HCMC introduces unique 'sleep boxes', a first in Vietnam.

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    Oct 30, 2023

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"Compact 'sleep boxes' in HCMC offer affordable housing, but safety concerns arise due to fire and other hazards."


Duc Phu, a 20-year-old college sophomore, has been residing in a multi-level building on Nguyen Thien Thuat Street in Binh Thanh District for the past six months.

The space available in the room is 40 square meters, and it has been cleverly divided into two levels accommodating a total of 30 sleeping areas. Access between these levels is facilitated by ladders, while a designated 30-cm aisle allows for convenient movement within the room. Each tenant is provided with a bed that is enclosed by curtains, ensuring personal privacy.

Phu firmly believes that spending VND2 million ($81.37) per month, which covers water, parking, and Wi-Fi charges, is a worthwhile investment despite the minor inconveniences of living with unfamiliar individuals.

Approximately 20 individuals rotate using the restroom or engaging in laundry activities.

Phu mentioned that he will need to pay VND3 million per month for a nearby apartment measuring 15 sq.m. However, when considering additional expenses like electricity, water, and Wi-Fi, the total cost increases to VND6 million.

As he spends most of his time at school or work, only returning at 8 p.m., he views his living space purely as a place for rest and study, thus showing no concern for its size.

By residing in a sleep box, I can alleviate the financial burden on my parents as they would no longer need to send me money each month. I am willing to manage with this arrangement for a few years and subsequently seek alternative living arrangements after completing my studies.

The concept of sleeping pods initially emerged in airports as a convenient resting option for passengers during layovers. However, since 2021, this unique form of accommodation has been gaining significant traction in HCMC. Although there isn't an exact count available, these sleeping pods can readily be found advertised online, both within the city center and its outskirts.

The monthly rental prices vary between VND1.8 million and VND2.2 million.

Vu Quoc Tuan has successfully managed a total of 11 establishments, each equipped with approximately 200 beds, located in various districts.

He has gone a step further and acquired intellectual property rights for his model directly from the National Office of Intellectual Property.

The design incorporates pods covering an area of 2.2 sq.m each, which are carefully enclosed using fire-resistant materials like plastic, wood, or aluminum. Additionally, the beds are securely placed on fire-safe steel frames. In a room spanning from 15-30 sq.m, you can find approximately 6-10 of these pods.

In the event of an overload, the electric sockets within the rooms automatically disconnect for safety purposes. To ensure further protection, specific appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines are conveniently situated in a designated area.

According to Tuan, it is common for these rooms to be occupied at a rate of 90%.

According to him, the total annual cost for a room, inclusive of appliances, a shared kitchen, and rent, amounts to VND200 million. He confidently claims that if the rooms maintain an occupancy rate of at least 80%, profits will be generated within a span of three years.

According to Nguyen Duc Loc, the director of the Social Life Institute, there is an evident surge in the demand for affordable housing during challenging economic periods.

The sleeping pods are a perfect fit for students and individuals living alone; however, they do pose certain safety risks, particularly concerning fire hazards.

The limited space within the rooms' narrow aisles poses a challenge for individuals attempting to evacuate during a fire emergency.

In Binh Thanh District, authorities have recently discovered a five-story building accommodating 125 beds, which lacked emergency escapes and a fire safety system.

According to an official from the fire prevention evaluation division of the Ministry of Public Security, the presence of modules in regular houses poses a challenge as there are no specific fire safety regulations tailored for them. This lack of regulations makes their management a daunting task.

According to experts, rooms that are 20-30 m2 in size and accommodate numerous individuals, but lack emergency exits or fire safety systems, pose a significant danger in the event of a fire.

According to Le Bich Trang, director of the Hoang Quan Phat Company, which specializes in consulting and designing fire prevention constructions, sleeping pods are suitable only for stations and airports that have ample space.

According to her, in order for the model to maintain sustainability, investors must ensure that it meets the necessary requirements for fire safety, space, and escape.

Although Vietnam currently does not have these regulations in place, she suggests that safety standards implemented in other countries could be adopted. She also mentions that while it is only recently gaining popularity in HCMC, this model has been long-standing in several other countries.

Tuan argues that standards should be established for the model, drawing inspiration from those already adopted for dormitories due to their similarities.

Sleeping pod builders must utilize materials that are fire-resistant and incorporate safety measures such as power shutdown systems and escape routes to prevent accidents.

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