight people. A front door in the middle opens into a small partition that separates two side cabins, each of which accommodates four roommates. They sleep on bunk-beds to save space for small furniture items.

A window on each half side comes with an air conditioner. There are also two exhaust fans. The interior walls, floor and roof are covered with "decoration wood" and a special material to keep the steel structure from overheating in the sun.

"It's normal, we don't feel out of place here," a middle-aged labourer at the site said about life inside the container.

Etman said ACC became the first company to use containers as homes in Dubai three years ago.

"We wanted a practical housing solution for labourers. They travel for hours between labour camps and construction sites. They come to work tired and get home tired.

"This became the only permitted on-site housing facility in Dubai. We grew from there," he said, but declined to reveal how many containers it uses for housing.

"Now, other companies here may try to imitate us," he said.

Containers make better homes than the usual wooden portable cabins, Etman added. The metal trunks are robust, easily moveable and affordable, even after refurbishments. He refused to reveal the cost of these homes.

Big savings

"In the long run, containers save money too. Organic structures break down, especially in the climate here. They can't withstand sandstorms [for example], which are like bullets to them.

"Outside the UAE, this isn't a new thing. They've been around for 10 years. There's a whole history of them being used for housing, offices and schools," he said.