Can These Low-Cost “Tube Homes” Solve Hong Kong’s Housing Crisis?

One local Hong Kong architect is bringing a new meaning to the phrase “pipe dream.”

James Law has designed what he calls the “OPod Tube Housing”. Though the product, a not-so-subtly play on one of the best-selling consumer electronics, was proposed as a novelty. But since he finished it, Law says he’s already received inquiries from around the world. So far, he’s built one “conceptual” test house in one of Hong Kong’s industrial areas.


Law was inspired to design the OPod when he observed some leftover storm sewer drain pipes at a construction site. He quickly noticed that they could easily be converted into “really cute micro-living architecture,” he told the Associated Press.

The pods are only 100 square feet, and are similar in size to Hong Kong’s famous “cubical apartments”…but would represent a much better value and possibly help assuage a worsening housing crisis caused by record-high rents.

At 100 square feet (9.3 square meters) the tube houses are not that much smaller than Hong Kong’s infamous “cubicle homes” — older apartments subdivided into cramped and squalid living spaces. They’re roomier than other types of tenement housing, such as so-called “coffin” and “cage” homes.

There’s a lot crammed into the OPod. It consists of two sections of 2.5-meter (about 8 foot) diameter pipes fitted with glass doors on both ends. A living area inside includes a bench that converts into a bed, opposite shelves on the facing, curving wall. Another shelf fits a bar fridge and a microwave next to a galley sink beneath an air conditioner. A tiled bathroom at the end includes a combined shower and toilet.

Surprisingly, the OPod cost $15,000 to build (though the AP didn’t specify whether this includes the piep, and. Law said he envisions renting them out for less than $400 a month to recent graduates and other low-income individuals. This is increasingly important in Hong Kong, where home prices have reached record highs. Indeed, a recent poll showed Hong Kong is the second most-expensive city in the world, where $1 million will only get you 20 square meters of property in the city center. The most expensive city, meanwhile, was Monaco.

“My dream is the OPods will be a new kind of living for young people just starting out in life,” Law said.

“This kind of house is really portable. We (can) actually make it in a construction site and then we lift it onto a truck and we can deliver it anywhere,” Law said. “So it represents a new, affordable architecture.”

To be sure, the OPod is hardly an ideal long-term solution to Hong Kong’s housing crisis; at the end of the day, it’s really more of a novelty. Though the home’s one major utility is its ability to fit into hard-to-utilize spaces. For example, the pods could be stacked in gaps between existing buildings. They could also be clustered under highway overpasses, or on the roofs of existing buildings.