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.

 

A little “Piney Steel Cabin” goodness!

27 Nov two-tree-house

I don’t usually talk about “religion” in public. However,  many of my readers know that I’m Jewish. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time in my adult life in Israel among “my” people…

One of the reasons for this might surprise you. It’s not simply a quest in search of “those of my tribe” as I place one foot in front of the other on the path to enlightenment…

The world is, after all…  made up of many tribes. It’s not all about ME. It’s not all about MY religion. It’s not all about MY firm or MY work. It’s actually because I’m delighted to discover that some of the work of my fellow Jews is exciting and most enjoyable. It’s because some of the most creative minds I’ve ever encountered are harbored in these old and hallowed hills…

I travel a lot. We’re involved with the building of ISBU homes and ISBU structures all over the planet. Each trip exposes us to local cultures, local treatments that both inspire and delight us.

And then, I go home. My readers know that as an American, I live in the mountains of Montana in a beautiful location cradled high in the rugged Pacific Northwest of the United States. I’m surrounded by trees, rivers, lakes and creeks.

Lake Como

We’re constantly in the company of wildlife – for example deer, elk, turkeys (did I mention it’s Thanksgiving here?) and some of the most pristine fisheries in the nation. Each walk through the woods reveals yet another wonder, another mystery given as if a gift from the Big Guy upstairs.

As we seek to “enhance” that which has been so graciously given us, we’re frequently asked if we’re going to build any little cabins or bunkers in the woods here to demonstrate the prowess of Corten Steel. Okay, we recognize that many of these emails are from readers “fishing” for an invite to Corten Central, but… many of our readers are actually planning or building small vacation cabins, fishing or hunting cabins or just “getaways” in the mountains using these incredible Corten boxes.

We’ve given this task much thought and research and spent a lot of time investigating the work of other extremely talented people as we move forward with our own little Corten Cabins tucked into the trees..

For example;

We’ve already shown you the Steel Farmhouse built by CampCo in Texas.

CampCo1

It’s a brilliant piece of architectural work designed and constructed by a very talented Custom Home Builder. It’s reminiscent of “Corten Constructs” like the “Containers of Hope” project in Costa Rica that so many of us are enthralled with. Like the Steel Farmhouse, it’s so simple that it almost defies the elegance it provides.

Here’s another little “Corten Cabin”, this time nestled in the woods that looks right at home in the trees. What may surprise you is that this little gem isn’t in Montana. It’s in Jerusalem. Yes, Israel. Who would have thought?

two-tree-house

Golany Architect’s “Two-Tree House” integrates Jerusalem pine trees into a pre-fabricated ISBU (Shipping Container) structure to provide the 1 bedroom, 1 bath Corten Cabin with natural air-conditioning and shade which also shields the cabin from harsh sunlight that would otherwise damage the exterior deck and wood.

two-tree-house-5

The designers insulated and finished the ISBU structure off-site, moved it to it’s foundation and then applied the required masonry and timber cladding to give this cabin a more rustic “cabin” feel. two-tree-house-4

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Two recycled shipping containers were prepared off-site (much like we often do here in Montana) to allow prefabrication of the interiors and installation of the fixtures. Once the finished containers were shipped to the site and set on the “L” shaped foundation, the cabin was finished out by combined some native masonry and timbers to literally “mate” the cabin to it’s surroundings. Note the window treatments. Think about where this goes. You can fortify your cabin so that when you leave it at the end of the season, it’s design lends itself to it’s security. The beauty is that it looks “natural” – like it’s been there forever.
.
Our Corten Cabins here on the ranch will seek that same bonding, the creation of a sustainable symbiosis that allows the new structures to embrace those old places…
It starts with finding the right site. We’re going to talk about that very soon.
Stay tuned.

Some Thanksgiving LOVE

26 Nov Pathway to Pleasure

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we perch greedily in front of “Bird and Beverage” surrounded by our families and friends on this fine Thursday afternoon celebrating Thanksgiving, many of us are counting our blessings and looking forward to projects near and dear…

Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a beautiful mate who stands beside me and reminds me daily that life is indeed good. I have a wonderful son who makes great strides daily as he wanders his world here in the mountains. I have  wonderfully talented children who are out there in the world contributing to making the world a better place. I’m surrounded by incredibly skilled people who have devoted their lives to helping families near and far fulfill their dreams of ISBU Home ownership and the pursuit of a sustainable life. I have good friends I can celebrate life with and even count on in times of need…

I actually have friends. Wow. Who would have thought? LOL!

By the way…

In Montana, we don’t usually go to the store or the butcher shop to buy a turkey. This is because among our many blessings is the constant appearance of flocks of wild turkeys that wander into our yards…

Who needs a Butterball when you already have them in the yard!

Who needs a Butterball when you already have them in the yard!

Many of us know that the concept of Thanksgiving goes back  to the 1620‘s when the English Pilgrim Settlers fought for survival on the New Continent.

