Johannesburg students are queueing up to take occupancy of student apartments with a difference – eco-friendly structures made entirely of shipping containers – in the suburb of Brixton on the western edge of the inner city.

brixton apartment1 300The new development on Caroline Street in Brixton.The eye-catching Umhlanga Junction Extension block of apartments, developed by Citiq Properties, sprung up in Caroline Street almost overnight, drawing visitors from near and far to watch the construction process.

According to Citiq Chief Executive Paul Lapham, the trendy 75-bed development was aimed at bringing much-needed “life and colour” to the vibey Brixton neighbourhood.

Lapham says the development took full advantage of the dedicated cycle lane in Caroline Street, which forms part of a cycling corridor being created by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) between the University of Johannesburg, Wits University and Park Station in Braamfontein. This allows students the freedom to “cycle to their lectures swiftly and safely, instead of walking”.

According to Citiq MD Arthur Blake, students are highly impressed with the unique accommodation. Citiq is now considering adding two more floors to the apartment block and erecting three similar buildings in the area in the not-too-distant future. “We believe Brixton has amazing potential because of its location, and the many historical buildings that lend themselves to repurposing and refurbishment,” says Lapham.

He explains that shipping containers make for an amazingly simple module, with the apartment block erected around basic living modules. The whole project costs around 80% of what it would to build a similar structure using traditional brick and mortar techniques. It took the company only two weeks to complete each floor and the project was ready for occupation within two months.

“Creative design is required to make this a truly attractive apartment block. The shipping containers are combined with different materials, cladding and colours to achieve a modern and appealing appearance,” Lapham adds.

Each of the six floors has single and double rooms with a communal kitchen/dining area, recreation room, lounge and laundry room.

Energy efficiency is ensured through double-glazed windows. Hot water is provided by heat pumps and motion-sensors. There is also energy-efficient lighting throughout the building. As a bonus, monthly rentak includes one gig of free wifi.

According to Lapham, the next step will be to convert four semi-detached structures on the opposite side of the road. “Brixton is convenient for students studying at the University of Johannesburg. We hope to create a village that caters specifically for the needs of students and helps them achieve academic success,” Lapham said.

Citiq is touting the new building technique as one possible solution to South Africa’s chronic housing shortage. The company built the city’s first shipping container multi-storey building in Windsor in 2012, and also used converted shipping containers in its development of the trendy Mill Junction student apartment block in Newtown, as well as the recently opened 27 Boxes shopping centre in Melville.

Source:, with additional reporting by JDA reporter