San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Shipping Containers Become Mobile Homes

FIRST ship your household goodshere, and then move into the box thatbrought them… A wild idea?Not really, with container conversionsnow an option in Costa Rica.While those from the United Statesand Europe may be familiar with containerhomes, the concept is new on the CostaRican housing market.Casas y Oficinas Móviles ABCD presenting this housing option using 40-foot aluminum insulated refrigerator containersimported from the United States.The containers are converted into compact,secure cabins that offer nearly instantresidential solutions in the form of mobilehomes.THE company’s model house is locatednear Santa Ana, a 20-minute drive westof San José. The brightly painted unit,with its mock tile roofing and woodendeck perched next to the main highwaybetween San José and Ciudad Colón, westof Santa Ana, is certainly eye-catching.Fernando Cruz, company co-director,pledges to deliver a complete, turnkeyhome in six weeks anywhere in the countrywith road access. Cruz and his partner,William Alpizar, developed the idea as aneconomic, easy-to-maintain housing alternative,ideal for beach and mountain locations.Other potential uses include hotelcabins, school classrooms and extra officespace.Because the containers come insulated,they do not require extra roofingagainst temperature variations. However,for aesthetics, or to cover a deck area, aroof can be attached if desired. Also, beinga single, rigid unit, they are anti-seismic.“These units are tough,” Cruz said.“The show house slipped off the fork-lifttruck while being positioned onto its base,and we thought the inside would be damaged.Not a bit! Everything was perfect.”THE interior of the show house is air-conditioned,with a double bedroom ateach end, ample closet space and wallbrackets for a television. It is similar to atrailer home or boat interior, with compactfittings cleverly distributed for maximumuse of available space.The center section provides the livingarea with fitted upholstered seating next tothe open-plan kitchen installed with cabinets,microwave, fridge, gas stove andretractable dining counter. The sofa convertsinto another double bed with storageunderneath.A full bathroom with hot water showerand a splash-proof stall lies between thekitchen and one of the bedrooms.The plywood walls are brightly painted,and there are full-length curtains anddurable vinyl flooring throughout. Withfloor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors in theliving area leading onto the deck, there isplenty of light and feeling of room.The company’s catalogue details severaldifferent layout options depending onclients’ needs.EACH home sits on cement baseswith approximately 50 centimeters of freespace below so wastewater and sanitationpipes can be slung underneath for easyinstallation and access. The free flow of airalso deters damp.Electrical wiring is fed between theinner and outer skin of the container andceiling panels are hung to provide justunder eight feet interior height.For security, metal shuttering can beinstalled over the main entrance and windowsso the unit can be locked down andleft virtually impervious to the vagaries ofclimate or vandalism.The company offers three purchaseoptions ranging from $16,000-22,500,depending on fittings and optional featuressuch as roof, deck and security shutters. Italso offers financing with eight-year mortgagesfrom two national banks, based on50% payable at the signing of the contractand 50% upon delivery.“WE are getting a lot of inquiries,”Alpizar said. “Last weekend, we had 18people squashed in, all wanting information!Now we have the financing in place,we are expecting people to start buyingvery soon.”The mobile homes provide a fast-trackchoice for instant living space, ideal fornew residents to place on their land whiletheir dream home is being completed, andthe flexibility of converting it into guest orextra family quarters later on.Because they are mobile and weighjust five tons, the units could start out inCentral Valley and later be taken to thebeach as a weekend home, company representativespoint out.For more info, call Fernando Cruz at847-8080 or

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