Roaring Lion, Montana – Forest Fire update

1 Aug

Okay,

Life is hectic when you’re having fun, right?

We’re jumping around all over God’s Creation like crazy people. It’s the trials and tribulations of ISBU madness! LOL!

SO after regrouping…

We’re getting set to jump back out again to the East Coast late Saturday. A client aircraft stuck in London gained us an extra night in our own beds as we work out delays in aircraft transitions. While we need to get to NY, we’re grateful for the sleep.

We do what everyone does in “stand-by mode” on Sunday morning. We take care of clients, email and surf the internet. About lunchtime on Sunday as I’m helping my son build a Lego menagerie, Sheri runs into the living room and tells me that the Hamilton, MT area is on fire, and it’s bad. After a long, hot, dry spell, I immediately wonder just how bad it is.

Moments later, I realize just how bad it really is. This photograph, taken moments before, arrives in my email. The fire is located in the mountains behind Hamilton, in a remote area of a canyon that we used to live in. It’s rugged, beautiful and heavily forested. And, it’s on fire.

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This is distressing because (a) it’s a FOREST FIRE, and (b) we have many friends and my child (and his mother) living in the path of the fire.

While we immediately start to reach out to friends and family to determine who needs help evacuating and to explore the information available to determine how severe the circumstances are, we walk outside our home and realize that you can actually SEE the flames on the ridges burning in the distance.

It should be noted that I don’t currently live in Hamilton, I live 20 miles to the north in a small farming/ranching community. By observation, the firestorm is 200 feet high, fueled by thousands of beetlekill pine trees that explode like Roman Candles when set ablaze. At this point, the fire line is already over a mile long and racing DOWN the mountain toward the highway.

Roaring Lion Fire
An hour later, we get a call from friends who still live in the Roaring Lion canyons that we originally evacuated a few years back due to forest fires. Some of my readers will remember that I’m talking about an incident where at 1AM we were contacted by Sheriff’s Deputies who arrived to wake us up and help get our most important valuables into trucks so that we could get escorted out of the canyon, the fire raging right behind us.

Luckily, we had a small home in town to run to. Many families were not as fortunate as we were.

Yesterday, a wildfire started near the Roaring Lion trailhead that almost immediately turned the surrounding forest into a fire tornado. Within the space of about 4 hours the fire had spread to over 2,000 acres in some of the most rugged terrain in the Bitterroot. The guess is that it was ignited by a campfire or an errant spark. There were no storms or lightning strikes in the area.

We grabbed gear and headed toward the fire to gain some scope on it’s severity. In many years living in the Bitterroot, we’re accustomed to forest fires. They are a part (terrible, albeit) of life lived in the rugged mountains of Montana. The fire was much worse than we expected. Raging out of control, it quickly spread through canyons as the winds blew it toward Hamilton. Even with several helicopter and aircraft already on scene dumping water and fire retardant, it was clear that they were overpowered by the fire racing through thousands of dead trees that virtually litter the countryside.

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In Montana, the US Forestry Service uses a “zero management” program in the local forests. This means that they let Mother Nature take care of herself. Today, once again, we see what happens when you ignore threats to life and limb. While environmentalists will tell you that it’s just “nature’s way”, many would argue that allowing conditions to erode to the point where they endanger local lives and a way of life is just foolish. It’s an argument that local residents have had with US Forestry officials for decades, that seemingly falls on deaf ears.

I’ve personally fought forest fires. I’ve run fire crews in these mountains and I can tell you that when the neglected beetlekill trees ignite, they literally explode setting everything around them on fire. The inferno created by these events causes fire lines to jump like Olympic Athletes from ridgeline to ridgeline in moments. This is particularly frustrating as we realize that those dead trees can be harvested and turned into beautiful cabinetry and flooring which is highly prized by many custom builders throughout this nation. The monies regained in this endeavor could go a long way toward offset responsible land management fees.

After conferring with locals last night, Sheri and I made a bonzai run to Missoula (a large college town to the north) to buy everything we could find to help establish a fallback center for firefighters and first responders. We literally emptied shelves at both Walmarts as we loaded carts with supplies that will allow those retreating from the fire lines (for much needed rest and refueling) the food and showers necessary to help prepare them for their return to the fire lines.

As we drove back down into the Ravalli Valley at almost midnight, we could actually SEE the fire raging almost 50 miles away. Those little spots of red in the photograph below are actually flames almost 100 feet high. It reminded me of those photographs you see of lava flowing down mountains after a volcano erupts. The entire valley glowed eerily from the light of the rapidly spreading fires.

Roaring Lion Nightfall - Valley Entrance View
As we got closer and closer to Hamilton we watched as fire truck after fire truck passed us heading toward the fire in the dark of night toward the glow.  Sadly, we also witnessed tow trucks towing damaged fire vehicles out of the fire zone.

After we dropped off bins loaded with supplies to the First Responder center, we drove up into surrounding hillsides to look up at the fire as we headed back to the safety of our home. I can’t tell you how blessed it actually felt to be safely removed from the fire zone. The forest fire literally looked like it ringed one end of Hamilton as the fire burned toward some of the outlying communities that are home to many of the Bitterroot’s residents.

Roaring Lion - Marcus DalyER

This is the forest fire burning behind Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital. There’s a river separating the hospital from the blaze. Thank Heavens for that.  At least as doctors and nurses care for the injured, they won’t have to worry about being evacuated themselves.

To say that this fire is burning out of control is an understatement. With many, many local firefighters and law enforcement officials standing the line, it’s clear that these brave men and women will personally face danger and destruction as this fire vents it’s wrath on our homes.

UPDATE:

As the sun rises today (Monday, August 1st), many families aren’t as lucky as we once were, as many homes and structures (barns, outbuildings, cabins) have been lost and over 500 homes in the surrounding canyons are evacuated (mandatory) as one of the biggest Type One fires in Ravalli history turns what was pristine forest into a firestorm. Type One teams are quickly arriving and assembling from all over Montana and the region to fight this fire as I type this.

