The city of Johannesburg, South Africa, recently got an innovative student housing structure made of recycled shipping containers and disused grain silos. Mill Junction student accommodation, as the complex is called was designed and built by the South African property developer Citiq. All told, the building process took a year to complete.

The complex is located in a prime location of the city, and is comprised of 11 stories, which contain 375 affordable student apartments. First, windows were cut into the sides of the silos, the inside of which was converted into student apartments. To create additional living space, recycled shipping containers were then attached to the sides of the grain silos and stacked four floors up atop them. Apart from the private units, the complex also contains several common areas, such as study rooms, a library, communal kitchens, and a gym. The builders also placed astro turf on the roof and covered it to create an outdoor common area with amazing views of the city, since the entire structure is roughly 40 meters high.

The developer also desired to make the structure as sustainable as possible. The student accommodation complex was therefore fitted with heat pumps for hot water production, motion-sensor-activated energy-efficient lighting, as well as double-glazed windows in all the units. According to the developer, these measures have resulted in a 50 percent lower power consumption as compared to a conventional building. This could be true, provided that the shipping containers were also properly insulated to prevent solar heat gain.

One thing the developers didn’t include in the design are solar panels, which given South Africa’s climate would have made a lot of sense. Still, they were very likely more interested in keeping the costs low to make the final product as affordable as possible.

The inside of the units is frugally but functionally furnished and contain all the appliances necessary for a comfortable stay. Most of the units that are housed in the shipping container part of the structure also have balconies. Since one of the key reasons why young people in South Africa drop out of university is inadequate housing, the Mill Junction project should go a long way to alleviate that problem.

The modern design of the complex, with its multicolored shipping container units, fits well into the city’s skyline. Not all the inhabitants of the city agree with this, as is to be expected, and the structure has received lots of criticism as well as praise.