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admin | Category: Shipping Container Construction | 04.09.2014
In the flood-prone area of Graceville in Brisbane, where homes are typically traditional Queenslanders and new builds are high on stilts, Todd and Diana Miller and their two young daughters were living in a small three-bedroom post-war-era brick home.
Todd is a builder and the family had spent about a decade building homes, selling them and moving on, but it was time to settle into something a little more permanent.
After looking at the concept of a shipping container as a cheap backyard studio idea for artist Diana, Todd got the “crazy notion of building an entire house out of them, and so the process began. The scale of the house grew in size and Todd’s innovative concept led to plans for a three-level home made from 31, 20ft steel shipping containers. Another vicious storm hit the unfinished house, sending roof panels flying into trees and doing damage to windows. Once each level of shipping containers was stacked, Todd used an angle grinder to cut away huge panels of steel to create openings, joining the containers and forming rooms and voids.
The family spends most of their time in on the second levels, which is open plan and features the kitchen, dining and living area. Prior to the new build, Todd made a point of salvaging building materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfill. This has not only added to the unique style of the home, but has greatly reduced the overall cost while being good for the environment.
Creative re-use of materials like this has not only added to the unique style of the home, but has greatly reduced the overall cost of the project, while also being good for the environment.
The intention of the house was never to hide its shipping container roots, however with so much hard, cold steel it was important to bring in other elements to create a home. The carefully considered interiors and creative overall design of this project has resulted in a truly individual house that functions beautifully and has warmth and character too, ensuring that what is essentially a stack of steel boxes feels like a real home.
Discover some of the standout, unique design elements from The Graceville Container House featured in episode 1 of Grand Designs Australia, Series 5. Grand Designs Inspirations takes you on a journey, exploring some of the unique, hidden and emerging design elements that appear in some of the buildings featured on the show. In the series you will discover how these concepts have influenced architectural design in the Australian building landscape. By combining a use of alternative building materials, The Graceville Container House is built out of shipping containers.

In the Beaumaris house, materials used including zinc, spotted gum timber and masonry wrapped around a steel frame provide additional outline. The Beaumaris house uses the strategy to split the container-like building into two elements, a south facing cantilevered zinc-clad living element and a two-story north facing masonry bedroom element. The Beaumaris building has an awareness of the history of the suburb, with the design complemented by the context of the 1950s and 1960s. The Melbourne playground demonstrates an additional way of repurposing alternative building materials. Following the devastating 2011 Brisbane floods, a new house had to be sensitive to the possibility that the waters could rise again.
Once we decided to use shipping containers, it got bigger than our initial vision,” says Diana. The steel structure means the ground level can be flood-proof, and at just less than $4000 per container, it’s certainly a cost-effective building solution.
Constructing such a unique build was daunting though, and Todd himself was never quite sure if his plans would work. It’s no surprise the continuous bad luck with weather dampened their motivation levels at times.
As the build took place, the design and layout of the home changed, with rooms evolving and new spaces taking in the spectacular views created. Looking at the eclectic mix of materials inside the house, his knack for creative design using a range of materials is clear — and the result is stunning.
It uses a combination of recycled materials including timber, railway sleepers and recycled Tasmanian Oak. These two elements pulled apart with a circulation zone and the roof prised over these areas allows the north sun to penetrate into the living zones. The discarded shipping containers have been used in their raw form in keeping with the repurposed environmental ethos behind the concept.
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The family needed a bigger home and Diana was adamant on having her own space for an art studio as well.
Even more so when you consider that for that price you essentially get a structure that includes walls, floor and ceiling.
One of the big considerations of the design was that the size of each container was locked in, so that the home could only increase in increments of 20 feet.
The same idea of warmth was applied to the interiors, with timber flooring used on the top two storeys.
The result is a structure that has clean lines and quality finishes that enhance its appearance.
The building elements are further pulled apart internally with first floor bridges spanning between them. It was an idea that ticked all the boxes and Todd is the kind of guy who was only spurred on harder by people who weren’t sure it would work. Fortunately for Todd, his careful planning, dedication and commitment meant this fascinating project succeeded, though not without its hitches; the weather for one was not on their side. The glass maximises natural light and a mix of materials, including the signature containers, cleverly creates an industrial chic effect. Todd’s original plans were to complete the house in an incredible 16 weeks but the weather had other ideas.
Things were looking back on track when the 10 containers for the flood-proof ground floor were laid in place in just four hours, followed by the next level’s 11 containers, craned in two weeks later.

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