Huang Rixin, engineer and inventor of capsule apartments, speaks about the fifth version of his design on Tuesday. Feng Yongbin / China Daily
Huang Rixin, the 80-year-old inventor, has unveiled the designs for his fifth generation of capsule apartments for young migrant workers.
The engineer is yet to find a building for his latest project, although his blueprints suggest the rooms will be self-contained studio apartments with bathrooms and kitchens.
"It took me two months to design this new version," said Huang with a huge smile. "It's my new year gift to our young people."
The fifth generation of capsules will have a usable floor area of only 10 square meters, yet it will comprise of a bedroom and studying area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a balcony. Rooms will be separated with frosted glass walls to let more light in.
"It's a major departure from previous capsules in that it saves renters the trouble of sharing kitchens and bathrooms. It's much more convenient," said Huang.
The secret lies in the inventor's exhaustive use of passage areas and multi-functional furniture. For example, during the day, a tenant can sit in front of the desk embedded in a cabinet but at night this area gives way to a bed. Also, since all the walls are made of bricks and steel-reinforced concrete, the apartments will not only have much better sound and heat insulation but also stand a better chance in earthquakes.
"My son is a structural engineer. Thanks to his professional help, I've put all the capsules in a honeycomb structure, which can resist a magnitude-8 earthquake," added Huang.
The floor plan of the building is designed to be 54 meters long, 12 meters wide and from six to 30 floors high, with 32 apartments on each floor. That means he could build anything from 192 to 960 capsules.
Given so many advantages, the new capsule has already caught developers' attention. A businessman with three clothes shops in the Xidan commercial area, who did not want to be identified, has already paid Huang a visit to discuss the project.
"As long as someone invests, it will take only a few months for construction," said Huang. "It won't be long before the right building is available."
Beijing's floating population hit 10 million last year, with 210 million nationwide, according to official statistics. The elderly inventor said he worries about their future. "I felt so dreadful when I saw six new graduates sharing a 10-square-meter room on TV the other day," he said. "Migrant workers make a great contribution to the city and they deserve proper living conditions."
Low-rent and public housing is not available for those without hukou, or permanent residency, which has created a market for apartments that cater to the group's needs and financial capabilities.
"I'll carry on with my capsule living mode to benefit the majority," said Huang.
Despite his optimistic outlook, real estates agents have doubts about the potential of this new living model. Dong Leilei, an senior property consultant at Homelink's Yuandadu branch, said the idea is so new and unconventional it might take some time for people to buy in.
However, many people are already showing an interest. Yang Jin, 30, a Web designer working in Beijing for three years, said: "When the fifth-generation capsule is available, I will go and have a look. I long for a home in Beijing, no matter how small it is."
(China Daily 02/17/2011)