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The construction business is going eco-friendly in Marbella, converting shipping containers into affordable luxury villas

The basic Boston model, a 3-bedroom villa, starts at 275,000 euros.

Combining cost effective with eco-friendly in a place like Marbella with one of the highest property prices in Spain seems a rather impossible task. However, the German Schween family of renowned architects and developers joined forces with real estate agent Sean Woolley of Cloud Nine Spain and created the Astonishing Collection of affordable luxury villas.

Lukas Schween

It’s basically the concept to use and upcycle shipping containers into luxury villas which can be adapted to the individual taste and style of the buyers. Initially, I had my doubts about the compatibility of container homes and the glamour image of Marbella.

But, as Lukas Schween explains:

The Costa de Sol is the perfect location for this concept. Marbella has always been a hot-spot for people from all over the world, giving it its great variety of nationalities and its open- minded approach to new ideas and opportunities. We often get inquires from clients who are looking for a detached villa, but who don´t quite have the budget to afford one and have to ´make do´ with an apartment instead. There is a lack of supply of affordable luxury villas that are suitable for permanent living or as second homes. Our construction methodology and materials drive down the cost and construction timescales.

In addition they are creating a scheme called Sky Villas which will allow dream houses to be erected on steep plots of land which are otherwise difficult or very costly to develop. My next concern was the question, “Where are the containers coming from and what has been transported in them before. Is there any danger of toxic residue which could endanger people’s health?”

Again, Mr Schween came up with a reassuring response:

One must understand that brand new containers are readily available worldwide, however the majority of these are not being used! What happens to them? Either they are melted down, which requires around 8,000 kilowatt hours of energy per container, or they simply remain unused not fulfilling any purpose, while still new containers are being produced by the factories. So why not use these as sustainable “building blocks” to produce affordable housing, as well as upcycling and saving approximately 3,500 kilograms worth of steel per container.

The containers are simply being used as “building blocks,” he said. The openings for windows and doors can either be done in-situ or pre-cut in the factory, allowing the completion of the raw construction of the villa in just days on the building site.

As for the toxins:

There are absolutely no toxins in containers which are being used in construction. Here is why. First point is that steel doesn’t absorb. Furthermore all of the original paint has to be removed and then the container is treated, painted and sealed for further construction processes such as framing and insulation. The plywood flooring of the container is removed completely and rebuilt, in order to install framing, insulation and underfloor heating. As mentioned before, the containers should be seen as “building blocks”, which we then use to design our innovative and sustainable villas.

Both Schween and Woolley emphasise the cost effectiveness of container villas as opposed to traditional building methods.

So, how much do these villas cost? The basic Boston model, which is a 3-bedroom villa with 116meters2 ,starts at 275,000 euro, to which you must of course add the price of the plot of land, plus landscaping, pool etc. The interior walls are insulated with a double layer of plaster board, the exterior walls with a curtain wall and the roof is made with a wooden structure. So nobody will fry in their metal home in the sometimes hot summers of the South of Spain.

It all depends on the budget of the individual buyer how much they want to add so that ultimately the container is just a building block like bricks and nothing will resemble an ex-shipping container. Sizes range up to 220m2 for the Brooklyn, which is priced at 378,000 euros.

An added bonus is that no excavation is needed which saves costs and avoids the need to move heavy machinery.

The most important factor for Schween and Wooley however is, that this method, also known as green architecture protects the environment as well as bringing the dream of many people to own their dream homes in Marbella that much closer. And, in some case, they don’t even have to wait very long.

The shortest construction time from start to finish is six months.

About the author:

Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel-and-lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits, among many other publications. After several years in Turkey, she now lives on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

See more of Inka’s work here.

Read more about Spain in our Dispatches archive here.

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Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications.

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