iPhone – iPad – E-Book – ECooking. It was only a matter of time. :)

23 Apr clei-herb-stove-sink-detail

We have a treat for you today.

Many readers who follow the blog know that we preach about taking long hard looks at the space you use, so that you can build spaces that provide for your needs without waste or excess.

Many of our readers are using ISBUs to build vacation retreats – “getaway destinations” that are used seasonally. These hunting cabins, fishing cabins and rural retreats need to provide the required services without breaking the bank.

Many ISBU families are down-sizing and building “ISBU cabin-style” homes that occupy small footprints, while providing large benefits. They do this by building multi-purpose, multi-tasking spaces that can expand and contract to provide services.

Many of our readers are using ISBUs to build “tiny house” structures that provide maximum usage in a minimum footprint.

In keeping with that theme, I want to share this with you;

(Now I admit that we saw this tiny-kitchen and at first, we laughed. But then, we started thinking about HOW they use the space and WHY it made sense.)

When this unit is closed, it’s difficult to figure out what it’s purpose is. But once you start opening the modules that it’s comprised of, you’ll find yourself amazed.

clei-ecookingIt’s a veritable “transformer” of a unit that contains;

  •  A refrigerator and freezer.
  •  A sink, with a faucet that you tuck into the bowl when you twist the sink module closed.
  •  A four-burner induction cooktop — plus an air vent and purifier powerful enough to clean the air of a 150-square-foot room.
  •  A dishwasher.
  •  A coffee maker.
  •  Storage space.
  •  An herb garden fed by gray water (your dishwater from the dishes).
  •  (3) separate countertops adding up to 15 square feet of surface area, available for prep work or dining.

It’s called the Ecooking kitchen from Clei and it’s the poster-child for good looking, streamlined, multipurpose, transformable, space-efficient kitchen activities.

Sure, it’s “modern” and “slick”, but it does have a certain “style” about it, if you can get past that yellow color. While we find the concept interesting, we’d ditch that canary yellow finish, for sure. :)

The people who designed it will tell you that;

“The E-Kitchen is a practical vision for what you can fit into a small apartment in a way that’s neither cluttered nor cheap-looking. It’s easy to imagine the tower gracing a pricy Manhattan loft or a San Francisco studio.”

clei-detail
The kitchen was originally projected to hit the market by the middle of this year, but Clei’s American distributor says that there is one more technical issue is left to resolve, so it’s now expected to go on sale in Europe in October; the United States will follow soon after.

“It’s much more a reality now than a theoretical exercise,” said Ron Barth, co-founder of Resource Furniture in New York, exclusive North American distributor of Clei.

closer-view-of-sink

Closed, the kitchen occupies floor space of 70 by 70 centimeters, or a little over 2 feet by 2 feet. But it’s capable of expanding to triple its closed size, and three people can work or eat together at the unit, each facing a different direction. “Essentially a 27.5-inch square becomes an 82.5-inch corner kitchen,” Barth said.

“Nothing like this has ever even been attempted before in terms of the rotating elements,” Barth said. So perhaps it’s no wonder that the projected for-sale date has been pushed back: There have been “a lot” of durability tests on the unit — particularly the central point of rotation and its construction materials, which have been revised “over and over,” since it’s “the key element in the product’s usefulness and useful life,” he said.

Ron say that pricing information is available for the first time: In Europe, the E-Kitchen will set you back 10,000 to 11,000 euros (about $14,000 to $15,000 at the current exchange rates).

Okay, stop gasping! Once you get past the sticker shock, think about what it does and how it does it. Here at RR we counsel families to look at something that appeals to them and then… reverse engineer it so that they can have it without the hefty price-tag.

clei-herb-stove-sink-detail

You could build this in a wood-working shop. In fact, you could build this using components you found at IKEA or a “big box” store. All it would require is some careful consideration and a considerable amount of attention to detail and patience.

light-closer

Here’s a (very) short video showing the motion of last year’s version of the kitchen, shot at the Salone del Mobile 2013:

Ethiopia is “off-grid”, right?

