Gateway Container Sales Features in Grand Designs Australia!

Well, we’ve finally done it – a customer of Gateway Container Sales has been featured in a Grand Designs Australia episode! Broadcast on 7th November this year, the episode followed builder Todd Miller and his wife Diana as they put together the 31 container dream home just down the road from us in Graceville, Brisbane.

We’ve featured this home before in the Gateway Gazette but here’s a more personal look at Todd and Diana’s journey, captured by the leading architecture TV series.

Flooding on the Brisbane River

The couple had bought a house in Graceville with the plan to bulldoze it and build something that suited their needs. Diana is an artist and needs a studio and gallery space, and they also needed to live in the place too.

The Brisbane River flooded them and much of the neighbourhood out, with two metres of water inundating their home. It trashed their finances too, with property values and under-insurance leaving the family with only around AU $400,000.

Thanks to budget constraints and the need for a flood proof property the idea came to Todd to build the new home from shipping containers. The ground floor would have the gallery and studio as well as a container pool, kids den and garage. This had to only have stuff that could be chucked in the event of a flood (or in the studio’s case, sealed from the water with container doors).

New building regulations helped the couple too – all homes on the river ended up being on stilts with this exception, and the council planners went with this daring departure from the local vernacular. 

Construction begins

Todd came to us at Gateway Container Sales and ordered 31 brand new containers made in China. He did this so they would be perfect and not out of shape from travelling the world with cargo.

We sold them to him for $3,700 per unit. For a three storey house, the basic fabric cost $114,700. That’s extremely competitive with brick/wood building techniques for a house of this size – the home is 10, six metre containers per storey – somewhere around 25 metres wide and 12 metres long.  

Micro-piles were used for the foundations – a low cost but effective solution helped in part by the container construction requiring minimal foundations. That said, they had to be beefy enough to withstand the river, that even inundated the site before the containers arrived!

To make a dream home out of containers you need to cut holes in them. Entire walls, roofs and doors were removed (and portions thereof) to open out the building. This has the impact of reducing the structural rigidity of the building, something that Todd got around by over-engineering and adding big steel I-beams to reinforce. 

Another great money saver is the speed at which the construction can take place. Todd initially estimated a 16 week building window but this would go out the window (close to 25 weeks in the end) as he made big changes to the overall design during the construction phase. For what he created, this is a phenomenally short period even so!

Generally speaking a floor would be laid and fitted out/cut and then two weeks later the next layer of containers would arrive. This is a fair tempo for a container construction that is done outdoors.

In part due to environmental concerns and also due to budget constraints, Todd found himself recycling building materials from other sites but also from a car yard that had been demolished, taking wood panelling and a staircase. Looking at what he built you would have no idea that he had even done so! 

The containers held it together even as the roof flew off in a tornado that would set Todd back financially and in time as Nature re-tested his personal mettle and the metal of the building. He took half a day off, and returned to action nonstop, for many weeks after until the building was completed.

The final result…

If you are a fan of Grand Designs as we are, it follows a bit of a formula. The innocents with their plans discuss their great dreams, and then around 35 minutes ensue as the home builders get tested to their physical and psychological limits. The last 10 minutes takes you around the completed home. In this case it is a stunning success. 

As indicated above, Todd wasn’t about to make anything unimaginative. Diana lovingly said of him, “he’s good at making something look awesome that doesn’t cost much!” In that regard, Todd went to town, building a home that is of extremely high architectural merit just out of his own personal vision. 

There were some worries initially that the home would look too brutal and jarring with its corrugated walls and steel doors. These facets are both celebrated and at times muted according to the needs of the space being built. 

The second floor master bedroom (“Where the magic happens’, quipped Todd) is six metres by five metres and is a byword for luxury with little reference to the industrial past. If anything, Todd felt that the containers constrained the size of the room to be too big – in his view a bedroom should be no more than 5m X 5m and “the extra metre is a little weird”, but with the set size of the containers he had the choice of being slightly too big or way too small. 

The bathroom is of similar muted quality. 

From the master bedroom is a large balcony that provides some private outdoor space high up, with stunning views of the Brisbane River.

The gallery on the ground floor however celebrates the containers it is built from, with Todd carefully taking the writing off the containers before painting over and relaying it in the new colour scheme.


Moving to the first floor living space, this is where Todd’s creative genius flourished. To achieve a double height room, the stacked containers had a roof cut off, the floor of the one above removed and the walls removed of both to achieve a large, open and high living space. 

One of the first such buildings in Australia!

Over the many years we at the Gateway Gazette have been reporting on about how cargotecture can change the world. So we’re chuffed that a luxury container home of this quality has been built here in Oz. Todd and Diana’s vision is one of the most beautiful, large shipping container homes we have seen in the country. 

We’re grateful to Todd and Diana for coming to us at Gateway Container Sales for the basic building blocks for their home, and discussing their needs with us. Is this something you could do too? Give us a call today and let us help you realise your shipping container dream home!

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