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Brrrrrr. It’s cold in here (he said as he reached in for a cold one).

18 Sep

It goes without saying that one of the great inventions of our time is the modern refrigerator. And now, that big metal box in your kitchen will get an efficiency makeover when new national efficiency standards go into effect on September 15, reducing energy use of most refrigerators and freezers by about 20-25%.

refrigThe new standards take effect 100 years after the first modern refrigerators were mass-produced for general use. Before that time, consumers used iceboxes (literally boxes with ice) to keep their food cold, but food safety was an issue. When the ‘electric refrigerator’ was finally introduced it was more than just a convenience, it was an invention that saved people’s lives.  Refrigerators have evolved considerably since the 1900s both in appearance and function. The early units placed the cooling device on top of a small boxy unit while today’s sleeker multi-door units place the cooling units unseen on the bottom.

The new efficiency measures are the latest in a series of standards over 40 years that have helped to significantly bring down the cost of running a typical refrigerator. A fridge that just meets the new standards will use $215 to $270 less per year in electricity than a comparable unit that met the first state standards set in 1978.

c-refrigerator-use

The refrigerator story is filled with intriguing plot lines – from the initial energy crisis in the ‘70s, to negotiations between disparate groups of stakeholders, to national legislation signed by President Reagan in 1987. It’s a good story packed with positive outcomes. The graph above gives a birds-eye view of some of the changes over the last 40 years. While energy use decreased more than three-fourths, refrigerator volume increased, and price (in $2010) decreased by two-thirds.

Read the rest of this great post, HERE.

 

Apocalypse WOW!

16 Sep

When you work with steel every day, you start to feel like you’re surrounded by it.

In my word, a part of life is defining your space.

Here’s my dream fence;

Steel Fences make good neighbors

To the Mountains! To the Sea! Wait! BOTH! :)

13 Sep ISBU Micro-Condo - 1st

Dear Container Gurus,

My wife and I have been readers of your blogs for a long time. I bought your book. We loved it and it actually gave us hope. On television, all you see are the high dollar builds by people with huge wallets  and even bigger egos. Your ISBU homes are affordable and efficient, aimed at caring for growing families. It’s exactly what we crave!

(I even sent you fan mail hoping that someday my ship would come in and I’d be able  to build my own Corten Castle using shipping containers under your leadership!)

We’re sold on the ability to prefab the ISBUs in a garage and then haul them to the site. We love the idea that ISBUs are just modular building blocks. We love the idea that due to their nature (they’re just big blocks) you can make them look like anything you want.

We love the idea of a rustic ISBU cabin type weekend home clad in plank siding and shingles.

Well, my ship came in and this time, I wasn’t waiting for a plane at the airport. I’ve inherited a small parcel up in the mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s ours free and clear and it already has a well and a septic tank installed.

Sounds good, right? Well…

Every pearl has it’s price. This little hunk of heaven in Washington State is the site of a settlers cabin that burned down. After we cleared away all the debris and the garbage, we discovered that we only have about 480 usable square feet to actually build on.

What we’d like to build is a small/tiny ISBU weekend home that incorporates the following;

  • A single car garage – we drive a sports car and not a 4wd truck
  • Garage area needs the ability to convert into a make-shift art studio
  • A main floor for communal purposes with 1/2 bath – possible Murphy bed
  • Dishwasher – love to cook, hate  to do dishes
  • A computer desk instead of a dining table
  • A full bedroom with shower bath
  • A rooftop terrace so that we can take in the sunsets with PVs on the roof

We’d like to keep as much of the cabin’s structure as “non-organic” as possible. Living in the forest means fires. We’d like to avoid combustion as much as possible. :)

People will hang decks off ever side they can to capitalize on the view. If we build a  rooftop deck, we don’t NEED the eyesores that everyone else builds. Our ISBU home will be “monumental” and not “ornamental”, if that makes any sense.

The actual building  site is approximately 20′ x 24′. Is this  even possible  using ISBUs?

Dear Sunsetters,

Can you climb a loft ladder? LOL!

If so, I think I have an ISBU Tiny Home that you might find interesting.

