Portraits from the Plasma Cutter

21 Aug (2) 40' ISBUs side by side.

I'd eat here, any time! :)

I get asked about living in an ISBU Home all the time. I mean, it’s what I do, right?

But people can’t seem to get past the idea that you get anything but “shotgun” sized spaces when using containers to build with.

So, I thought it might be nice to show you some examples of “Corten Coolness” in the abstract.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to show you some wonderful “Corten” spaces that were literally carved out of ISBUs (Shipping Containers).

For those of you actively working on ISBU Home designs, these should prove quite useful. For those of you who are thinking about building an ISBU Home, these images should prove themselves quite inspiring.

The images displayed are taken from ISBU Homes built all over the planet. I want you to see what other people are doing, how other people live and just how versatile ISBUs can be.

Let’s visit New Zealand, shall we?

10This is “reclaimed space” between (2) pairs of 40′ ISBUs (placed end to end). Beautiful, isn’t it?

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Would you, could you, with some spark?

18 Jul

Make a “box”  your family’s  ARK?

Okay, I’m not Dr Seuss.

That’s okay, because ham isn’t kosher anyway, especially if it’s green.

Speaking of green, it’s green here in Montana as far as the eye can see. Haying starts an hour before sunrise and ends about 10pm. The rainstorms haven’t helped much as you don’t want it to rain when you’re cutting your hay. You want to cut it, rake it into rows  and then get it as dry as you can before you bale it. Ugh. Rain and I aren’t speaking right now.

Horse Hay - Good Eating!

The rain comes down in buckets and then… it heats up to 95 degrees. I’m starting to feel like I’m back in Mississippi some days.

But I digress…

Many people exploring Corten Castles for the first time are under the misconception that when using Shipping Containers (commonly called ISBUs – Intermodal Steel Building Units) you end up with a house full of long skinny rooms. It never occurs to them that you can place containers side by side and then cut out the inner walls to form wider rooms.

Even explained, some people have a tough time wrapping their heads around this.

Essentially, you end up with a “double width” space that looks like this;

cubular-26-of-66This is a “Cubular” home, built by a company out of New Zealand. Regulars of the blog know that when we see something cool, we share it with you regardless as to whether or not OUR names are on it. We’re good at what we do, but then… so are some other guys. We’re glad Cubular is located in New Zealand,  or we’d have some competition.  They build  some REALLY nice stuff. :)

cubular-32-of-66While we generally offset our boxes to create even larger spaces, this gives you an idea what can be accomplished with “direct mating”.

cubular-33-of-66You’re not living in a small, closed in space.  The created spaces are bright, airy and elegant.

cubular-35-of-66Even without adding an exterior veneer to this ISBU Home, it’s quite stylish and easy to look at. It’s not at all like the “apocalyptic graffiti covered boxes” you see in the movies, is it?

This is just the “starting point”. I know it’s hard to imagine, but with some creativity, ISBU homes  get even better than this. (And for the  record…  we think this one is pretty darned good.)

You can’t buy a “Cubular Home” for export to the US, but you could build your own. We’re helping many families do just that.

Loft me, Bro!

10 Jul

We’re buried.

Yep, I’m talking “up to our necks in it…” buried.

And while we’re trying to dig ourselves out, we’re getting requests for information and ideas from new building families.

We received four emails yesterday asking about novel ways to build lofts into ISBU cabins. Readers asked about ISBU Corten Coolness that could be “cabinized”…

And lo and behold, today DWELL Magazine (one of our very favorite magazines I might add…  especially because they love us  and our book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings”) ran an article on “One Room Wonders” where lofts and the staircase access are very attractively displayed.

Here’s just a few of our favorites;

Cabin Loft Access

Why NOT use that ladder structure to create more workspace in your kitchen? Genius!


