By Carlos E. Medina
Like many young couples, Roberta and Nick Mahoney wanted a home to call their own, but the price of conventional construction was too expensive.
Guil Bombonato, Roberta's father and a local builder and horseman, remembered seeing a television show on how people were using steel shipping containers to make homes and commercial buildings.
When Bombonato, an architect in his native Brazil, approached the couple about his idea to weld together seven 9-by-8-by-40-foot containers to make a 4, 000-square-foot home on a lot in Rainbow Lakes Estates, there was little hesitation.
“We were behind it the whole time. We're big into recycling, and it would look really cool, ” Roberta Mahoney said.
In addition to the cool factor, the bottom line was right.
“With regular construction, a house like this would have cost $400, 000. This one is going up for about $120, 000, ” Nick Mahoney said.
The home will have five bedrooms and four bathrooms. It will have a steel, gabled roof, and the interior will be covered in drywall like a regular home.
“From the inside, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference, ” Bombonato said. “Outside, we're going to use a thermal paint to help with insulation. It will have a unique look, but that's part of it. We didn't want to hide that it was containers.”
Instead of carpenters, the building is put together by welders, who have to cut out holes for windows and doors.
“It's hurricane-proof. It's stronger, cheaper and greener than stick-frame buildings, ” Bombonato said, adding that the construction meets or exceeds all local and state building codes.
The containers are used to transport goods around the world by sea and train. Their modular construction allows them to be stacked, hundreds at a time, on enormous cargo ships.
“They ship them all over the world on the sea. If they can resist all the force of the seas, it's pretty safe, ” Bombonato said.
This is the first time Bombonato has worked with the steel containers, and he said he poured a conventional concrete foundation, but it may have been overkill as the containers are so rigid a slab may not be necessary.
Bombonato sees a future in this type of construction to build more affordable housing. They could also be used for farm-worker housing or work buildings, he said. The containers have been used around the world to build a variety of structures, from a Travelodge hotel in London to a retail mall in Las Vegas.
Construction of the Mahoney home began in early December and will be completed by early February.
The only problem Roberta Mahoney envisions is the home's size — as in furnishing it.
“We live in a two-bedroom right now. So the house is going to look pretty empty when we move in, ” she said.
Bombonato said he is happy he could help get his daughter and son-in-law the home they wanted.
“I think it was the right way to go. They'll have a secure home that's not too expensive and goes up fast, ” he said.