For several years, I’ve been fascinated by the “Fire Tower” type structures scattered throughout the National Forests where I live in Montana.  I love the idea that you can actually live high enough in the treeline to be able to take in “the big view” every single day and night.

A while back, somebody sent me a rough line drawing of a single level “tiny house” that was laid out “studio style” above a natural stone first floor. It looked like it belonged in a Forest Ranger’s custody as he/she guarded our wilderness. And it made me start thinking about the possibilities.

Actually, it made me start thinking about how you could easily adapt that idea to use 20′ High Cube Containers stacked 2 wide and 2 high. Stacked 2 over 2 on a first floor constructed  of CMUs (concrete block), you could literally build a three story “tiny home” quickly and efficiently.

I’ve played with the original drawings myself, adapting them to ISBU construction and it’s actually much easier than it looks.

Build your first floor garage (16′ x 20′ approximately) out of cinderblocks. Obviously, this means that your garage door goes on the  “short wall”. I’d build a steel “cradle” into the top of that garage structure to receive the ISBUs. Clad your first floor in native stone for that rustic “cabin” vibe.

ISBU Micro-Condo - GarageNow, set (2) 20′ ISBUs onto the top of that cinderblock garage to fly your “main” floor.

ISBU Micro-Condo - 1st(2) Additional 20′ ISBUs get set on top of the Main Floor ISBUs to form your bedroom level.

ISBU Micro-Condo
The interior of the garage gets SPF or Rigid insulation and a covering of plywood. Yes. Plywood. Stringers set  before SPF (spray foam closed cell insulation) is applied will give you anchors for your interior (plywood) cladding and that plywood will allow you to hang whatever you want, wherever you want. The Olympic Peninsula is legendary for it’s rainfall. Why hang sheetrock that will get damaged by moisture? If you want to stabilize the temperatures to do artwork, you have to insulate.  If you’re  worried about the plywood interior combusting in a firestorm, fire retardant materials can be applied.

Insulate the exteriors of the ISBUs with SPF or rigid insulation and then apply your siding in the usual manner.  I’d suggest that you use something like Hardiplank. Hardiplank is a fiber-cement siding material that consists of a combination of cellulose fibers, along with cement-like materials.  It doesn’t expand. It doesn’t contract. It’s extremely stable. If you want strong, durable  concrete based siding that is good looking and guaranteed to last for decades, you want Hardiplank.

(NO! They don’t pay us to say that. It’s just pointless to reinvent a wheel that works so well. It’s a little harder to install. You need to wear eye protection and a mask to work with it – to keep the dust out of your lungs and eyes. But once it’s on, it’s on for decades without maintenance. )

Again, consider running the siding “the wrong way”. It will draw viewers eyes UP to the roof, increasing the stature of your structure.

IF you run the siding “up and down” with a gap between panels, you can actually catch rain to focus into a rain gutter located at the base of your wall. Use this “gutter” to not only collect rainwater for irrigation, but to actually plant herbs in. We fab a “channeled gutter” that actually has space in it specifically for planting. Weepholes in the channeled gutter allow water into the root area of your planters. Think of it as “drip irrigation” with an assist from Mother Nature. It sounds crazy but it works better than you can imagine. You get herbs and garden watering without lifting a finger. :)

A rainwater harvesting system built into your roof will provide a  LOT of water in your location. One of the really nice things about the  Olympic Peninsula is the regular rainfall the area is blessed with.  You can build 1300 gallon tanks out of galvanized pipe.

ferguson-residence- 2 - 1300 gallon -outdoor-rainwater-retention - tanks

Okay, forget the hokey chain link fence. Don’t blame ME. Blame Dwell Magazine. It’s where the illustration came from! :)

Clad the upper ISBU levels in dark earth tone Hardiplank. Again (can you tell I’m serious?), I’d run the plank siding vertically instead of horizontally to visually “pop” that structure straight up into the sky.

Think BIG glass. You don’t need to go get “custom windows” made. I’d use the large insulated panes we use on malls and skyscrapers to fill in “the big holes”. It’s important to draw nature in when you’re building confined spaces.  Use high quality, energy efficient windows everywhere that you need windows for ventilation. We often combine big panes with repurposed basement windows below them to allow for ventilation.