22 Apr

Here at “Sustainability Central”, we “push purpose and technology” to document tools for sustainable families globally.

Our readers know that we spend a lot of time talking about sustainable, affordable, energy efficient homes that can be built BY FAMILIES,  FOR FAMILIES.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re home is sustainable, you have the ability to embrace sustainable practices that will make you that much more self-responsible and self-reliant.

It’s about using your surroundings and environment to a positive benefit, by embracing technology and sustainability. If the Maker gives you sunshine to make electricity with…  with, why NOT use it to power your home or outbuildings?

But, it’s not just about making power. It’s about living life, 24/7. And that means… you gotta eat. Right?

We’ve talked about solar ovens before. I mean, if you have sunlight and flour… why not make bread, or even (gasp!) PIZZA?

In Ethiopia, they want to bake bread using sunshine, too.

I mean, who doesn’t?

But they’re stepping it up to the next level. You won’t need the sun, 24/7 in order to cook your meals if Asfafaw Tesfay has his way.

From The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)  – April 11th, 2014

Ethiopians may in the future be able to bake their own bread, the «injeras», with help from the sun.

Large parts of Ethiopia are today without access to electric power or firewood. The results of deforestation are severe. But what if people got the opportunity to make dinner without using coal, wood, oil or gas? This can become a reality if students at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway succeed in commercializing an oven powered by the sun itself.

The oven has been developed at NTNU keeping the needs of people in Ethiopia in mind. Asfafaw Tesfay came from Ethiopia to Norway in 2008 to develop a system based on solar power for his home country. He is now very near his goal, which is constructing a solar powered oven which can bake at a temperature of 220⁰C (428⁰F) for 24 hours.

It is the first of its kind. The oven can reach a temperature of 250⁰C (482⁰F), which makes it well adapted to the country’s food traditions and resources.

Solovn_bruk1

– This oven has several advantages compared to other solar powered ovens on the market. The biggest difference is that it can reach a high temperature and store that high temperature over time, which makes it perfect for baking “injeras”, which most people in Ethiopia eat three times a day, explains student Even Sønnik Haug Larsen.

Basic food

He is now trying to commercialize the product together with his fellow students Mari Hæreid, Sebastian Vendrig and Dag Håkon Haneberg from NTNU School of Entrepreneurship.

For years scientists across the globe have tried to develop solar powered ovens with different qualities aimed at developing countries. The problem has been that these solutions have not been optimized with the needs of the users, for instance in Ethiopia, in mind. The ovens have not reached high enough temperatures to make injeras, and can’t store the heat so that it is possible to make food also in the evenings or at night.

– On these ovens you have only been able to boil rice or vegetables and such. But that is not what most Ethiopians eat. They eat injeras, a sort of flatbread which needs to be baked. For that you need a temperature of 200-250⁰C (392-482⁰F), Haug Larsen says.

He adds that he finds it rewarding in itself to make it possible for people in developing countries to make food in an efficient, safe and environmentally safe way any time of day.

– It is exciting to use our technology in practice and show that the product is useful to many people, Haug Larsen, who is also a teacher, says.

How it works

The solar powered oven is environmentally friendly. When exposed to sunlight the heat is transferred to a container with salt chemicals. There are two working prototypes, one at NTNU and the other in Ethiopia. The need for such an oven is huge, the students claim.

Bilde1-beskjært

85 percent of the people in the country don’t have access to electric power. Due to the fact that they have used fire wood instead, there is only three percent forested areas left in the country, down from 35 percent in 2000.

– People hardly have any fire wood or electric power, but they don’t have a lack of sun, Haug Larsen says.

In Ethiopia

Together with fellow student Sebastian Vendrig he traveled to Ethiopia around mid-January to get in touch with customers and potential partners. At the same time they wanted to see if it was possible to produce the oven locally in Mekele, the home city of Asfafaw, the man behind the idea.

– As users and potential customers are in Ethiopia it is important for us to travel there to meet them and at the same time experience the culture and society. We also want to establish a viable business there and will at the same time look at possible production workshops, said Haug Larsen before they left.

