I survived a night inside a water pipe.
Hong Kong's new tiny homes make pipe dreams a reality
Well, it isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. I volunteered myself as tribute to be the first overnight guest of the OPod, a renovated water pipe which has been hailed as a solution to Hong Kong’s ever-worsening housing crisis.
Hong Kong has been crowned the priciest home market in the world for eight years straight. The city’s housing prices have more than quadrupled since 2003.
Many families struggle to find affordable housing, and a lot of them have no choice but to live in “coffin homes” – subdivided flats that are often smaller than a prison cell.
Local architect James Law, who designed the OPod, believes that his micro-flat can help ease the city's housing crisis by providing a temporary home for people waiting for public housing or saving for a down payment.
And he says that the durability of the pipes means they can be stacked on top of each other in tight, unused spaces in the city.
The OPod costs only $15,000 to build.
It offers 100 square feet of space and comes with a bathroom, kitchen, shelving and a couch that converts into a bed. Not too shabby.
After packing an overnight bag, I went to check it out.
To my surprise, the micro home was quite cozy and not at all claustrophobic. The built-in furniture, curved walls and lighting made the flat feel roomier.
At one end of the tube is a wet room containing a toilet and a shower built into the wall.
The kitchen is in the main compartment and consists of a small sink, micro fridge and microwave. I made instant noodles for dinner, as the lack of bench space made it difficult to cook something more substantial.
A clothing rack and a number of shelving units can be removed, or moved around. There is also a couch that opens into a single bed that can fit one tall person comfortably.
But the biggest problems with the micro home are not space-related.
Unfortunately, the night I chose to stay was one of the chilliest in the city this year. There was no insulation, nor was a heater provided. It was 46°F outside, and 52° inside. The security guards took pity on me and gave me some hand warmers.
The OPod has glass doors, which isn't great for soundproofing. Traffic and a group of 20 men playing Pokémon Go (yep, apparently it’s still a thing) kept me awake.
The OPod's design is innovative and I do believe it can provide temporary accommodation. But the lack of storage space would make it difficult for people to stay beyond a few months.
Oh, and one last thing: double glazing for the windows and doors, to keep the cold – and the Pokémon Go players – at bay.