The “Main level” incorporates everything from your wish list and includes a custom “lift up” living room table that expands into a dining room table. It’s not really “customm”. It’s a catalog table easy to resource.

(2) Chairs could be exchanged for a “pull out” sofa bed system.

The bedroom is comfortable, cozy and spacious. Pedestal bed system for added storage. Glass Block shower to let in light so that you don’t feel “confined” while you shower. Full sized organizer closet. You get the drift.

Beyond the mini-split A/C Heat units on both levels, I really want you to consider using the flue from the woodstove to help heat the bedroom level.  We put diffusers on the flue pipe that not only protect you from the hot flue but add a cool artistic element to your room. It’s not Sci Fi, it’s just heat radiation. Hot air rises. Between the heat generated in the main floor area by that wood stove and the heat that radiates from the flue pipe, you’ll be cozy even in hard winters.

I can easily picture an alternating step staircase that could be set into the Bedroom staircase landing leading up to the terrace level. Or, you could  use a traditional ladder affixed to the bathroom wall. In either case, a hatch would allow easy access to the terrace. I’d op for a big alternating step staircase because of it’s added artistic element and ease of transit by everyone from children to adults. I know you want to keep the cabin “non-organic” but it’s hard to resist framing your rooftop terrace level with timber-framing and then topping it with shingles. Realistically, you could steel frame the terrace and then clad the structural members with siding, boxing them in so that they appear to be solid beams/timbers.

A nice gable pitch would give you more than enough room for a photovoltaic panel farm on  the roof with enough pitch to shed snow.

You might also consider building in glazed frames to make that three season rooftop a four season wonder to behold. Hinge them to swing down onto locking sashes and you’d be able to secure the entire terrace in minutes.

I can just imagine sitting in a soaking tub on that terrace, watching the sun set into the Pacific… while I think about buddies  of mine in Seattle, stuck in downtown traffic… LOL!

Until next time…

RR Avatar

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.

cc4441
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.

cc4441-1

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.

cc4441-8

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.

cc4441-4

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.

cc4441-6

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:

http://www.gizmag.com/double-storey-container-office-tokyo-tomokazu-hayakawa-architects/32606/

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!”

Muriwai6

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.

Muriwai9

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…

Muriwai7

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

Muriwai1

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!

Muriwai10

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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Okay, sometimes you have to wait for Christmas Presents…

25 Dec

We’ve all gotten “gifts written on cards” during the “holidays”…

You know, “The card is redeemable for X” kinda stuff.

On several of our blogs (and even on our facebook page) we’ve been talking about chicken coops lately. Many of us live in areas where it’s possible to raise chickens for both eggs and meat. And, some of us live in places where there are other critters who like that idea too.

The hardest part of building  “outbuildings” is that they require a footprint in your yard.

(Oh stop it! I heard that! You don’t have to say; “Doh!” so loudly!) :)

My point is that you want those buildings to multi-task if at all possible. The more they do, the less you build, right? Now me, I’m building and then laying down paths as much as possible, because it means less lawn to mow, but others… well… they like their grass.

One of our readers “issued” one of these “IOU Holiday Gift Cards” to his wife, who raises chickens. Now, he didn’t really consult with us first…

He just “Hail Mary’d” us after he actually did it…

He “challenged” us to figure it out. In other words, he wants us to bail his sorry butt out. Oy. :)

Hey, we’re always up for a challenge. And we already know that his wife is getting really P.O.’d at the local deer population, that seems to think her potted herb plants are then tastiest things on the planet.

So, what we’re proposing is that we use a small ISBU to build a chicken coop near some trees. Insulated and then “veneered” with wood planking harvested on site. the “coop” roof will reach out to embrace a pair of trees, allowing a large deck to be constructed several feet up off the ground. This elevated deck will be the perfect place for her to raise her herbs, far out of the reach of the local deer. (Imagine that… deer pre-spiced and herbed”… I’m gonna have to give that some thought… maybe while cradling a rifle…)

This deck serves two purposes. It also creates the area beneath it for the chickens to play, carefully fenced and protected from critters who think them “tasty”….