The students have already been in touch with the Norwegian embassy in Addis Abeba, The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and several organizations willing to help the students.

The project received means from Norfund, Spark NTNU and Trønder Energi. The students are also cooperating with NTNU Technology Transfer (TTO).

Want to expand

The connection between Asfafaw and Ethiopia is the main reason why they are trying to establish the product here first. The students see a potential in organizations working in the country, and in schools, universities, hospitals, bakeries, restaurants and hotels.

– Later it might be possible to make the oven accessible also for private people, but as it is now they have limited funds and will not know how to use it, says Haug Larsen.

Together with the rest of the student group he hopes to start a business and work with the oven also after his studies.

– It would be fantastic if our product could improve the conditions in several developing countries and if we can be part of creating jobs locally, Haug Larsen says.

Pretty cool, huh?

 

3D Housing – What kind of ink cartridges will you need? :)

19 Apr

As we see more and more heavy weather events globally, we have to give thoughts to long-term housing with long-term capabilities.

That means using materials that will stand up to Mother Nature.

3D printing may just be the future of housing, if these guys have anything to say about it.

ISBU housing is pretty durable in this regard. It goes up fast. It’s NOT labor intensive. It’s hard to beat steel and concrete.

We’ve all seen “concrete block” homes. Building them is labor intensive, expensive and time consuming. Can you imagine building a home with concrete… with a 3D printer? You could even paint your 3D concrete home using one of the printers they use to produce billboards with.

 

 

He said – She Shed

12 Apr

And while we’re talking about cool things to do with 20′ ISBUs…

… have you heard about “She Sheds?”  It’s like a “ManCave” for  (gasp!) girls, built in the backyard.

1It’s a place filled with “girl stuff” and probably “bins and bins of estrogen”… so guys… you might not want to hang out there long…

2
…lest you find yourself with a weird craving to shave your legs and put on something “pretty”… :)

For the record… the last time I shaved my legs, I was swimming competitively. You can imagine how long ago THAT was… LOL!

 But think about this for a minute. What if you just need a place to get out of the house and chill… like maybe your own backyard diner?

3

You can probably even talk the kids into bussing the tables, in exchange for letting them hang out there after school with their friends listening to the jukebox and eating snacks.

4You really could build one of these using a 20′ box pretty easily. And best of all, it’d be relocatable. That way, when it’s time to pull up stakes and head to that next hacienda, you can move it right along with the rest of your stuff!

Do it right and it could also become a guest room, a young adults private sanctuary or even a “potting shed”!

(Just don’t call it that – especially if you live in Colorado. It’ll just get you a visit from the DEA and the local SWAT Team!) :)

Till next time!

RR AvatarMore images and an accompanying article can be found HERE.

Sometimes “Corten Coolness” is exactly that…

10 Apr 20 ft ISBU pool and lounge idea

Okay, it’s officially “that time of year” again…

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve gotten 19 inquiries from families that want to know how to turn an ISBU container into a pool or spa.

We’ve written about this before, but we actually have three pools being built this year, in conjuction with ISBU homes being built. As that series of projects proceed, we’ll share the details with you, accompanied by “in process” photos.

The second most popular question on this topic is; “What would/could an ISBU pool or spa LOOK like?”

Well, they look just like any other pool (except they obviously aren’t more than about 8 feet wide). If you can conceive it, you can build it. You can get inspiration from all kinds of places.

Here’s a few photographs of cool [pool ideas to inspire your thought processes;

ISBU Pool concept - 20 foot
Pretty Classy backyard, if you ask me. Do this with a 20′ High Cube ISBU and you have the perfect backyard respite even with a small backyard.

20 ft ISBU pool and lounge ideaI’m actually dying to build this one, myself, using (say it with me) a 20′ High Cube. Imagine an ISBU  home set up on pilings.  Now imagine this “pool” being created by a box sitting at grade, with a deck attaching it to your home. I think this would be incredible.

You could even build a “tiny pool” to go with your “tiny house”!

But wait, there’s more. You don’t have to limit yourself to just using ISBUs/ There are other kinds of metal containers and bins that can be repurposed to accomplish backyard Shangra-la!