A freestanding Organizer Closet can not only house your clothing, it can house an access ladder to the loft bedroom platform that it ALSO supports. MORE Genius! SPLIT that closet into a double sided unit and you also get a TON of pantry storage into your kitchen. DOUBLE Genius! :)

Modern Loft

We build “Storage Staircases” all the time. It just makes sense to use that space to your advantage. Done properly, it’s efficient AND attractive.

I say “Steel for Storms”…

9 Jul High Speed Man Camp - from ISBUs - Oil Country

As Typhoon Neoguri smashes into Okinawa and Japan, we’re reminded yet again that strong, durable, weather resistant housing is a requirement if families are to remain safe.

As we participate in ISBU (Shipping container) residential, industrial and commercial builds all over the planet, I am STILL amazed that the solution to some of the problems caused by heavy weather is overlooked.

In places like North Dakota, Montana, the Bering Sea and even (gasp!) Canada… :)

Workers are being housed in multi-unit developments built from ISBUs. These are just “modular buildings”. You build your housing units and then you stack them together. Add a little bit of welding and voila… many workers or families can all be tucked safely under one big steel roof, wrapped in a sturdy steel cocoon.

It’s done in place like CHINA all the time. In fact, every time that we’re there, we see another series of housing units going up;

This is a Solid Corten Steel "Man Camp" (Oil/Gas Housing) or a Student Dormitory waiting  to happen.

This is a Solid Corten Steel “Man Camp” (Oil/Gas Housing) or a Student Dormitory waiting to happen.

Over  the next few days… we’re going to look at HOW these buildings are constructed. I think that you’re going to be amazed at just how “easy” this is.

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Dude, you got HAY in my POOL!

27 Jun

As the temperature rises here in the ‘Root…

Thoughts wander to the water. No, I’m not talking about the water in our fields.

2014-06-04 17.36.54

Well, I AM talking about redirecting some of it. We have fields of it. We’d rather have fields of grass.

HEY! Big Guy! You listening up there? Enough with the wet stuff. We don’t WANT any more of it! Capische?

There are kids jumping into the rivers and creeks already. But, not I. Where does that water come from?

It’s coming from the local mountains as snow melt.

So, what are these young fools jumping into?

12 degrees… Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! LOL!

Now, I like water as much as the next person. I bathe ever other Saturday, just like most folks. But, I’m not gonna do it with snow run-off. I may be crazy, but I haven’t got a death wish.

Nay, not a one.

But, I have hay. LOTS of hay. Big giant 4x4x8 bales of oat hay left over from last year.

(No, I don’t use Alfalfa hay for this. THAT would be stupid.) ;)

And, I have a tarp. In fact, we keep the mother of all tarps to cover that leftover hay with, so the snow doesn’t turn it into garbage.

So, take hay…. tarps… run-off snow melt and what do you get?

You get this…

Cowboy Pool Party

Or this:

Cowboy Pool Party3Or this;

Cowboy Pool Party2It’s really pretty simple. And, the left over hay can get tossed on your compost pile when you’re done.

Now, people will start a rant about “icky water”. Just go to some big box store and buy a pool pump/filter. Add some chlorine or better yet, use SALT to keep your water  clear.  We use a salt system that works terrifically and there’s no chlorine burn.

Remember that SALT is still a chemical. In day of old, invaders salted neighboring villages fields, to render their land useless for farming. So, at the end of the season, you can’t just drain the water out into your pasture or lawn area.

However, saltwater has a lower freezing point that “regular” water and your pool will resist freezing for much longer. In Montana, it’ll still freeze eventually… but it’ll take a while. We use solar hot water heater panels to pump the water thru to extend the “pool season”.

If you live in a city or town, you may be able to drain your pool into a storm drain when your pool season comes to an end.

In Arizona and New Mexico, I know people who build hay pools and then they use the saltwater to drain into their “rock lawns” (I still can’t quite stomach a “rock lawn” in the front of my house. Ewww!) to actually discourage weed and grass growth.

And please don’t start spewing “water conservation horrors” at me. I fully understand WHY they use rock landscaping in arid climates.  I just don’t LIKE it.

