Originally published June 28.

A southern Alberta First Nation is about to put an unconventional housing material to the test — steel shipping containers.

A container home is being designed for the Bearspaw First Nation's Eden Valley reserve, about 100 kilometres southwest of Calgary, as part of a pilot project this summer.

"It's a partnership in designing them both from a technical and cultural standpoint," said Joe Kiss, president of Ladacor, the Calgary-based company working with the First Nation.

"You wouldn't even know you're in a shipping container," Kiss said.

"We're able to open them up and we're able to create spaces that are really conventional spaces, indistinguishable from conventional construction."

Kiss said the shipping containers make good building blocks, and they're affordable and sturdy.

shipping container home

Shipping containers, which are affordable and sturdy, can be transformed into good homes, says Ladacor president Joe Kiss. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

"Really what the shipping container is, is a very good, strong, steel, modular core," he said.

"We'll see how they hold up under the circumstances of life on the reserve," said Bearspaw First Nation CEO Rob Shotclose.

He hopes the year-long pilot project leads to solutions to some long-standing housing issues on the reserve.

"We do have a problem with fires and we do have a lot of problems with mould," he said.

"If we can find something that's resistant to all that, that lasts long and that doesn't require much maintenance, then that helps us to save money annually on repair costs and makes it more sustainable for us in the housing area."

The first home will be set up on the reserve later this summer.

steel container house

A drawing of a 1,280 sq. ft. shipping container home. (Ladacor)