Dumpster Pools
As you can see, there are a lot of way to conceal your ISBU pool’s origins. And, there are lots of opportunities to create a backyard water feature that will excite you for decades!

Your only limit is your imagination (and the size of your shovel).

Stay tuned.

RR Avatar

 

A Corten Cabin by the pond…

4 Apr

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use ISBUs in the woods to build small family retreats.

Using 20′ ISBUs makes trucking containers into hard to access sites much easier. Prefabbed containers could arrive and then be set in a matter of hours. Once set, you’d connect services (like the well, septic and photovoltaic arrays), put on your SIPs roof  and you’d be off and literally “running” in a week.

We’re experimenting with Fracking bladders to create large lined ponds. Each one of these bladders is large enough to create the mother of all ponds.  We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of gallons. We’ve talked about  these bladders before. They’re used to hold water that is mixed with other materials for injection during the oil recovery process.  These bladders are thick,  flexible and just begging to be used as pond and “natural” pool liners. Some of these bladders are 195 FEET in diameter. They hold MILLIONS of gallons of water.

Now dig a hole and line it. Take advantage of a depression on your property and enlarge it. Dig a hole from scratch! Guess what you end up with? You get a lined pond that would easily support a cabin AND a deck that turned into a fishing dock. Yes, I said “fishing dock”.  Imagine a small electric boat tied up to the edge of your deck?

Float some aerators in that pond. Throw in some old dead tree limbs and other various materials (for fish to nest in) and attach a “natural” filtration system. Now you have a fish farm waiting to happen.

Now, that collection of ISBUs might look a bit too “modern” to live in all that Mountain pond bliss. Remember, Corten ISBUs are “just big metal boxes”. You can make them look like anything you like. All it takes is some imagination and some sweat.

What if  you used local trees (harvested from your own property?)  to “side” your Corten Cabin? You might end up with something that looks like this;

Cabin BlissNow, imagine coming home to this every day, for the next several decades of your life?

It’s not hard to imagine for ME! We’re working on drawings now.

Stay tuned.

RR Avatar

 

Help! My cabin folds out like Origami! :)

25 Mar

It’s almost Spring in most parts of America!

(Okay, we’ve yet to see our traditional “Three days of Spring” here, but everywhere else, significant others are already getting the crowbars ready to pry people’s butts off couches for the big “Spring Fever” build-off!)

We have more projects than Doan’s has little green pills right now. So, while we try to climb out from under this giant pile of paperwork… let’s hit the mailbag!

Ready?

Set?

Cover your eyes!

Wait… that’s not it…

GO!

Dear Ronin,

We’ve caught the Corten bug. We’re building a small fishing cabin in Louisiana, way out in the swamp!

The idea is to take a single 20′ ISBU and build it out to create a rustic cabin that includes a composting toilet, a small kitchenette, bunks and a seating area.

We saw a cabin you built that actually expanded by dropping the front wall down to form a big tented space. That’s exactly what we want. It’s genius!

We’re only going to modify one wall to do this so that we can build the kitchen and powder room off the “back” wall.

(Editor’s note: They’re referring to a “fold out” ISBU cabin series we built for 3 season use, that allows you to expand the Corten clad “space” by folding out the walls on both long sides. It uses aluminum frames and canvas/mosquito netting. much like the tents that you may already have out in your garage!) You essentially triple the size of a 20′ or 40′ box for the price of fab, framing and canvas.

And when you leave, you fold everything back up into the shipping containers original footprint, padlock the walls and doors and ATV, ride, or walk away. It’s VERY secure. It just looks like a regular shipping container.)

The double cargo doors will open to create an outdoor “semi-enclosed” shower area over a wood deck. Our SIP roof (thanks for beating SIPS and SSMR into our brains!) will extend to cover the shower area. We’re going to cover the long “open space” in mosquito netting to keep the critters out.

Due to the fact that the “front” wall folds out to become the floor, we’re puzzled about how we end up with the required pieces to allow us to live in the cabin a week at a time. We envision having to remove the furniture from the box (or squeeze around a pile of tables and chairs, etc…) in order to get inside to fold the outer wall down.