This fire erupted without notice. There was no opportunity for preparation by local residents. Fueled by acres of dead (Beetlekill Pine) trees and 90+ degree heat, it’s like the hillsides simply exploded. Hundreds of animals and livestock are presumed missing or dead as homeowners escorted by Sheriff’s Deputies abandon residences, unable to search for their horses and cattle as the fire races through the canyons.

Returning to the area to seek out lost livestock is impossible. It’s simply too dangerous and cannot be allowed. While it’s a terrible tragedy, the loss of human life is the first (and most important) priority.

This forest fire is currently raging and burning toward Hamilton proper, a town located approximately 5 minutes from the fire’s epicenter.

This morning, some of the downtown areas of Hamilton, MT are covered in a thick layer of ash. As the sun starts to rise today, it simply illuminates the thick red clouds of smoke pouring off the mountains.

It’s going to be a dark day in Montana…

Strong winds have pushed the smoke and ash from the storm all the way to Butte, MT – over 2.5 hours to the east. We’re talking about a distance of 155 miles.  Estimates are that the fire will cover 4,000 acres by midday with thousands more acres of forest standing between it and population centers.

With 40 degree temperature drops aiding the first responders, the firefighters are staging to stand between the fire and Hamilton homes.

Many local families are opening their homes to those families displaced by this firestorm.

Remember that the Bitterroot is a small mountain community. 500 evacuated homes is a huge deal, when you consider the baseline population of this valley. Local restaurants have turned their kitchens into supply lines for firefighters and refugees from the fire. Churches between Missoula and Salmon, ID have opened themselves up to serve as shelters for the families fleeing the fire.

As the day begins to bloom, we can only hope that everyone survives this day. It’s hard to think about tomorrow, when today brings such hardship.

To those first responders, brave firefighters and LEOs… we can only hope and pray for their safety as they face this inferno trying to protect and save the citizens of Ravalli.

To the families fleeing the fires, we can only pray that they are evacuated to safety without loss of life or limb.

It’s going to be a very long day, in a string of very long days to come.

To friends and clients:

As we reach out to assist those assisting others in this terrible time, we ask you to be patient. Our deeds and prayers are with all those impacted by this fire and as we work to aid them, we pray for their safety.

We’d ask that you remember Bitterroot families and the brave men and women that stand the line to protect them in your prayers as well.

Stay tuned.

Happy Independence Day!

3 Jul Happy 4th of July, Everyone!

Hey Campers!

I wanted to take a moment to wish every single one of you a terrific, safe, memorable 4th of July!

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Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

We’re spending Independence Day weekend surveying and documenting a rural mountain site for future construction. It’s a small tract of riverfront acreage that just begs for a Corten Cabin and a beautiful barn so that the horses and cattle can run amuck, just as the Big Guy upstairs intended!

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The beauty of ISBU housing is that it’s “transportable”. By that, I mean “deliverable” and not “nomadic”. You can build your boxes out as “modules” and then truck them to site to mate with your prepared foundation.

You build your ISBUs out in a fab barn or even on a lot someplace local and easily reachable. Then, you load them onto flatbeds or roll-off trailers for transport to your homesite.

I’m a big proponent of using 20′ High Cube ISBUs for home construction. There’s a reason for this;

They are easily transportable, readily available, easy to place on site using farm equipment, and extremely versatile. It’s like building a home using your child’s Legos!

If you’re using pilings constructed from SonoTubes, it can’t get much easier.

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I love the idea of living in liberty, in a home built with my own hands!

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.  ~Benjamin Franklin

For those of you that yearn for our attention… LOL!

Happy 4th of July, Everyone! May your celebration be safe, relatively sane and wonderful!

Happy 4th of July, Everyone!

We’ll be back in the office sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Please, have a glorious time this weekend, enjoying family and friends.

Happy Independence Day!

30 Jun

Greetings Campers!

Now I know that you’re expecting another “Gather round the campfire whilst I tell ya a story about steel and determination”…

But today we’ve put the welders down and picked up another set of tools…

You see… campfires are now officially a no-no!

Let’s just jump in, shall we?

That “Hail and how are ya?'”  camper reference seems perfectly appropriate as we dive into the July 4th weekend!

I say “dive” as I’m hoping that you are all headed to some glorious beach, river or lake to find respite from the heat waves baking the country!

Here at the homestead it’s been 100 degrees plus daily and it’s not just tempers that are flaring.

Mother Nature has decided, in her infinite wisdom, to try to burn off most of the surrounding forests and we’re seeing the wildfires double in size, in less than a day.

Wildfire4

Just south of where I live (by a few miles) a wildfire is raging out of control. The fire line is miles long as it consumes everything in it’s path.

Many readers remember that a few years back I had to evacuate my own home to get clear of the horrific wildfires that threatened our canyon.

Now, many other Montana families are revisiting that adventure…

Property owners who haven’t evacuated their homes have dug in and fire crews from all over Montana and elsewhere have been mobilized to help combat the flaming inferno that is now the Bitterroot Montana forest. I say “flaming inferno” because the surrounding forests are filled with “beetlekill” timber that is almost incendiary when it’s introduced to a spark. “Beetlekill” trees (trees killed by insects) are literally “standing dead” trees just waiting to go off. The trees literally burst into flames like bombs when embers hit them.

Wildfire2

Despite my personal injuries (I’ve torn muscles in my abdomen), I personally spent the wee hours of last night up in the fire zone, surveying the fire’s growth and photographing it as it jumped from canyon to canyon. You could literally see the trees exploding as the fire races from ridgeline to ridgeline.

As I did this, property owners not in their yards clearing out a firebreak or standing the lines in the surrounding mountains… were packing cars and trucks with precious belongings in case they needed to flee the path of destruction that roars toward them.

Why  I telling you all this? I mean, I’m sure you have better things to do than worry about rural Montana, right?

I’m telling you about this  because I want to remind you to BE CAREFUL as you enjoy your July 4th Independence Day extravaganzas!

One stray spark and you can literally turn your party into an inferno!

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Q. What do Montana Firefighters see as they battle flames in the darkness? . A. They see HELL 80 feet tall and raging out of control.

