Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Miami's Public Housing Answer-- provided no one figures out a way to rip off the public.

Leave it to Californians to show us the way. Architect Peter DeMaria is using old shipping containers and building homes from them. They are half the cost of a typical California home (approximately $125.00/s.f. instead of $250.00/s.f.). Seems the trade deficit has created a surplus of these babies known in the business as IBUs (Intermodal Building Units). Insulation is a NASA developed ceramic coating a little thicker than a credit card which is sprayed on the inside and outside of the IBUs. Some homeowners are spray painting them with bright automotive colors.

When stacked, it is possible to create roof heights of 20' or more. This seems like one answer to creating public housing in Miami-- provided there is a system of checks and balances to keep corrupt officials and bureaucrats from stealing public dollars allocated for these projects-- which the recent Miami Herald series "House of Lies" led by reporter Debbie Cenziper points out will be an uphill battle. Used IBUs now cost about $2,000.00 each but once word gets out that there is a demand for them, I'm sure the price will go up.

Looking at some of the houses already built, this kind of contruction might also be a solution to building affordable luxury workforce housing-- an oxymoron if ever there was one. As an example of what is possible, a 3,500 s.f. IBU home was built in California that has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, with 20' ceilings for $125.00/s.f. The ironic thing about all of this? The used IBUs come from Florida. That's my opinion. What's yours?

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Anonymous Miami Transit Man said...

Wow! Those are absolutely stunning houses. What a fantastic idea and a great way to reuse otherwise useless materials. I wonder if these houses have any heating/cooling issues...

2:38 PM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

According to the LA Times article that ran last week, they do not have heating and cooling issues thanks, in part, to the NASA miracle ceramic coating. I recommend you look up the article. It describes a youngish couple who are avid rock climbers who want their home left with all the dents and scratches found on the old IBUs. In fact, they have installed a rock climbing wall on one of the unfinished interior walls. Left unfinished on the inside, these IBU homes could cut the costs of public housing while adding a sense of interior space not found in public housing through the open atrium. Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate it and your enthusiastic response.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Miamitransitman said...

Unfortunately, I think they require too much creativity to be used as public housing, espcially here in Florida where we've seen what they do with public housing funds to begin with. I read about the miracle insulation element when it was discovered, seems pretty cool that they have found a more common application for it. These houses remind me of a similar stackable concept I read about in North Central Florida...

I recently featured you on my site, I had been reading your blog for couple of weeks before that...

7:17 PM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

Miamitransitman, you are truly worthy. I appreciate being featured on your site. I read your blog ( linked on the right of my blog)and visit your Miami Skyscraper forum on a daily basis and recommend it to everyone. Regarding the lack of creativity factor on the part of our public officials, I want to think you are wrong there. I'm optimistic that someone in the county or city governments will have the vision to pull something like this off. Reading your Miami Skyscraper forum tells me they exist because of its contributors.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Lissette said...

If not the politicians, the at least some of the architects and or developers. Yes, there may not be a lot of money in it for whoever actually takes over a project like that, but the good parts of it is that it's helping to cut back on waste, it's efficient living as far as waste created from the houses are concerned, and you can make them do a lot, as is pictured in the blog. Also, for humanitarian reasons, it would be awesome to finally come up with a viable plan for the problems that inner city housing causes.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

Lissette, unless Anonymous is a babe, you are the first woman to grace this blog with your presence and we (Verticus and Rodney) appreciate it and look forward to more of your commnents. Speaking of, I agree with you and believe that just maybe recycling shipping containers for affordable housing might be the answer. If I was running county government, I'd scrap the housing department and hire Habitat for Humanity to run the program. Perhaps they have enough vision to think "outside of the box." Instead of building single-family homes, they could use these IBUs (I love that term) stacked on top of each other to make apartment buildings for the poor. As an aside, the first IBU home pictured on this blog shows an upscale traditional house peeking in on the right side of the picture. These IBU houses are being built in traditional California neighborhoods-- which is pretty cool. Of course, I'm sure Coral Gables and Miami Shores would have a problem with one of these babies being built within their municipalities because of their building codes, but then, few poor people live there anyway. Finally, if you truly believe, this blog urges you to contact our elected officials to let them know how you feel. Their email contacts are available on the right side of this page. Again, thanks for making contact.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

1 word: Hurricane.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

Rick, one word: steel.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

I'm not trying to throw cold water on the thing. Actually, I think it's a great idea. But every one of those glass panes better be hurricane glass and that steel panel roof better be fastened down super tight otherwise those 100 mph winds will peel it back like a ripe banana.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

Rick, I agree. Still, I suspect these IBUs (c'mon, let's all say it together 'cause it's so much fun!)are constructed better than a lot of new housing in this county. In reality, the poor will probably get simpler designs with standard window sizes cut out of the IBUs. I think the main problem with the IBUs will be rust-- but I guess that's better than termites (as far as I know, the Formosa termites still can't chew through steel).

10:37 PM  
Anonymous South Bay Joe said...

To all: Amazing where a search engine will take you and it's equally amazing that people in Florida are discussing this home. I'm out here in LA and all of your questions are legit and there are some heavily researched and strong answers for each of them. I know because I met the Architect. This project is his torch bearer for some serious larger work that will soon hit the public. Check out all the other hype on this project at the links below. Floridians should check in with the Architect as he also answered many of my questions with a simple email. I asked him why he wasn't doing Mediterranean Houses in Southern California like the rest of the Architects and he said, "... for the same reason I don't do igloos, I'm not designing for the Arctic Circle, nor am I designing for the Mediterranean..." Sounds like a down to earth guy with incredible passion for what he does. These projects aren't "eye candy," they actually function and answer some serious shelter challenges that have plagued affordable housing around the globe. He also mentioned that he was about to open an office in Florida. You might meet him sooner than expected. Go to: and then, Good luck and cool blog!

Here are the links.




NEWSPAPER ARTICLES,0,569328.story?coll=la-home-home

3:59 AM  
Blogger Verticus S. Erectus said...

South Bay Joe, thanks for the heads up and your kind remarks regarding my blog. It was news to me that DeMaria was opening an office in Florida-- Good news. I sent him an email to see if I can get some comments for this blog. Again, thanks for taking the time to address your comments to us. You are worthy. Verticus

8:23 AM  
Blogger DCross said...

My names David, and we are the folks in Florida, TAW (Tampa Armature Works) that make the ISBUs and IBUs for Peter Demarias project you discussed above. He is an innovative forward thinking Architect that really brought soul to something that so many think is soul-less. We were thrilled that he chose to work with us so far away from clearly more local choices. We are churning these out in Tampa and will be having a open house day late November in St. Pete for a project going on there. You can see some live footage here of one way these are being implemented.

As a side note, Our re-engineered ISBUs which as you all know started off life formally as a shipping container are built with the Miami Dade standards in mind. This will be addressed in the video through the Florida based Flash Organization (Federal Alliance for Safe Housing).

If you have any inquiries whether it be for business or system improvements or your just an enthusiast, do not hesitate to email the link on our webpage.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Gabriel said...

well, notwithstanding what anybody says, we're building the first shipping container home in south africa! checkit out at

4:30 AM  

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