It’s going to look something like this;

ISBU Treehouse Chicken Coop

Now, before you get all “gushy”, note that while we were thinking along similar lines, we didn’t create  the original structure in this “fourth and twenty” plan. It was originally constructed out of wood by an architect in Vienna, Austria (Erwin Stättner) as a playhouse for his kids. The “hutch”, located below the decking was built to protect the family’s prized rabbit from local foxes. We’re simply replicating it using a Corten Steel ISBU as the primary structure and then converting the lower space to a chicken coop capable of sustaining several chickens.

Stay tuned for more information on this really cool “Chicken Castle!”

And from all of us, to all of you;

“Have a VERY Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays!”

We’ll see you guys and gals after the New Year.  :)

RR AvatarRelated articles

Finally a way for Corten Containers to get you into hot water in public!

13 Dec

We live in the mountains of Montana. It gets COLD here. Subzero cold. Sometimes it lasts for weeks.

We’ve found that nothing beats the heck out of a chill like a hot bath.

We’re the “Kings of Corten”. We do things with these boxes that many can’t even imagine. We’ve been doing it for 35 years…

But every once in a while, somebody get’s a “crazy Corten idea” that makes us think, smile and then… grab the welders.

Anyone reading my blogs or Facebook page knows that ISBUs (Shipping containers) have been used to revolutionize housing for decades. We started hacking them up in the 70’s. We have ISBU homes in America that have their third generation of families living in them. Hell, we still had hairlines back then… :)

We’ve seen some pretty crazy ISBU stuff along the way including fortresses complete with corner lookout towers, high country ski cabins dropped in the rocks in the Alps, Corten pyramids piled 6 stories high and even extreme sports facilities that have scuba diving operations housed inside them.  Speaking of cabins, we’ve even seen them hanging from wires suspended between trees. Watch that first step! Oy! :)

Now a handful of guys have started a Kickstarter program to turn ISBUs into bathhouses. Yep. Bathhouses.

It’s not really that far-fetched. We’ve turned them into saunas.We’ve turned them into spa houses with a Jacuzzi tucked inside. We’ve turned them into freestanding shower facilities in some really remote locations.

But this? This brainstorm is called “SOAK”.

soak_concept

It’s basically a “green embrace” of bathhouses to give them a better reputation. We all know about bathhouses and the reputation that some claim they foster. But in other countries, public bathing is a social event as much as a hygiene one. The biggest problem with bathhouses is that they use a lot of energy. Or… do they?

soak_concept-1

The main premise behind SOAK is that it aims to remove some of the guilt which may result from being a regular visitor to resource-heavy spas or bathhouses, by using renewable energy sources and recycled shipping containers.

The concept calls for 10 percent of SOAK’s water to derive from collected rainwater, while its designers state that all required electricity would come from solar power thanks to photovoltaic cells on the roof.

The Kickstarter literature says that SOAK will be a well stocked bathing facilities, complete with cold plunge buckets, showers and a solarium. The guys planning SOAK say that the capacity would be dependent on a small physical footprint that would also make sustainable energy more practicable.

soak_concept-2

See more of this project, here: http://urbanbathhouse.com/

RR AvatarRelated articles

A box is a box…

29 Aug

Many fans of RR know that we’re involved in a lot of “unusual designs” where alternative housing is concerned.

Here’s one that we were NOT involved with, but we readily admit that we’ve had similar thoughts about a structure like this – using 20′ High Cube ISBUs;

This unusual design-build structure consists of a basement structure, with a manually-operated tilting metal box placed on top of it like a wedding cake topper.

caja_oscura-14

Note that with little to no natural light available when the “lid” is secured, this dwelling is probably not going to work for those with a fear of being trapped in a small enclosed space…

caja_oscura-10
… but if you’re looking to “Zombie-proof” your home, this might be a great starting point.

The 1 bedroom, 1 bath – with a basement – home  (I’d call it a cabin)  measures approximately 914 sq ft and contains a kitchen and living area located in the metal box above. A staircase gets you up and back into all the designated spaces.

