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The man creating homes out of ship containers

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Source: Stuff

Credit: Jill Herron

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Giselle Dexter's shipping container home at Queensbury, near Wanaka. Photo: Jill Herron

They are warm, quiet, easily moveable and cost a fraction of a regular house to buy and Cromwell's master of small spaces, Darryl Taylor, reckons his tiny shipping container homes could help solve Central Otago's temporary accommodation woes.

Taylor does admit it requires a mental leap in many people's thinking to see a big metal box as a desirable home but following much research and experimentation, he says his converted containers are as comfortable to live in as a regular house.

A panel beater and painter by trade, he hit on the container idea after he and his wife Bernice moved in together and needed storage space as well as a spare room.

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Darryl Taylor who creates container houses. Photo: Jill Herron

"I'm not an engineer but I've always liked making things and playing around with stuff.  We kitted a container out half and half for storage and a room, then a guy from Blenheim asked if I would do one for him."

More inquiries followed and the couple moved to Cromwell from Invercargill six months ago to set up their budding business.

The containers have a "warrant-of-fitness" and are all still cargo-worthy.

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Giselle Dexter, 70, is happy in her compact hillside home. Photo: Jill Herron

Some people wanted new, others liked the rustic look, Taylor said. Built inside a warehouse, they are issued with a code of compliance from the Central Otago District Council before they go on site.

Considerable research and trial and error had gone into fitting the units out so some details would remain trade secrets, Taylor says.  He had consulted experts in engineering and other fields to help perfect the conversions, particularly in relation to ventilation. Bernice is in charge of painting the units and the pair continue to fine-tuning the finishings.

"We can now fit out a twenty footer in around six weeks and they go out the door fully code compliant. There is no condensation, they're all double-glazed, insulated and ventilated.  They actually exceed council requirements but you do still need a building consent for your foundations."

Ship containers were already watertight, bulletproof and resistant to earthquakes and extreme weather.  Inside Taylor added sound-deadening insulation, wooden lining, tiny bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms of all specifications.  Drop-down decking using an electric winch could be added, or normal decking built on, once the container was in place.

"They are more of a temporary accommodation solution for most people and we have companies that use them for portable shops or on work sites."

Giselle Dexter, wouldn't agree, however, having fully embraced permanent living in her lofty container home at Queensbury near Wanaka.  The spritely 70-year-old has had an adventurous life living in one room in Moscow for eight years and another eight years in a log cabin in the Australian bush.

She resides next door to her son and his wife, in a 12m container that is now her cosy home.

"I thought about earth homes and that sort of thing but I'm too old for that now. I didn't want to have a mortgage at any cost and I wanted something easy to look after. I'm on leasehold land here and this can be picked up and moved. My son thinks I'm absolutely nuts but that's okay," she laughs.

The 30sqm home has an office, mezzanine floor bedroom, mini log burner and separate bathroom. Dexter says there's room aplenty for her and her hard-of-hearing companion, Sophie the dog.

It's a far cry from her previous job, managing a high-rise apartment building in Auckland, but Dexter says she's loving the rural life, waking every day to different skyscapes over the Upper Clutha valley. Though no need for curtains up here. Taylor says he sells the 6m containers for about $42,000 fully converted for small-space living.

A 12m would cost closer to $75,000 and two this size can be bolted together to form a four bedroom home.

"I've got a lady that wants something like this with a 20 foot one as well and her budget is $400,000. I keep telling her it won't cost anywhere like that much, probably less than half."

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