If you’re  camping or playing in the  woods, PLEASE EXERCISE SAFETY!

Please be careful where you point those sparkleys!

Please make sure that the remains of your fireworks displays are  extinguished! Put a bucket of water next to your display area!

Please make sure that campfires are out and doused with water after you’re  through roasting , burgers, hot dogs and marshmallows!

Please exercise safety in every aspect of your celebrating!

The lives you  save… may be your own!

A bed is just a bed unless it’s not!

15 Apr

From the “why didn’t I think of that?” files;

There’s this guy who has decided that the best furniture encompasses every need in one small footprint package. His name is Roberto Gil and he calls it “Urbano”. After looking at his work, we think he’s pretty darned smart.

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His forte of late seems to be “loft beds” where your bed is actually perched on top of your other bedroom  furniture to maximize room space. Now, it should be noted that we build loft beds into containers all the time, but I have to admit that his system makes ours look like something cobbled together in shop class by comparison.

They say that “good things come in small packages”. In this case, they hit that nail square on the head.

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Measuring 119 inches in length and a width of 83 inches, with the furniture system topping out at 107 inches, you can see where I’m going with this. Let’s do some math, shall we? (Not that new “Common Core” crap. I don’t possess enough patience, crayons or even paper to do arithmetic that way!) Let me see, carry the one, divide by hammer-struck thumbs and a few splinters and you get an entire bedroom suite in an approximately 9’11” long x 6’11” wide x 8’11” tall package.

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The Urbano system, based on a King sized bed is the largest furniture unit in Roberto’s “Casa Collection” line. It features interior and exterior closets, dressers with drawers, shelving and a desk underneath its bed. The clearance under the bed platform is tall (almost 6’4″) and that’s enough to enable most people to walk under it without stooping or hitting their heads. The cool part of this system is that you can purchase it with either ONE or TWO staircases depending on your needs. Each staircase has built in storage drawers. To make things light and bright, mirrors and lighting are installed.

As intriguing as this is, it does make me wonder what this format would look like tucked into the bowels of an ISBU bedroom.

Imagine a suite of “sleeping rooms” built from ISBUs that had these units installed. Imagine three containers placed side-by-side, with the outer ones being “sleeping rooms”. Now imagine the center one being a shared “Hollywood” style bathroom.

If you were to build a gable roof with a decent pitch (say 6/12) over these (I’d build that roof on a kneewall of about 3’… and run the single staircase configuration on the inside walls (to take advantage of the gable height) you could do something pretty cool. It would also allow you to utilize the top of that “bath” container in the middle as a shared loft. The best part is that the kneewall floating that SIP (structural insulated panel) roof could also have integrated glazing to allow you both sunlight and ventilation.

You knew I was going to slip SIPs into this conversation, didn’t you? Hands down, SIPs topped with a waterproof membrane and SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing) are my alltime favorite. I’ll mention them every chance I get!

Think about this;

If you used 20′ High Cube ISBU containers to do this you’d have (2) King Sized bedrooms and a large, spacious bath suite tucked into a 20’x24′ footprint. Okay, so you’d be just a little cramped in the headroom department on one side, but by using high cube ISBUs you have a ceiling height of 8’9″. Couple that with a kneewall and this is actually doable.

It the Urbano bed system is just too much for your needs they even have a smaller Arca system that might fill the bill.

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Unlike the Arca series of beds, the Urbano beds really do have the whole shooting match installed. They feature interior and exterior closets, dressers with drawers, shelving and a desk underneath the loft bed.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-4Roberto knew that one color wouldn’t be enough so both the Urbano and Arca beds are available in two color options and prices start from (hold your breath) US$15,000 and $6,000 respectively and you’ll wait about 10-12 weeks for your units to arrive.

Look, I warned you to hold your breath…

You CAN buy these in the United States, but I’m thinking about something else entirely. Wait, I’ll tell you about it after I catch my breath. That price tag had me hyperventilating… LOL!

Okay, I’m back…

What if you went to a big box store like IKEA and purchased prefab cabinets and such and then cobbled this together yourself? Look at the photos. You can SEE how easy it is. Heck, a couple of carpenters could build a similar unit for a lot less than $15,000.00. (Well, unless maybe they’re Union Carpenters!) LOL!

(I know, I know… please send your hate mail to alex@nahnahnanahna.com)🙂

After passing the photos around here, I’m thinking that we might just have a go at building something similar, based on ready-made “catalog” cabinet kits. No offense to Roberto (because quite frankly his idea is pretty darned good) but we don’t know anyone with enough extra cash laying around to shell out $15 grand for a bedroom set for the kids.

Stay tuned.

PS. ALL of the images for Roberto’s bed systems were collected from Gizmag.com. Why? Well to be honest, I don’t have $21,000.00 to go out and buy copies of these bed systems! That’s actually more than it’d cost me to build the ISBU structure for the three rooms we’re talking about!

(But I have to admit that I wish I did. I think they’re pretty spectacular!)

Corten Canopy – Simple, solid structure…

11 Apr Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

Dear Ronin,

Unless you live under a rock…

We all know that when it comes to ISBUs and Container Construction, you’re the man.  You’ve become our “Corten Champion” for good reason. We know your dedication to “everyman” and it’s greatly appreciated.

I live on a farm property in Iowa. Outbuilding space is at a premium and I need a place to store hay temporarily. I mean that I need seasonal storage. The hay comes in and then it leaves to market. By early winter, it’s all gone. At this point the cover is no longer necessary.

Lots of people have suggested that I simply purchase and build one of those prefab steel buildings. You know the ones, the ones that look like Quonset huts. I guess they don’t understand what “temporary” means.

I already have a pair of 40′ Containers that house farm tools and provide a place for a secure workshop. They sit about 25′ from each other with dirt in between them.

I can weld and I can follow instructions. I don’t need a crayon drawing, I just need some inspiration.

So, I’m gonna venture  out from my village full of idiots and ask the stupid question;

“If I offset a pair of 40′ ISBUs, how do I cheaply and effectively provide seasonal cover between them that is weather resistant?”

