Image: James Law Cybertecture
By Brayden Yau
Hong Kong is widely known for having one of the worst housing crises in the world, with even a parking spot costing up to $10 million Hong Kong dollars. The densely populated city, which covers approximately 1,110 square kilometers of land, surprisingly only has less than 25 percent of its total area invested in urban and land development due to the abundance of mountains and slopes surrounding the city. Consequently, even the wealthiest of the 7.5 million people living in Hong Kong is forced to live in expensive but tiny, compact apartments, and those who are considered to be poor, live in notorious cage homes. Lately, the housing crisis situation in Hong Kong has gotten so worse that the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey has ranked Hong Kong as the least affordable city for housing -- for eight years straight.
However, an optimistic architect named James Law has claimed to have identified a sustainable solution to our city’s housing crisis: A gigantic cubicle modified and recycled from concrete water pipes. In an interview with Business Insider, Law acknowledges the affordability crisis regarding housing in Hong Kong and proposes a possible solution to mitigate cage homes for the future, utilizing left-over concrete water pipes. In addition, Law produced a prototype showing his idea and how it could be used to save space safely and efficiently. After the completion of many different construction projects, especially when finishing constructing buildings, many gigantic and solid concrete water pipes are left over and abandoned. Even so, because these concrete water pipes are designed to go underground, not only are they strong and sturdy enough to be stacked on top of each other to make a building, but are also fireproof and waterproof. The strength of concrete water pipes could be exploited and used to eliminate cage homes, providing the poor with more quality housing.
Named the O-Pod, Law’s prototype involves two sections of concrete drain pipe combined together, approximating to around 100 square feet of housing area per person. It is cheap, easily maintained, well-engineered, and can be efficiently built. While 100 square feet of living space is considered very small, it is double the average living space for a person living in Hong Kong’s subdivided flats. Furthermore, the curved walls and round shape of the O-Pod make it feel bigger to live in. Inside the O-Pod, there are tiled floors, bright lights, a desk that can be turned into a dining table, shelves, a sofa that can be extended into a bed, an air-conditioner, a mini-fridge, and spacious windows. Moreover, the thick concrete walls of the O-Pod allow it to be soundproof from the boisterous streets of Hong Kong. There is also another separate room for a bathroom with a toilet and shower. According to Law, the O-Pod could be rented out to tenants for around 3,000 HKD a month (cheaper than most subdivided flats), but despite the benefits, some people believe that the O-Pod will only act as temporary accommodation for tenants, due to its lack of storage space. Despite the countless benefits the O-Pod provides people with, Law anticipates that there would be some difficulty transporting the tubes due to its heavy weight.
All in all, the benefits of the O-Pod clearly outweigh its disadvantages as it is safe, easily maintained, and has better living conditions than those of subdivided flats. Law aims to make the O-Pod affordable for young people, especially for those who just come out of university. Ultimately, in order for this proposal to be implemented, the government will have to cooperate and utilize James Law’s O-Pods in their future construction of government housing. Could this be the solution Hong Kong is dying for to solve its housing crisis, and will it bring the next generation of people into a new era of housing in the city?
Image: Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
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Teh, Cheryl. “A Parking Spot in Hong Kong's Luxury Peak District Sold for a Record-Breaking $1.3 Million.” Insider, Insider, 4 June 2021, https://www.insider.com/parking-spot-in-hong-kong-sells-for-record-13-million-2021-6.
“Struggling to Afford Basic Housing? Innovative Opod Micro-Housing Could Be the Solution.” Hive Life Magazine, 13 May 2020, https://hivelife.com/opod-micro-housing/.
Written by Harrison Jacobs, International Correspondent. “Could This Be the Solution to Hong Kong's Housing Crisis?” World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/05/the-most-expensive-city-in-the-world-may-build-100-square-foot-tube-homes-to-alleviate-its-escalating-housing-crisis.