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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An increasingly popular type of building in places like Australia, New Zealand and Amsterdam is sprouting up here in South Florida.

What are these buildings made out of?  Actual shipping containers, like the ones you see stacked up on cargo ships.

Gayle Zalduondo, artist and owner of Little River Box Company in northwest Miami, says shipping containers can be an economic development vehicle.

Zalduondo gets all excited talking about her new business of designing homes out of the shipping containers.

She used to make furniture for high end store chains.  But nearly three years ago she created Little River Box.

“So the shipping container is like the structure of a home,” Zalduondo says. “We have a four-box home, which is a three bedroom, three bath home.  We have a two-box home which is a two bedroom, one bath.  And then we have a studio which is two 20-foot containers, 320-square feet.”

Two beige containers sit in the parking lot of the warehouse where little river box is located.   The two containers will soon become a home that will go on a grassy corner lot in South Miami.

And just last week Miami-Dade County approved donating the lot for a pilot project, providing financial assistance to a new home-owner.

“We’re dealing in a market that an average single family home is $360,000.  We have people that just can’t afford that pricing for a property,” Miami realtor Jack Levine says.  “But here somebody’s gonna have the opportunity to have their own piece of land.  Go outside and have a barbeque if they want.”

Little River Box does more than just design container homes.  Workers at the company are putting the finishing touches on two two-bedroom homes that will be put on barges, making them houseboats, porthole windows and all.

Little River’s very first project two years ago was building Charcoal Bar & Grill at Wynwood Yard.

Workers are also finishing up a mega-bar, dining room and full-service kitchen that will debut at Art Basel next month.

So why cargo containers?  For one thing, it recycles structures the U.S.  has a surplus of already.

“Some people refer to these as sheds and trailers,” says Zalduondo.  “I see this as a sustainable way to live.  I see it as a responsible way to live.  It’s re-purposing and reutilizing something that’s already been used.”

The price tag isn’t too much less than a standard single-family home, about five to 10 percent less. But you still have plenty of perks.

“One of the things, and I think the South Miami home is a perfect example, is a tiny surplus lot.  It works perfectly in a situation like that because they’re already pre-designed and hopefully once these are going you’ll be able to save money on the engineering again and again and again” Zalduondo points out.

And Zalduondo, who is planning on living in a three-bedroom container home, points out they are in no way inferior to traditional homes.

“Interior-wise it’s very, very similar,” she said. “It’s got the drywall. It’s got the beautiful bathroom. It’s got the flooring. We’re building dignified housing for workforce housing. Our goal is to be design-driven.”

What’s more, they can be moved over and over again.  And because they’re modular, you can change or add to them whenever you want or need to.

“It’s sustainable, number one,” she said. “Number two, it’s much quicker to build in that you’re doing all your foundation work, your site work at the same time in the factory where you’re building. So it shortens the lead time. These are beautiful homes. It’s not a home that you have to live in. It’s a home that you want to live in.”

Lauren Pastrana

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