Help Me, Obiwan… all my friends are dopes.

The Hay Jedi

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

Dear Jedi,

Okay, you piled so much praise on top of that question I can’t really ignore you. I was going to talk about world peace, space exploration and cold fusion, but… oh well. LOL!

First, the praise (while greatly appreciated) is really unwarranted. There are a number of ISBU specialists (okay…. maybe 8…. or 9) out there who recognize that ISBUs combined with “Sustainable Architecture” are the future of this nation. We realize that for this great nation to heal, we have to first have safe, affordable, energy efficient, environmentally responsible places for our families to sleep.

(Oops, that cost us two… 7 left!) LOL!

I suspect that there are those who among us who actually overthink structural solutions because it’s simpler to just “buy” a solution and modify it to serve their purpose. That’s a luxury that  many of us don’t have.

(Yikes… there goes three more ISBU guys! Now we’re down to 4!)

Jedi, your question isn’t really “strange or even odd”. We live (by choice) in rural America. We’re actually lucky enough in life that we got to choose where we’d live and raise our families. It’s a great blessing to us and we wouldn’t trade where we live with anyone on the planet. That said;

We get asked this question all the time and we’ve even been faced with your “storage problem” ourselves. As working ranchers, we build shelter for horses and cattle all the time. As working ranchers we also grow hay. We bale in large and small squares and that hay either gets trucked or railed to the buyers. While it’s sitting, we want it protected from the elements.

Now you can either simply tarp it (like we do our round bales), or…

You can build a canopy out of galvanized pipe and tarps that runs between a pair of ISBUs to form a “tent” of sorts. Once you’ve seen the photos of the finished product, you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. At least we did.

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

You can see how simple it is.

What you want is something that is easily erected  and taken down (in a few days by a few guys), something that breaks down for easy storage (perhaps stored in the cavity of one of the ISBUs that supported it in the first place) and something that is durable and easily repaired if necessary. The reasons for the canopy are obvious. It has to provide protection from the sun, rain, wind and snow.

(We actually cheat and use the stacked hay as the “scaffolding” required to erect the canopy cover. It beats hanging off the end of a cherry picker or a forklift.)

The canopy has to be “idiot proof”. The reason for this is simple. At some point, your idiot brother-in-law is going to have to help you erect it and you want to insure his survival through the project.

(Oh stop it! I’m just saying what you’re thinking. Admit it. You love the big dork, you just feel like thrashing him or pushing him off a roof every once in a while! Huh? Okay, well maybe it’s just me.)

Where was I? Oh yeah…

Your “canopy frame” is going to be constructed out of galvanized pipe that you can find at any big box store (like Home Depot or Lowes).

Remember that it’s not necessarily the OD (outside diameter) of the pipe that implies strength. It’s the WALL THICKNESS of the pipe (the pipe material thickness) that determines how strong that pipe will be when used as structure. You want that pipe wall to be as thick as possible. You’re using it to create rafters that will interconnect to form a big tent frame. We use 11 gauge pipe for the risers and at least 13 gauge pipe for the rafters.  Yes, it will be more expensive to construct. But built of high quality components, it will perform well and last for decades.

The connector fittings that you’ll require to construct your galvanized pipe frame will come from the same place. We’re not going to use anything exotic or “special order”. Using “off-the-shelf” parts insures success and easy replacement if you need extras.  You’ll need the typical L fittings, T fittings, 3 ways and 4 way fittings.

The only thing that you’ll want to “special order” will be the twistlocks that we’re going to use to take advantage of the mounting points already engineered into your containers.

What?

Yes. You said you could weld. We’re going to make you prove it. We’re going to affix the canopy to the shipping containers using the twistlock cavities built into them. The reason for this are twofold;

(a) You have a perfectly good mounting point already sitting there waiting for you, and

(b) There are some people out there that actually drill mounting holes into the container to affix the canopy to. We think this counter-productive as you’re then perforating a previously weather resistant structure.

What WE did was to use a pair of fabricated 40′ steel channels (you could even use angle iron) to create a bottom plate for our “tent runs”. (We used scrap steel so the only fabrication we required is to weld similar segments together to establish your “run”.) We modified and then welded twistlocks to the bottom of the channel at the appropriate mounting points for our containers to affix the frames firmly to the top of the container.

And yes, before you ask, we DID flash the connection point between the rails and the containers to further weatherize the structure.

This gives your canopy a “resting place” to nestle into. Here’s where I’m going with this;

We’re going to build a freestanding, weather-resistant canopy assembly that fits down into that created and secured rail on either side, using bolts (drilled through the canopy frame base) to secure it into the new shipping container channels.

We based the entire frame on 1 7/8″ OD  galvanized pipe. Over trial and error, we’ve found that this pipe dimension is cost effective, works the best and proves itself to be the most durable over time. All of your connecting fittings will be sized to allow use of this pipe.

And once you build your frame, you have to cover it with something, right. Well, by now, you know us and the way we think. We reuse, repurpose and recycle everything that we possibly can. While there are those who applaud us for our “green environmental” status, I assure you that it’s just good design, common sense and reflective of the fact that we aren’t made out of money. We don’t know anyone else who is, either.

We used old billboard tarps that we got from a local advertising agency for scrap costs. They’re durable, cheap and easy to source. Overlapping them makes covering a large frame pretty simple. Using billboard tarps also makes canopy replacements easier if Mother Nature spanks you…

We’ve found that by using a multi-panel solution, you’re only replacing a damaged panel and not the entire top. You can replace a panel quickly and then repair the old damaged one when time allows.

FYI: Turn the tarps over so that the white surface faces up. That while surface will reflect sunlight and your hay (or your livestock) won’t care if Subway is having a “supersale” on Spicy Italian sandwiches. It might make YOU hungry, so we suggest that you simply refrain from staring up at that delicious, mountain sized sandwich if at all possible.

(I wonder if that qualifies as an endorsement of Subway Sandwiches? Maybe they’ll send me a fistful of coupons? LOL!)  