Oh, Oracle of all things Corten…

Any ideas?

Sincerely,

Bayou Bound

***************************************************

Dear “BB”,

It sounds like you’re in the perfect place to build our “Corten Accordion!”

I’ve often thought about building one on piers or stilts in some Bayou while I ponder ‘Gator Hunting and Bass fishing in the wilds!

IMHO – One of the biggest mistakes that people make in working with small spaces is that they still try to cram all their luxuries from home into them.

Essentially, they make those small spaces even smaller.

What WE do is to build “Multi-purpose walls” that have foldouts producing work or entertainment spaces, on demand. If you do this right, you can build bunks that fold out of walls, encased in fold down dining spaces, complete with seating benches in an area that also incorporates storage for everything from pantry items to books and small DVD players.

(Not all of us head to the wilds and “rough” it. Most families have small kids that can be entertained during rainy spells by a good DVD played through a TV/DVD player that is powered using Photovoltaic panels and a battery bank.)

Here’s an example of a fold out dining system that is simple to build and folds up out of the way so that the space can be retasked for any other purpose required.

Murphy Table and Benches

You can easily build this in your garage and then haul the components out for assembly.

Hope this starts your “Corten Creative Juices ” flowing!

Ronin

Whatever floats your boat… er… house.

17 Mar

Recently, we’ve seen flooding all over the planet.

Quite a few readers know that we used to turn ISBUs (shipping containers) into houseboats, floating EPA labs, you name it. In fact, a few of those “Corten Cabin Cruisers” that we built in Costa Rica many years ago are still in service, 25 years later.

Many of these readers interested in these floating “Corten cuties” live in places where tidal surge from big storms frequently destroys homes in low-lying areas.

We’ve been asked repeatedly if you could build an ISBU based home on a floating foundation, allowing it to survive tidal surge from big weather events. The answer is YES.

In fact, after Hurricane Katrina, we lobbied strongly for just such a home in areas like the lowlands of Louisiana and Mississippi. We suggested that we build ISBU homes onto floating decks (steel decks with massive foam floatation devices attached to the undersides), in the “Shotgun” and”Folk Victorian” styles and then place them on piers that would allow the home to rise and fall in a big storm.  Not only would that foam allow the home to float up above high water, it would also serve as insulation below the floor to help the home be more energy efficient. With skirting around the home, you’d never  “see” the flotation devices, which are just large blocks of  closed cell foam. It’s essentially the same foam that we use to insulate ISBU homes now, in either a Spray Foam formula or pre-manufactured rigid insulation boards.

You can guess what happened next. People just looked at us and laughed. After a lot of attempts to demonstrate the worth of this process, we finally gave up.

We’d given thought recently to building a similar ISBU home here in Montana, out on Painted Rock Lake in the West Bitterroot.

Now, many years after Hurricane Katrina, someone else in the Gulf Coast has picked up the torch.They call it “The Buoyant Foundation Project”.


Think about just how simple this is. Weld additional framing to the bottom of your ISBU home (you already have most of the steel right there for the foam frames to attach to) and then set your home on piers with slip collars that allow the home to rise and fall with the tide.

If you live in the Gulf, you now have a “Storm Surge Resistant” home unlike anything your neighbors have ever seen. Best of all, when “hard times and high water” come, you don’t lose all your possessions and your shelter. In fact, if you are using photovoltaic panels and a battery bank, you lose very little at all.   If you’re forced to leave your home, it’ll probably still be there when you return after they sound the all-clear.

Maybe, just maybe, these guys will find people to reason with who don’t simply roll their eyes and ask “if you will be required to put navigation lights on the home’s roof because it’s now a vessel floating in a flood.” We were asked that. they wanted to know if we;d gotten Coast Guard Certification for this housing concept.

Man, I tell you, eating too much crawfish must cause some people to turn into morons…

Until next time…

RR Avatar

 

Be careful what you wish for… on Craigslist.