For the record… when they decided what days of the week we could wash our cars or water our lawns in California… I saw the handwriting on the wall (and I’m not even talking about all the damned graffiti) and I left.  LOL!

The point is that if you put your mind to it, you can have a pool for pennies. All you need is a little common sense and a few strong backs.

Until next time…






Little Boxes – BIG Changes!

25 Jun

Quite a  while back, we had some discussions with some people in England about building small, transportable residential modules to address local affordable housing issues.

Recently, I spent a week with the (gasp!) Canadians… having the exact same discussions.

We refer to these teams as “HSPs” (Housing Solution Providers).  They’re often part of “outreach programs” or simply collections of local businessmen and women who see the value in rebuilding failing neighborhoods.

The premise is that (much like here in the US) many people simply cannot afford to come up with the funds required to secure safe, sustainable housing. Students, singles, seniors… Economic bubbles, unemployment and day to day hardships actually push many people into homelessness. It’s a vicious circle that bites hard and then rarely lets go.

In the US, we’re actively involved in several projects (across 7 states) targeted to provide innovative, affordable housing to those in need.  The goal is to help these people live independent, self-reliant, self-accountable lives, without further hardship. Further, the idea is to use these projects to rebuild communities that have fallen into dormancy or disrepair.

Remember that ISBU housing is a tailor-made solution for this. Easily transportable and modular, you can delivery these units to empty sites (even large abandoned strip mall parking lots, for example) and create small “Corten Villages” that are capable of housing “many”.

Couple these residential unit clusters  with “community spaces” or even “medical outreach operations” and you have the ability to insure the future of many people almost seamlessly.  And, as the stabilization of that neighborhood bears fruit, you can then dismantle these units and move them to the next place where they are required.

They’re doing it in the UK, with great success.

Here’s a peak of what some of these “housing solution providers” have accomplished, just to wet your appetite.

20ft ISBU Homes



Now, with all the US Military VETS coming home to homelessness, unemployment and despair, I have to ask;


Our brothers and sisters are returning from war, to face “another war” at home.  It’s a war that contributes to Vet hardship and even suicide –  as these fine men and women, the very backbone of America…  find they have no place to go.

If we were to build “transitional settlements” that allowed Vets to reintegrate safely (using empty sites that are already available locally), we could save a lot of men and women, who in the face of these hardships, simply run out of strength to fight…

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Create Corten Art!

20 Jun cc4441

As we toil on ISBU projects (projects that encompass the finest in residential, industrial and commercial ISBU construction) that span countries and even continents, we thought we’d show you what other people are doing with ISBUs across the rock;

What better way to display art, than to display it WITHIN art?

Art gallery “cc4441″ is located on the corner of a small alley in Torigoe, Tokyo.

When you approach it, you discover that the gallery consists of two shipping containers that appear to have been dropped haphazardly on top of each another.


But, you’d be wrong. On closer inspection, a large rear door opens to reveal a modern office and gallery space that stretches up across two levels.

cc4441 was built using two reclaimed (is there a better way?) 40 ft High Cube shipping containers.  This ISBU based gallery (measuring 394 square feet) was designed by the brilliant guys and gals at Japanese architectural firm, Tomokazu Hayakawa.

To address the site and maximize the use of space, the bottom ISBU container was cut into two parts that were then placed  perpendicular to one another, forming two small rooms that face in towards one another. They are connected via a central exterior courtyard.


The second container was then placed above the two smaller rooms and is accessible via the exterior staircase.

We’ve often reflected that the use of ISBU containers lends itself to intimate little spaces perfect for the pursuit of endeavors like art.


But don’t feel left out if you’re a working professional. Imagine a small architectural or design firm, an insurance agency, accounting firm or similar operation working out of this same building.


Or imagine this as a modern little ISBU home dropped into a scenic setting…

We’ve done similar projects  that sat ON TOP of existing buildings. Holy corrugation! Talk about the Corten Tiny House in the Sky! :)

You can read more about this wonderful little gallery, here:


And then… it goes KABOOOOM!