Maybe you don’t LIKE Subway. Well, that’s just unAmerican and around here we have names for people like you, but… if you  wanted to go “high tech” with your canopy cover you could use large multiple layer (4 layer) poly covers (12 mil at least) that were fabricated from Ripstop with UV treating and grommets every 12″ on the borders to allow for secure fastening to your canopy frame.

It seems like a lot of grommets but you’re going to want as many tie-down locations as possible. A cover like this will last for about 5 years at least – barring Mother Nature trying to bite you on your behind. There are other tarp materials that give longer lifespans and they’re priced accordingly.

Okay, you get the jist of what we’re building. You’re going to build a freestanding cage out of that pipe to span your two existing containers. It will set on top of the “inner” top rails of the boxes in that new channel and provide you with one long continuous covered bay to put your hay, horses, disobedient children or unwanted relatives into.

I’m not telling you how to raise your kids or your relatives, but I can tell you that making good on the “Subway Solitary Confinement Module” threat at least once will get those dishes and the yardwork done a lot more often without an argument. Just saying…

I’m also not going to get into dimensions because I don’t know how much hay you’re actually storing, but I can tell you that you can get a pretty significant peak height (over 7/12 PITCH) if you think out your solution.

When we determined that we needed more “height”, we simply added containers on top of the pair we’d started with.

(I know, I know… it’s easy to do that when you’re the self-proclaimed “King of Containers”. But hey, it worked. And now my kids have a playhouse that even the elk and deer can’t get into!)

Plan on running rafters consisting of a “galvanized pipe rafter assembly” every 4′ on center. With additional pipe stringers placed between the segments (at least 2 per side) you can build a sturdy, long-lasting pipe canopy cage that will last for years and years. The closer those rafters are, the stronger your canopy will be. We like 4’OC. You can like anything you want. It’s a free country… for now. LOL!

One of the things that we did (that isn’t depicted in these photos) is that we added those “stringers” into the runs between the tent rafter assemblies to add more support to the canopy in case of a freak snowstorm or heavy rain.  When observed without the canopy the framing looked like a gigantic “skeletal” roll cage. I told my kid that it was the start of my new “Transformer” barn. By the rolling of his eyes I could tell that he didn’t believe me.  However, he DOES understand that if he doesn’t do his chores… LOL!

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

There are those who do NOT add stringers in between the  rafters. The claim is that the snowload tends to create sagging of the tarp cover at the stringer points. Okay, that’s reasonable… but we prefer the inherent strength of the galvanized pipe tent cage assembly as described to the replacement of a damaged tarp panel. YMMV. Again, free country… so far. LOL!

The tarp is secured to the frame using ball bungees passed through the grommets and you’re  going to need a lot of them. Figure on at least 150 (and I’d order more of them so I had plenty of spares over the life of the canopy). Note that if you’re  using billboard tarps, you’re gonna be punching a lot of holes in the borders of those tarps and applying grommets.

I’ve found that this task is best accomplished by kids who don’t want to be grounded for the entire summer. Okay, it’s tough love, but I do need a tough tarp. I’m just hoping that the kids therapy bills don’t eat up the savings this build gained me in my annual ranching budget. 

This canopy is a pretty easy solution and one that can literally be constructed by a family in their yard or service bay area. We’ve done these as “family projects” and even as “vo-tech colunteer projects”.

Before I close this I want you to know that there are sites where you can buy these canopy solutions, pre-packaged. If you’re not feeling particularly handy, you might google them.

A cursory search revealed HisCoShelters.com and I spoke with the company owner, Larry this AM. His canopy solution is efficient, pretty durable and cost effective. If you contact Larry’s company with your dimensions he’ll ship you the tarp cover (which comes in several thicknesses depending on your goals and objectives) and a big box full of the fittings you’ll use to build your frame. While his fitting are proprietary and designed specifically for this purpose, the provided drawing will give you all the galvanized pipe lengths (which you’ll source at your local hardware supplier).

Then it’s as simple as following the diagrams to erect your canopy.

He also has a downloadable book on his website that further defines the canopy building process and the products he provides. I highly recommend that you download this book and then use the information in it to help you design your solution.

Here’s his contact information;

HisCoShelters.com
larry@hisconw.com
360-217-7186

It should also be noted that I have no affiliation with Larry or HisCoShelters.com and I receive no compensation for his participation/inclusion in this post.

So campers, there you have it. If you need a canopy to store hay or feed, a shelter for horses or livestock, a carport for your truck or tractor… this might just be the solution you’re looking for.

Until next time…

All you need is a little “bump”!

1 Feb

Greetings, Campers!

It’s that time of year…

You know, that time when (faced with the winter snow and ice outside) thoughts drift (no “snowdrift” pun intended) to “things Corten”.

Elk Tribe - web

As we look out into our yards, many of our building families are eagerly exploring their hopes for Spring, as they begin to draw final lines for their ISBU Home projects. And they better keep at it, because Spring is rapidly approaching. Heck, we’ll get our few days of Spring here, eventually!

As these families get their plans in order, we’re seeing a LOT of indicators that demonstrate that the US isn’t in “recovery” in the housing areas. A lot of investment is happening in Real Estate, but it’s not in the areas you’d expect. It’s in the “rental housing” arena. As times grow hard, more and more families and individuals are renting in lieu of buying that “dream home”.

We’ve received many, many responses lately from singles and couples asking about affordable ISBU (Shipping Container) solutions that use a single 40′ ISBU as structure.

We’ve all seen the medium and even high density buildings being created using these boxes to house people.

High Speed Man Camp - from ISBUs - Oil Country

And, YES… it does make us feel like we’re looking at sardines packed in a can.

But, what about if you simply bump the box out to gain additional footage?

Adding 4′ to a box in width isn’t particularly challenging. In fact, we do it all the time (usually to gain an entry foyer or a space for built-ins). All you are doing is expanding that ISBU to sit on a 420 square foot footprint.

And, dropping it onto pilings that you cast by hand (using Sonotubes and concrete) makes it a no-brainer.

TheSingleBoxRocks
We’ve shown you this before, but I think it’s time to show it to you again. 