14 Mar

We’re helping several families build  small  ISBU (shipping container) based cabins in rural areas. These cabins are being used for everything from “Vacation Retreats” (hunting, fishing, hiking, etc…) and Guest Houses to  rural  24/7 “Tiny House Living”.

Some readers are forwarding this little house to me thinking that there might be a lot of value here for a little more than $17k:

TinyShell2http://tinyhouselistings.com/400-square-feet-cedar-cabin/

Let’s take a look at this, shall we?

First, it’s 12 feet wide. Try getting that on a trailer to haul across the country. It could prove expensive to move it farther than across the county in the dark…

And, it’s not a “whole” house. It needs to be completed. It’s just a shell.

Okay, but still, it’s $17k, right? But is it a good deal?

How big is it? 400 square feet?

Um… nope. The math doesn’t work.

First, the most glaring pothole is that the claimed square footage is about DOUBLE the real square footage.  This cottage is 192ft² on the main floor with a low-ceiling “sleeping loft” (which you cannot legally count) plus an open porch.

TinyShellNOW do the math, again…

That’s over $90 a square foot, before you get it to a trailer to move it.

It’s going to cost you a few bucks a mile to move it, if you strong-arm your Uncle Ed and his Semi, or rent a big farm truck and flatbed trailer. Don’t forget “oversize” permits.

And then, once you have it moved, you still have to figure in completion costs. You’re easily going to be in $125 – $130 a square foot territory in no time.

For that kind of money, you can do better.

Not convinced? Let’s look a bit deeper;

It’s important to regain that lost square footage if you’re going to live in this house for any extended period of time.

If you’re leaning this direction, here’s some observations;

Enclose that covered porch.

It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to do this and you’d gain living space/”sunspace”.  Remember that it has to be “conditioned space” to count. So, use a mini-split AC/heat unit (like the Fujitsu) and now it actually qualifies as “living space”.

Now, you’re up to 288ft².

It’s time to address that”loft”.  The loft (as depicted) isn’t really 96ft². It can’t possibly be.

Here is why:

First, we’re thinking the property tax assessor did the measurements. ;)

Half stories (inside the roof) are NEVER measured from the outside of the ground level. These spaces are only measured for their –>interior<– space.

It gets more complicated, due to that roof pitch.  Only space that has greater than 5ft headroom can be counted in the floor area and a minimum of half the counted floor area must have at least 7ft head room.  So, if the ceiling only rises to 8ft at the ridge, then only the areas with a 6ft or greater ceiling height can be counted. It looks like that house has no ceiling even as high as 7ft.

To be counted in the habitable floor area, the space being discussed (the loft) would need a standard (approved) stairway to gain access to it.

Did you know that ladders, ship’s ladders, Jefferson stairs, narrow spirals, bookcases you can climb, while perfectly appropriate to put in a house, cannot be used to allow you to calculate additional square footage?

The rules are very specific. If there is no standard staircase installed to allow access to a space,  it CANNOT be counted in the habitable square footage floor area. Period.

It should also be noted that the people selling this “Little House” shell are not only counting the space outdoors (unenclosed on the porch) and the loft where the ceiling was less than five feet above the floor, they were also counting the area inside the ceiling between the rafters that is unusable (the narrow areas where the roof pitch reaches the floor) , as habitable living space.

This is deceptive, bordering on dishonest.

You can build one heck of a small ISBU cabin for that kind of money and get usable, livable space pretty easily. And if you do it right, you]ll have money left over for Photovoltaic panels and groceries.

RR Avatar

Building with Containers doesn’t mean building SMALL.

13 Mar

One of the myths of ISBU (Shipping Container) construction is that you end up with a structure filled with narrow, tiny rooms.

Further, I find it ironic that most of the critics of ISBU Housing have never built an ISBU Home… never been inside one and in most cases… have never even stepped foot into a container.

You hear them repeat (like it’s some kind of mantra);

“Shipping Container homes are expensive, small, claustrophobic and hot.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

(Hey, I wanted to say; “Only if you’re stupid.” But… I restrained myself… sort of.) ;)

C3 ISBU Residence

Read more about it, HERE.

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