But here’s the fun part;

caja_oscura-6
The entire upper area of the home is transformed into a semi-outdoor space once raised with a steampunkish hand-crank, and the metal box itself is constructed from iron tubes, with a galvanized corrugated metal exterior and MDF interior.

(If it was me, I’d resolve that “open air” issue with retractable skirts made of mosquito netting or something to keep insects out. Can you imagine the reverberation of a thousand flying insects trapped in there, swarming around your head?) ;)

caja_oscura-12
When the “lid” is closed, the structure is transformed into a sealed vault, private, secure and defensible against “any miscreants that might wander into your yard”… you know, like those “undead stumbling around looking for brains…”

The article about the home (featured in Arch Daily) says;

“The actual impetus behind THIS home’s unique design, and whether or not such mundane practicalities as adequate ventilation and fire safety issues have been fully handled, isn’t altogether clear.

“The project of Caja Oscura is a project of material and immaterial technology at the same time,” explains Javier Corvalán (the architect).

“In some way it is an antithesis of many known definitions of architecture, as the idea is made by absence of light.”

caja_oscura-9
I can see how this could be done. And, it could be quite affordable. I’d still use a 20′ ISBU or two to pull it off as the increased strength that they would provide would be an asset in the face of heavy weather, zombies… or worse, visiting relatives. ;)

Built with a budget of $30,000 US, the home was completed in 2012 with a few grand left over for “stuff”… ;)

Consider this also;

When “open”, that raised lid “face” could be used as a splendid “photovoltaic farm”.

Cut in a few skylights or sola tubes to bring light into the cavity and it’d be a lot more comfortable.

Add a padlock hasp to the box so that you can sneak up and lower the box when it’s inhabited by your idiot brother in law and break out that bullet-resistant Master Padlock and you have the perfect place to teach that bozo a lesson for drinking all your frosty cold beverages…

I’m just saying…  :)

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Everything is on FIRE…. again. Oy.

20 Aug

Okay, if things weren’t hectic enough…

Sunset on Fire - web

We spent the night “firespotting”…

Montana is a beautiful land, filled with mountains and rivers and creeks and “woodland creatures”…

Unfortunately, when it’s fire season, most of them end up in your “backyard”…

Uninvited but good with butter - web

I wonder how big a grill you need to spit and roast one of these “mack trucks on hooves”… ;)

RR Avatar

I’m “Dwelling” on Prefab Construction…

12 Aug

Dwell Magazine (one of the mot respected architectural magazines in the trade) recently put us in their “Special Issue – Prefab Sourcebook”. It’s an “Industry Resource Guide for Prefab Construction”.

Dwell1

In our view, ISBU construction is what Prefab became, when it grew up! :)

Dwell is, IMHO – the cutting edge of architecture. It’s the “go-to” well-spring when you need inspiration, answers and encouragement. And… Dwell has talked about us before. This time, they put our book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” in their “preferred reading list” category.

Dwell3You can find out more about our book in the sidebar.

When we asked “WHY?” (when inquiring about our inclusion in their “Special Issue”), they simply told us that;

“After seeing your work, we feel that people need to know who YOU are”.

Wow. Yes, we smiled smugly and felt like we were finally making a difference. Yes, we giggled with glee. Then… we looked at the pile of work on our desks… and we went back to work on ISBU projects scattered all over the globe.

About Prefab, Dwell went on to say:

“Dwell put prefab back on the mind map 12 years ago when we explored an “old” idea with innovative design minds eager to iterate a classic mid-century idea. Since then prefab has been innovated and evolved by smart designers the world over, and we return to it again and again because it is engages the hearts and minds of our readers and designers with the solutions it puts forth. It is a topic that people are drawn to with such zeal and interest because it inspires us to think of what is possible, and reminds us how beautiful prefab can be.”

We’re honored that the guys and gals at DWELL think highly enough of us to include us. We’ve been paying dues, one family at a time, for over 35 years. It’s about time our work started being noticed!

Stay tuned. We have some really exciting projects to share with you.

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