Imagine this as a Mother-In-Law apartment or even as an income apartment on your existing property. It’d make a nice guest house as well.

  • Do you have a student in High School or College itching to “get out of the house” without leaving the property?
  • Do you have a rental property that needs more units that are potentially duplexed or even stacked?
  • Are you looking for a “tiny house” type residence?

The “bump” wall is perfect for additional glazing (windows not shown) or even a big sliding glass door and deck.

Or, executed in “rowhouse style”, you could add a front and rear deck to this lil gem and it becomes quite luxurious. Imagine this plan staggered so that each home and deck had privacy! Simply offset these units by 8 feet and you’d have a very attractive rental complex.

While this unit was originally designed to be “home built” by “sweat equity” families, it could easily be executed by builders and contractors without a ton of headaches.

(For all you “naysayers” out there, this home has been built several times in the $50 per square foot range. The costs vary by location, labor costs and choice of materials. If you build it yourself and reuse, repurpose and recycle materials diligently, you can achieve amazing things. Don’t forget to add “beer and beef” to your budget to help your friends in the trade, and volunteers! LOL! )

And you don’t have to DIY this home. While the price per square foot would rise (because builders and sub-contractors don’t work for free) it would still be quite cost effective.

The solutions are out there, folks. You just have to reach for them.

O Magic 8-Ball – Where, oh where is housing going?

15 Jan

Here at “Corten Central”, we’re pretty concerned with the direction of family housing. It’s vital that families have homes that work with them and not against them, especially in troubled times.

We teach families globally to create symbiotic housing environments that provide a nurturing of family life and not a seemingly endless maintenance cycle that requires infusion of resources to keep going forward.

As housing evolves, we find ourselves more and more dependent on systems and gadgets that seemingly make life worth living. But do they really?

yoda

Yoda said; “Live in harmony, you must.”

He was exactly right. Sure, he was 800 years old. But he knew that to live a good life, you have to eliminate the stress and chaos.

(Okay, you can begin this process by NOT telling your relatives where you are moving… but at some point you have to think about the home you’re living in.) LOL!

In a perfect world, your home and lifestyle merge to create a sustainable path that makes the burdens of home ownership easier. In some cases with good design and the right elements, it makes home ownership seamless.

Are you paying attention to the AIA’s (American Institute of Architects) recently announced “future housing trends” for 2016 and beyond?

These “future trends” look suspiciously like a return to the past, at least in our case. For example, we’ve always been proponents of using natural materials that lack synthetic or chemical components that can prove harmful to family members or pets.

We’ve always urged families to build redundant power and water systems that will insure family safety, seamlessly. It’s about being self-reliant and self-aware. It’s about taking control of your life. It’s about being responsible for your family.

We’ve always urged families to use “environmentally responsible materials” whenever possible to insure family health and well-being.

We’ve preached recycling, repurposing and reusing. It just makes good sense and done correctly it can produce amazing results. We love reclaiming materials and turning them into magic.

We know exactly what we are talking about. We have a lot of practice and field work behind us. We’ve earned our scars.

We don’t just “build stuff”. Many of you know that on the philanthropic side, CHC and RR are heavily involved in “first responder” humanitarian aid. Our non-profit foundation is internationally known for being there first and doing the job required no matter what chaos exists. We understand “disasters”, both natural and manmade, at a level that few others can even have nightmares about.

haiti

(Ask us about Haiti, the Philippines or Nepal sometime…)

Let’s look at the “trends” that the AIA just announced as “pivotal”;

1. Disaster-resistant designs

This means designing and building “environmentally responsible structures”. With more extreme weather brought on by climate change, architects and builders are already seeing that design features meant to insure the durability of homes in low-lying areas are being embraced nationally, regardless of GPS location. There is, indeed… a need.

agaton-floods-philippines

Architectural Design firms are already incorporating protective features intended to safeguard homes from flooding, fires and wind damage in impact areas. This will become common even in noncoastal areas.

Such protective measures can include elevating a home several feet up in the air on pilings, building safe rooms in the home to protect the residents and installing water cisterns or providing back-up power generation.

2. Healthy building materials

Everyone is talking about this lately. We’ve all seen the “local farmers market movement”. We’re reminded that eating healthier leads to a better life and it improves the local economy at the same time. It’s win-win.

This “organic” movement is influencing building material selection as well. Home builders and their buyers have become more educated about building materials that don’t promote good health and clean living.

Think of all of the materials in your home that “linger on after the tradesmen, construction workers and installers have left the building”. Paints, flooring, adhesives, and even cabinet materials off-gas, giving off fumes that can make you and your loved ones sick. Remember also that those off-gassing materials are often installed low enough in your home to be harmful to your pets as well.

TIP:

Look for caulking materials that are solvent free. Look for adhesives that are water based. Insulate with cellulose instead of fiberglass. Look for solid wood cabinets and fixtures instead of their laminated or particle board counterparts. Anything laminated or particle board based probably contains formaldehyde.

Did you know that although plywood is NOT a “healthy choice”, the exterior grades of plywood are actually preferable to their interior grade cousins? It’s because the phenol formaldehyde binders of exterior grade plywood are waterproof and more stable than the urea based formaldehyde binders used in the construction of interior grade plywood materials. And it should also be noted that the binders in interior grade plywoods are only water resistant, and not waterproof. It makes a big difference.

3. Smart-home automation

Architects anticipate that smart-home automation will continue to intrigue families as the features include more and more “relief of input” in areas like temperature control, elevated levels of security and more efficient lighting programmable from a laptop, tablet or even your cell phone. Costs for these products have dropped significantly. They are no longer gadgets for the rich and famous. With a little planning and foresight, they are easily incorporated into your home.

home-automation

The idea is to make the home work FOR YOU. If done properly, the home becomes a nurturing family member.

4. Designs catering to an aging population

We’ve known for a long time that good design means building responsible structures that look after the inhabitants as they grow older. Trend driven design fixes that will allow people to continue occupying their homes longer are likely to become more popular as the families age.

Hallway2

These features will include elements like wider hallways. Think about this for a minute.

