Shipping container house in Jupiter Farms a first for county

In a feat he calls a first for Palm Beach County, Jupiter entrepreneur Rick Clegg has built a house from old shipping containers.

The utilitarian structure in Jupiter Farms, located just across the Loxahatchee River from Riverbend Park, is a vacation rental for ecotourists.

Containers, a symbol of consumer culture and global trade, have gained hipster cred as an alternative building material.

“I like the compactness, the low carbon footprint, the simplicity of it,” Clegg said.

Clegg spent $3,000 apiece for three shipping containers. He placed two side by side for the home’s main living area, then fashioned a second story by stacking the third metal box atop the two ground-floor containers.

The first floor includes a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms divided by a curtain. The space is cooled by portable air conditioners.

Clegg markets the vacation rental on Airbnb, the Internet lodging service, for $224 a night. Since he finished the house early this year, 30 guests have stayed in the container house, some from as near as Miami, others from as far as Europe and South America.

Most guests gave glowing reviews.

“The convenience of the river and bike trails make this home ideal for outdoor activities,” one wrote on Airbnb.

“I would recommend buying lots of bug spray,” said another, who liked the house nonetheless.

The only thumbs-down came from the first guest, who panned the vibe as “Goodwill meets Green Acres.”

Clegg, a longtime real estate broker who also owns Jupiter Outdoor Center, acknowledges that his container house isn’t the Four Seasons. But, he said, that’s part of the appeal.

“People are looking for an alternative to traditional hotels,” Clegg said.

The 40-foot-long boxes are only eight feet wide, making the quarters feel a bit cramped.

The house had to meet county hurricane codes, so the containers include impact-resistant windows and doors. For extra protection, he could close the cargo doors on the ground-floor boxes.

“I live at the beach,” he said. “If there’s a hurricane, I’m coming here.”

Container construction carries its challenges, especially for novices, Clegg said. He poured a heftier slab than he needed, for instance, and blundered when deciding whether to put insulation inside or outside the structure.

“We made a lot of mistakes because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Clegg said.

Palm Beach County would seem to offer limited opportunities for container construction. Clegg built in Jupiter Farms because the area has no deed restrictions, but most neighborhoods wouldn’t allow the construction style.

Containers could offer a way to build affordable homes, Clegg said. He didn’t divulge how much he spent to build his container house, but he said container structures could be built for $60 a square foot.

For the 960-square-foot house in Jupiter Farms, that equates to a cost of about $58,000, not including land costs.

“It’s definitely a viable alternative for affordable housing,” Clegg said.

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