Feb 6, 2024 - News

Phoenix company building shelters from shipping containers up for SXSW award

A rendering of shipping containers turned into homeless shelters.

A rendering of the X-Wings ordered by Phoenix to combat homelessness. Photo: Courtesy of Steel + Spark

Phoenix-based Steel + Spark — which constructs off-grid backyard casitas and homeless shelters out of shipping containers — is a finalist for an Innovation Award at South by Southwest (SXSW).

Why it matters: SXSW, taking place March 8-16 in Austin, showcases forward-thinking ideas by creative minds across industries, and Steel+Spark is the only Arizona finalist.

Zoom in: The company has two main offerings constructed from shipping containers:

  • Sparkboxes, which range from 160 to 363 square feet of livable space, can include a bathroom with an incinerator toilet that burns waste.
  • X-Wings are made of four containers in an "X" configuration. Each container has multiple individual sleeping compartments.

The intrigue: Both products are powered 100% by the sun during the day and lithium batteries at night, allowing them to be quickly deployed almost anywhere because they don't need to connect to utilities.

What they're saying: Steel + Spark cofounder Brian Stark told Axios Phoenix the idea for the X-Wing came after seeing the unsustainable, unsafe and undignified shelters that were popping up around the West.

  • "Within the world of unsheltered homelessness there's not a lot of innovation happening," he said.
  • "We have a solution here that takes into account people's lives."

Be smart: If you're attending SXSW, you can meet the Steel + Spark team at the finalists showcase on March 9.

  • Winners will be announced March 11.
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