In our view, hallways should NEVER be dark, narrow gauntlets crafted to be navigated with caution.

Hallways should embrace a family and add functionality and efficiency.  Wider hallways provide the opportunity to utilize that space by allowing the creation of multipurpose areas, additional (and quite stylish) storage and even provide display locations for family heirlooms and galleries.

They become focal points instead of confining and herding you to other locations.

Great design contributes to your quality of life. Great design increases function, reduces costs associated with building and focuses on efficiency and reduction of maintenance.

Now add lower windows and features like smaller footprint structures similar to that of cottages and bungalows to the mix and you have something. 

5. Energy-efficient design

We’ve always known that homes should work with you and not against you. We’ve always known that resources diminish over time. Looked at your power bill lately? Has your water bill gone up?

Good design includes efficiency, especially in areas of water use and energy consumption. But you can pursue this too far. Take LEEDS for example. While it SOUNDS like a great idea, LEEDS adds significant costs to construction that few homeowners realize as a viable return. GOOD design will lend itself to not only efficiency and saving, but provide alternatives in times of hardship.

SONY DSC

For example, photovoltaic panels (PV’s) sound expensive and complicated when first embraced. But boiled down, they’re simple, relatively easily understood systems that are easily monitored, insuring that your family has reliable power despite local conditions. Remember that when your neighborhood is suffering rolling brown-outs and your house is the only one on the street with power because you get it straight from the sun.

We’ve always thought “out of the box” despite teaching families to live within them. And as we grow older, wiser, more experienced… It’s good to see that we really weren’t the “crazy guys” our peers claimed we were, way back when.

It’s funny what a few decades does to prove theory (and dispel myth and urban legend) when properly applied.

Holy Hernia, Batman! Can you “heavy lift” an ISBU?

12 Jan

Okay, while we sit here in the snow and ice pondering our next post, I thought I’d share this little gem with you.

The proud folks at Boeing, the parents of air transportation everywhere on the planet…

… have finally decided that maybe, just maybe, a shipping container is for just that. Shipping stuff.

You see, when aircraft move cargo, they don’t use a shipping container, they use a palletized system that allows that cargo to be loaded with a high level of versatility and efficiency.

But what if you could just shove that loaded shipping container (and several of it’s friends) into the cargo bay of a modern aircraft and just fly off into the wild blue yonder?

I mean, military aircraft carries heavy equipment all the time.

So, the idea of moving containers using aircraft should be doable, right?

Check this out;

And BOEING is serious about this;

Patent Information:
Number – US 9,205,910 B1
Title – CARGO AIRCRAFT FOR TRANSPORTING INTERMODAL CONTAINERS IN TRANSVERSE ORIENTATION
Inventors – Lowell B. Campbell, Mukilteo, WA (US); and Victor Ken Stuhr, Seattle, WA (US)
Assignee – The Boeing Company, Chicago, IL (US)
Filed on – Aug. 20, 2015
Appl. No. – 14/830,867.
Application 14/830,867 is a division of application No. 13/968,422, filed on Aug. 15, 2013, granted, now 9,139,283.

Coming up;

Looking at “Future Architecture” sometimes means looking at the past.

Stay tuned.

 

 

It’s a brand New Year!

1 Jan

As the New Year dawns;

New Years Day 2016

I’m reminded that this IS the year for change. Many of us have spent long hours on the couch, saying things like;

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda…”

Look, you’re not getting any younger, my friends. All of us are caught up chasing the same clock. You know, that one that ticks off days, weeks and months of your life, as you sit idly by wondering where the year went.

And now… 2015 is GONE. As 2016 debuts, it’s time to dream, plan and then act.

Okay, okay… many of us will make New Years Resolutions that aspire “hope, change and challenge”…

But few of us will actually rise to the occasion and embark on that long, lonely road to happiness and fulfillment that requires almost immeasurable amounts of sweat, blood and tears… and the realization that success will actually require communicating at high levels with your significant other, your kids and (gasp!) your relatives.

The facts are;

While the administration and Congress touted growth in 2015, we just didn’t see it in our driveways.

The recession has left new home construction on shaky legs due to the less than robust economy, the scarcity of land to build on and the ever rising costs of construction… and IF you could overcome all those obstacles that same recession has left many families out of the buying market.

Those traditionalists who have purchased homes are bringing with it a new view on home ownership. Gone are the days of “swapping up in pursuit of that perfect abode”. What we’re seeing in the data is a sentiment that make homes far more durable as investments. People are buying “the good bones” and then remodeling that home to suit their family’s needs.

They’re digging in and they’re making no bones about it. (I know, I know… a pun. Go ahead and groan. It’s okay. I groaned a little bit too!)

“First timers” aren’t gonna revitalize the market either. Kids aren’t getting those degrees, getting married and then rushing out into high paying jobs that stimulate growth in the economy. Businesses simply aren’t building jobs to fuel a new economic revitalization.

Less than 30% of all home purchases last year were by First Time Buyers. In fact, it’s been that way for the last 19 months in a row. You can blame that on the economy, the fact that we’re not growing new jobs and that the future is uncertain despite optimistic claims to the contrary.

With housing prices and rents rising, many “first timers” are already struggling to save for down payments without splurging for extras. They’re still trying to get into the door.

Housing starts are always a good indicator that the economy is moving the right direction. But new housing construction isn’t exactly setting any records either. The only real growth has been in… you guessed it… rental properties.

People aren’t buying. Investors are. Guess what they’re buying?

You guessed it. Savvy investors are buying rental properties. It’s because the economy has created a vacuum that has caused the rental market to boom. Many families are simply renting as they wait for the dark days to end.

Multi-family structure starts are moving rapidly and are doing better than they have been since 1989. In fact (since we started tracking these starts in 1974) they’re at an all-time high.

Did you know that over 90% of all recent construction over two units was rental based or inspired?

Back in the day, these structures were being built as condos. Now, what we’re seeing is “simple rental”. Build ’em, book ’em and then keep them full.

