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Cargo container to expand house in Lawrenceville

Tom Fontaine
| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Dror Yaron, his wife Heather Mallak, and their son, Zeev, 4 1/2, pose inside a 40-foot long shipping container that was placed next to their home in Lawrenceville, Friday, September 27, 2013, which also happened to be the couple's 10th wedding anniversary. The family plan to use the container as an addition to their home, and will eventually feature doors, windows, and be divided into a family room and a porch when finished.

Heather Mallak and Dror Yaron celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary on Friday by having a 40- by 8-foot cargo container delivered to their 41st Street home in Lawrenceville.

Mallak and Yaron are using the green steel shipping container to expand their 122-year-old brick home. City officials say it's the first project of its kind in Pittsburgh.

“This was more in our price range and our style,” Mallak, 35, said of the shipping container addition, noting the couple used to live in a former bowling pin factory.

Shipping containers have been used for a range of purposes: from trendy homes to homeless shelters and housing for disaster victims. The Three Rivers Arts Festival used discarded containers five years ago to make temporary art galleries along Forbes Avenue.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman added two shipping containers to the third floor of his former home in 2006. Containers also house Braddock's Free Store 15104, where surplus and donated goods are distributed to people in need.

“I've had a long-standing love affair with cargo containers,” Fetterman said, describing them as durable and relatively inexpensive.

Mallak and Yaron, who have a son, Zeev, 4, spent about $5,000 on their container. Mallak said they bought a “one-way” container, meaning it sat empty since carrying its lone shipment.

“It doesn't have as many dings,” Mallak said.

The couple bought the container from Turtle Creek-based Zoresco Equipment Co., which did not return calls.

It will connect to one side of the house, occupying about half of a vacant lot. A 4-foot-wide hallway will run between the container and house. About two-thirds of the container will serve as a dining and living area, while the rest will become a deck. After cutting holes for windows and doors, the couple plan to insulate the container with a soy-based foam and cover interior walls with drywall.

Preparations began in August, with contractors poking two holes in the side of the house for future entryways. They placed concrete piers and steel beams to serve as the container's base.

The trick was trucking the container into densely populated Lawrenceville and lifting it into place. Mallak obtained a permit to restrict parking on most of the block on Friday morning; the city towed one car that didn't move.

Despite the noisy work, neighbors seemed supportive.

“Everyone has their own taste, and that's good. It would be boring if everyone's houses looked exactly the same,” neighbor Maureen Kumpfmiller, 66, said as she watched the work from her front porch.

Sandy DeTemple, 67, said, “They have a lot of vision. I'd never think of doing something like that.”

She said she asked Mallak and Yaron if they would be willing to have their home included in the Lawrence-ville Hospitality House Tour next year.

The couple agreed.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

On the web:

• To view a time-lapse video of construction to prepare the Lawrenceville home of Heather Mallak and Dror Yanon for the shipping container addition, visit: public-studio.com/timelapse/holes/view.html

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