17 Jun

We convert shipping containers into housing modules. Plain and simple. It means that before the carpenters, electricians and plumbers start ravaging th0se poor boxes, somebody got in there with a plasma cutter, torch or a welder.

With all the metal fabrication we do, we use a lot of oxygen and acetylene in our shops.

We’ve all played practical jokes, filling bags with “go juice” and then exploding them for laughs but combining oxygen and acetylene is a pretty serious matter, truth be told.

You see these delivery trucks on the road all the time, going from shop to shop, delivering bottles for welders and fabricators.

Ever wonder what would happen if one of these trucks was involved in a traffic accident? Check out the video.

So the next time one of these bad boys passes you up on the road, I suggest that you give him as much room as possible.

People ask us HOW they can possibly “Dream”…

6 Jun

We get email from families daily, trying desperately to hold onto their dreams… of home ownership.

It’s really no wonder why they feel that way;

“Half of Americans cannot afford their houses, according to data cited by MarketWatch. A new survey carried out by Hart Research Associates found 52 percent of Americans have had to make at least one major sacrifice in the past three years in order to maintain their mortgage or rent payment.

Those sacrifices included getting a second job, not saving for retirement, cutting back on healthcare, incurring credit card debt or moving to a worse neighborhood, MarketWatch said.

About 43 percent participating in the survey said owning a home is no longer “an excellent long-term investment and one of the best ways for people to build wealth and assets,” and more than 50 percent said buying a home has become less appealing.

In the wake of the 2008 housing crash, more than 7.5 million homeowners lost their home to foreclosure or short sale and about 9 million homeowners are still underwater and owe more than their property is worth, according to Daren Blomquist, vice president at real estate data firm RealtyTrac.

“If one looks at the last seven years as a predictor of housing market behavior in the future, it certainly should give one pause about whether buying a home is a good investment or not,” Blomquist said.”

We are more dedicated than ever, seemingly “Davids in the face of the Goliaths”, trying to wage battles that insure that families have affordable, safe, sustainable homes.
It isn’t an “easy” battle. There’s a lot of work involved. Sweat, blood, even tears… but in the end, it’s worth it.
How do we know this?
We have a virtual filing cabinet full of testimonials from families who fought back against long odds… to regain their freedom. They worked and toiled in defiance of those who would watch them fail… And they succeeded.
To those “Housing Patriots” we say this:
“Only fools say NEVER. Good on you! It’s because you stood up, that you can now be counted. Sometimes, that last laugh is worth 10,000 words. We salute you!”
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I want a Florida ISBU Beachhouse… like THIS one! :)

3 Jun

Every once in a while, we come across an ISBU home that just screams; “I LOVE THIS!”


We have a lot of friends in New Zealand. In fact, we’ve helped families BUILD homes in New Zealand. And, they send us stuff… incredible stuff. So, since they’re sharing with us… we thought that we’d share with YOU. We thought we’d share this Auckland, NZ ISBU home with you, located on Muriwai Beach.


This wonderful ISBU home is built from (6) 40′ High Cube ISBUs (shipping containers) and in our view, it’s “form and function” defined! These guys definitely did it right! There’s very little that we would change…


(And you guys know US… we change EVERYTHING! )


This  ISBU home was designed to be all the thinks that we love here art RR… It’s affordable, green, visually stunning and fully functional. Better still, it shatters the myth that ISBU homes have to be small and dark, long boxes filled with tiny claustrophobic spaces. This ISBU home is designed and oriented to let the outdoors in, making you feel like you’re living in the wilds, while you’re still in your living room!


Drop this beautiful little beast onto a beach or a bluff overlooking a terrific sunset and you’ll end up with smiles that last for days! In fact, I know a lass in Florida looking for a coolISBU that might just love this…

See more of this incredible home, HERE.

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