The Tin Box: Sustainable Construction in Miami

Two Miami architects experimented with construction materials and sustainable design to build a house with a much smaller resource footprint than almost any other building in South Florida.

Photo by: David Rifkind Architects David Rifkind and Holly Zickler designed their "Tin Box" home from recycled materials. For example, the steel structural frame is 75 percent recycled and the light steel framing is 100 percent recycled.

Architects David Rifkind and Holly Zickler set two goals for their home design and construction: build community and repair the natural environment. 

The couple found a site next to a public park in South Miami, which inspired many of the spatial relationships within the house. “As architects, we see the world through the lens of design,” said David, an Assistant Professor at Florida International University’s College of Architecture. “We've wanted to build our own house for a long time, as a way of giving built expression to our family and our relationships with friends and neighbors.”

David and Holly built the house, named “The Tin Box,” using much less energy and resources because steel requires less than concrete and wood to enclose a given amount of space and because most of the physical matter of the house is recycled or rapidly renewable. The house attracts very little heat during the day because the windows were designed to face north or exist under shade.

The couple and their children love sitting in the living room in the middle of the day, when the park outside is lit by the sun and fills the windows on the west side of the house, when it’s not altogether uncommon to see a peacock strut by. “The dining area, which is part of the same space as the living room, is lovely at sunset, and the front porch is my favorite place to sit in the morning,” said David.

The Tin Box has garnered quite a bit of attention recently. The house was one of five on the A1A Miami Earth Day tour of green homes, has been awarded Florida Water Star Gold certification (the benchmarking program’s highest level) and Florida Yards & Neighborhoods certification (a measure of the home’s commitment to providing habitat for local plant and animal species).

There are a number of techniques the family uses to conserve water and energy. For conservation tips as well as the architects’ thoughts on design and modern sustainability, check out their blog

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