Living in a box

A novel container-based accommodation solution has been taken into use on the University of Stavanger (UiS) campus at Ullandhaug to provide a residence for students.

Kristoffer Sørstrønen and Magnus Øgård Meisa

FROM CRAZY IDEA TO COOL BEDSITS: Civil engineers Kristoffer Sørstrønen (left) and Magnus Øgård Meisal developed their concept of containerised accommodation in a BSc assignment at the UiS. They now intend to make a continued commitment to their MyBox company.

This facility is the outcome of a year of planning and construction for the MyBox company, owned by recently graduated civil engineers Magnus Øgård Meisal and Kristoffer Sørstrønen.

They got the idea of making a big commitment to containerised residences from the challenges faced in Stavanger’s student accommodation market during 2010.

This concept was further developed in a BSc assignment, which grew into a research project at the UiS. The containerised units belong to the university and are rented to five PhD students.

Include a penthouse
The former shipping boxes have been converted into four flatlets of 26 square metres and a
«penthouse flat» twice that size on the third storey.

Located on a stretch of grass adjacent to the student union building, the green exterior of the block has been designed by the Helen & Hard architectural practice.

The flatlets incorporate a universal design with en-suite facilities. They are well insulated and consume little energy. 

«One question we asked was why buildings use 50-centimetre-thick walls when a fridge with three centimetres of insulation manages to maintain its temperature,» explains Meisal.

He says that the answer was to incorporate vacuum insulation of the kind used by refrigerators, which thereby provides much more interior space.

Nevertheless, the flatlets are only a fairly narrow 2.25 metres wide with a glass wall at each end. A combined kitchen-lounge is separated from the roomy bedroom and work space by a central bath and toilet.

According to Meisal and Sørstrønen, the accommodation is based on simple prefabricated modules which can quickly be assembled into buildings. These are approved for permanent habitation and satisfy all requirements in Norway’s Planning and Building Act.

Offers many possibilities
Rolf L Ringdahl, head of resources at the UiS, has followed the project from concept to conclusion, and been an important source of support. He feels it offers many possibilities.

«We’re extremely pleased to have such committed students,» he observes. «This is also very much a research and development project.»

The pilot installation has been developed in a dialogue with the UiS, and the student entrepreneurs have received good advice from the Student Welfare Service at the UiS.

In addition, they have been helped to get started by Ikea, Profftre and the Lyse energy utility. Lighting in the flatlets, for instance, can be managed with the aid of a mobile phone.

Much of the interior outfitting and practical details have also been put in place with assistance from the Swedish furniture giant. The exterior is clad in maintenance-free wood.

Meisal and Sørstrønen are grateful for the support provided by the UiS and their other collaborators, and pleased with the good response to their project. 

«It’s great fun when you have crazy ideas which turn out to work,» says Meisal. «The UiS has given us opportunities through this project we’d never otherwise have had.»

«We’ve been able to try out what we’ve learnt in practice. The project’s given us so much that it feels as if we’ve received an extra BSc.»

Their flatlets ended up costing about NOK 600 000 each after being put together by Duplo Element in Vikeså and then shipped to the UiS.

The two entrepreneurs are now looking forward to developing their concept further. They have already had enquiries from Trondheim, Bergen, Haugesund and Oslo as well as Stavanger.

Text: Håkon Hapnes Strand and Silje Stangeland
Photo: Asbjørn Jensen

Kristoffer Sørstrønen and Magnus Øgård Meisal

NARROW: The lounge in one of the containerised flatlets developed by entrepreneurs Kristoffer Sørstrønen and Magnus Øgård Meisal.