It should be noted that the construction of single-family homes hasn’t improved much. While some tout that building permits for single-family homes hit their second highest level since the downturn in October, permits are actually running just 1% ahead of last year’s pace through October. That’s hardly inspiring.

Okay, enough doom and gloom. Let’s look at the other side of that coin;

What we’re seeing here is that our building families are redefining HOW they will live and then, they’re going after it. They aren’t scared and they aren’t comfortable following the neighbors in herds down the path. They’re blazing new trails.

These families are embracing the hope by taking control of their own lives. They aren’t as concerned with gadgets, fancy textures and upgrades.

They’re concentrating on energy efficiency, sustainable products and low maintenance appliances and finishes that relieve them of future labor intensive upkeep.

Which brings me to the heart of this post;

Along with many single family homes and buildings, we’re building an awful lot of ISBU based rental properties this Spring.

Guess why?

Because when you talk to architects and builders about “coming building trends for 2016” and they use terms like “energy efficient designs”, “healthy building materials” (low chemical, for example), “sustainability”, “home automation and monitoring” and “designs that grow with families” – to embrace changes in lifestyle, age and ability… we know exactly what they’re talking about.

You see… we’ve been using these concepts to produce GREAT ISBU Architecture all along – for over 30 years.

Now, either we’re visionaries or somebody needs to get out of their cubicles and watch cable tv for a season or two.

Stay tuned. We have a LOT of stuff to show you.

Happy New Year! May you and yours find health and happiness in the year ahead!

AK

2 is better than 1! ;)

28 Nov

We work, we toil…

… and the piles of paperwork, reports and plan sets just doesn’t get any lower!

In fact, they’re getting higher as the year draws closed!🙂

Mailbag time!

Dear Ronin,

I’ve been watching this blog for a while. In fact, we’ve been thinking about you for years…

(That’s a lot of Tylenol I owe you, I suppose…)

We have a rather crazy and unique problem that you may be able to solve.

Um… I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’ll try.)

We’ve come into a piece of property that has an existing small cabin on it. Somewhere along the last four or five years, one wall of the cabin was consumed by fire. The fire started in the kitchen and then razed the kitchen and attached half bath.

Subsequently, the “burnt out wall” was supported by installing an new header and a couple of “jack studs” and they just put plywood over it to close it off. I’ll assume they just figured that whoever inherited it would resolve the conflicts they left…

Long story short;

Brother inherited property, took one look at remains of cabin and location of land… and punted.

It’s located “very rural”. 5 acres. Graded road in summer – impassable by anything but 4wd in winter. No services. Well, water tank (tank farm), septic, generator and batteries.

We bought it for a song from him, literally. It will make the perfect “getaway” for long weekends and a week here and there in the summer.

We closed on it last week.

What I’d like to explore is something you talked about early on, in the blog;

Using ISBUs to form ADDITIONS to existing structures.

I cook. My wife does dishes. Nothing “sexist”, it just works out better that way.

I’m a “trained” chef, if you count some school and endless hours of the FOOD Network…

(Bought one of those “on-line” bogus diploma/transcript sets, did ya?) 😉

If possible, we’d like a layout that allows both of us to work simultaneously, without stepping all over each other. We’d also like a breakfast bar, as it’s a tiny cabin and it would eliminate the need for a dining room table. It’d only need to seat two adults.

(If we have guests, we’ll simply eat outside on the screened porch.)

WE really DON’T want an island kitchen. We don’t feel like we have enough room for it.

Thoughts;

Warm light colored woods / low maintenance solid surface countertops and backsplash.

Farm Sink, not a double sink made out of stainless steel.

GAS oven, not electric.

The most energy efficient refrigerator we can find.  Refrigerator just large enough for a weeks groceries, please.

We’d also like to rebuild that half bath as we plan to demo the antiquated full bath in the bedroom, to enlarge the bedroom space. We’re going to build out a TUB Bay in the bedroom. “Kinda hokey”, but we think it charming. The wife has always wanted one.

We have a 22′ opening on one side of the kitchenless/bathless cabin now.

The installed header (simply to shore up the building “for later”) can be removed and moved UP to create an opening up to 14′ high.

What we’d like to explore is building a kitchen and bath into a 20′ ISBU and then hauling it out there to set it into place once it’s finished, just lke you’ve been talking about. In fact, we got the idea from YOU…

You’ve talked about doing exactly this several times… so now we’re calling your bluff.

Can you help us?

Signed,

No Kitchen, No Bath, No Glory…

***
Dear NoKBG,

Sorry. Can’t help ya. Nope, not gonna do it.😉

Seriously, it’s a easy fix.

On many occasions I’ve talked about how modular ISBU builds are.

We’ve discussed on the blog the idea of using ISBUs as a base for Home Additions, simply by fabbing your box in another location and then transporting it to site, to plug into a demo’d wall waiting to receive it.

You have a lot of ambition and approximately 160 square feet to work with. Let’s see what we can do;

Objectives;

  • Dedicated Cooking Area
  • Dedicated Dishwashing Area
  • Half Bath
  • Breakfast Bar with seating for two
  • Ample Storage and pantry area for vacation use.

Here’s what I’d do;

[insert 20′ kitchen/bath sketch]

You don’t have building codes, so you have some “liberty/flexibility” in the design process and execution.

Now you have 2 separate kitchen prep areas. You have your side, she has hers.

You have the ability to use that sink faucet as a pasta faucet or to shove pots and pans directly into.

The Wife has a large farm sink and some countertop to pile drying dishes.

Using a High Cube ISBU means taller cabinets – “Mucho” pantry and storage space.

As the kitchen opens to the main room, you don’t feel “hemmed into a tight space”.

You get easy access to the half bath – which is really nice sized so you don’t feel like you’re doing your business in a closet.

You have a breakfast bar that can also be used as additional cooktop prep space if required. It’s also a good place for spectators to perch while you dazzle them with that “Iron Chef Morimoto” knifework you’ve probably been using…

Window placed to allow ample lighting to both sink and range, so you won’t get bored staring at each other.😉

If you want to pursue this, you know where to find me.

Start by clicking HERE.

 

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