The inside of Paula Dowd's future home is termite proof, earthquake proof and fire proof.
She's not quite prepping for the apocalypse—instead, Dowd is building a home using shipping containers on her mother's lot in Redondo Beach.
The home on S. Lucia Avenue has been in the process since 2014, and with any luck, the family will be able to move into it by spring 2017.
“By April, please God. It's been a really much longer process than we ever imagined,” she said.
The family sold their home in June 2014 and broke ground in May. Approvals from the city took years. Peter DeMaria, the architect for the Dowds, said that's not uncommon.
“California in general, there's just a level of criteria you won't see anywhere else in the United States,” he said.
DeMaria's first container home project, completed nearly a decade ago, was in Redondo Beach. A 2007 article from The Daily Breeze noted the special approvals the family had to go through to use recycled materials. DeMaria said when getting approvals, the group works to guide the planning department.
“When we do a project, we do a feasibility study right from the get-go. We answer all their questions in advance,” he said. “They say wow, the building department doesn't have to hold our hand, we can actually hold their hand in the project, because we're well-versed in it.”
Dowd's home—which has been nicknamed the Lucia Container Home and has a website, and a social media presence—will actually be two homes on one 6,0000 square-foot lot.
Each home, at 2,100 square feet and 2,300 square feet respectively, will have three bedrooms and two and a half baths. The back house, where Dowd will live with her husband and two children, will also have an office.
Building two homes on the lot was a project of necessity. After Dowd's mother, Jayne Andrews, was diagnosed with a lung disease called primary arterial hypertension, she moved into Dowd's home for a bit. Though she now lives in a rental property in Torrance, Dowd wanted a home that will allow her to take care of her mother and two children, who are 15 and 13, while remaining in the South Bay.
Dowd, who works as a mind-body clinician, started looking into green building and construction. The price often doubles the cost of construction. When they met with DeMaria, he gave them a piece of advice.
“If you're going to spend $200,000 more building a home, you would be better off to cut that check to an environmental agency that would do something great with it than build one home that was green,” she recalled.
But building with shipping containers is both cheaper, and because the project up-cycles old materials, it is also environmentally sound. The containers were delivered from San Pedro. The two homes will be built from a total of 14 containers.
“It's not architecturally flexible. You're dealing with a square box,” she said. “If you like a contemporary, industrial clean look, it's such a viable opportunity.”
When the homes are ready, the design in each will look slightly different. While Dowd plans a more industrial beachy vibe, her mom's will be more classic contemporary. Dowd said local design aesthetic feels behind compared to more northwestern counterparts.
“We're so stuck with the California Mediterranean or the California craftsman, we have these couple of styles we're willing to do,” she said. “It would be great to see us be more creative, maybe like Venice. Not ugly horrible stuff, but it just shouldn't be so hard to do the right thing.”
What DeMaria loves about the project is how it will touch three generations.
“I promise you, those kids as they grow up, will see the world as a place you're supposed to be a responsible citizen on the planet when it comes to the environment,” he said.
DeMaria, who lived in Manhattan Beach for years, relocated to Austin, Texas and splits his time across the country designing container homes. His firm, Logical Architecture, recently started seven different designs of pre-fabricated homes.
DeMaria is hesitant to name the cost savings that come from using containers, but said on average it's around 25 percent compared to building from the ground up. But that changes, depending on the materials in the interior—such as the granite and marble.
“Our containers, while they grab all the headlines, they're part of a much larger recipe,” he said.
For more information, visit luciacontainerhome.com.