Almost half of those original Pilgrims lost the battle for survival during the first winter and many more died in the seasons to come as they fought for the skills and knowledge that would sustain them. They made many mistakes. Survivors had much to be thankful for. As they moved forward in a new place, they sought to keep their feet on the path to progress, safety and sustainability.

As many of our readers explore sustainability, many have emailed us asking about “the path”. It’s a road that we are very familiar with, having spent most of our adult lives in it’s exploration.

Okay, so our path is presently covered in new snow. That’s okay, we remember what it looks like;

Pathway to Pleasure
We’re certain that this exploration of “path” is in part due to discussions about planning and progress as families share  their dreams of a sustainable life with loved ones over the holidays. It’s important that your family understands what you are doing especially after seeing that big truck full of Corten boxes show up in the yard. Many of our families seek the help and assistance of their relatives as they move toward grasping their dreams of “Corten Security”.

Many of our readers ask us about the steps taken by families as they fulfill their destiny as “ISBU Pilgrims”. In our book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings”, we help families understand  just where the path leads. Once they’ve determined that they actually want to embrace and then explore that road, we start teaching them about the processes they will use to build their ISBU homes and fulfill their Sustainable dreams.

Over then next few weeks, we’re going to discuss some of the processes and paths leading to developing and building an ISBU home.

Speaking of development, the first installment will discuss residential land development. After all, before you build a home, you have to determine where it’ll sit, right?

In closing, as you sit in front of your hearths at home counting your blessings, I’m reminded of this poem;

An Iroquois Prayer for Thanksgiving

We return thanks to our mother,
the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines
for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,
the beans and squashes, which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
which, moving the air, has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and the stars,
which have given us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
that he has protected his grandchildren from witches and reptiles,
and has given us his rain.
We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in whom is embodied all goodness,
and who directs all things for the good of his children.

May your days and nights be blessed!

Stay tuned!

Are you Paul Bunyan or Norm Abrams?

7 Nov Pinus_taeda_loblolly_pine_large_crown

As Fall turns into Winter (it’s already snowing here in Montana) we’re working feverishly to get builds completed globally and to get projects phased for next Spring.

Here’s an example of how things work when you build with ISBUs;

Many families build their “structure” during the Summer and Fall, knowing that the containers themselves provide an opportunity to have a “weathered in” building by their inherent design. Of course this depends on how extensive the modifications have been, but some families actually set the boxes and connect them without removing the larger exterior openings (like doors and windows) so that they can work on the interiors during Winter.

This allows them to work inside without getting rained or snowed on and it protects the unattended building from theft or vandalism. If  you’re  building  your ISBU home using “sweat equity”, this can be a real advantage.

Some of the families we work with really push the envelope in ingenuity and craftsmanship. And some of them exceed our expectations by taking on large tasks that other families fear to face.

Like these guys;

Dear RRONIN,

Here in North Carolina we’re finally setting our (4) shipping containers on CMUs and the wrap-around decking is being supported by steel reinforced Sonotube pilings attached to footing forms just like you taught us to create. We didn’t end up setting the ISBUs on pilings as we’re building on top of a newly constructed concrete block basement.

For our decking support we used Sonotube Builders Tubes in 12″ diameter with Bell footing forms and in the ISBU structure we’re using 40′ High Cubes, just like you taught us.

It seemed so daunting at first, building 12″ pilings by hand. That is… until we actually started doing the work. After we figured out the first one, the rest of them were as simple as pie! An auger and a couple of strong backs made the work child’s play. We braced the piers (like you suggested) as they extend above grade 3 feet.

As you suggested, we insured that the concrete was the consistency of “the dry side of oatmeal” and then we used the agitator you urged us to rent to get all the air out of the pours. Prebuilding the rebar reinforcement frames and dropping them in before pouring concrete worked well. Heeding your advice to work “gently” with the agitator… well it worked tremendously.

As you recommended, we did install j-bolts in the pilings so that we can bolt steel plates into the piling caps to weld the container rails to. We left the casings on after the pilings set, as you suggested.

(FYI: Alex literally walked us step by step through the piling manufacture process. We sent him a photo of what we wanted to achieve and he did the rest. His advice made it so easy that we’re wondering why other families don’t embrace this. We saved thousands of dollars.)

You’ve talked extensively about using portable sawmills and even kilns crafted from Shipping Containers to “make lumber”. It’s always intrigued us and we’re ready to take on the challenge. We’ve arranged to lease a portable sawmill and we’re going to build a kiln on-site using an ISBU and a Wood Gasifier. The wood gasifier will later be used to heat the residence.

We have several (over 30) large trees in a variety of species that needed to be removed on the site to allow our home to find it’s resting place. We’re thinking about having the trees sawn into wide planking next Spring and then incorporating that into our build.

This is in part to re-floor the container after the removal of the existing flooring, which we understand  is toxic.  Additionally, we’re thinking  that flooring our ISBU home with planking crafted from local trees will (a) “bond us to the site” and (b) further our “repurpose and reuse” program which is making this entire build possible. We know how strongly you feel about recycling, repurposing and reusing and we want to follow in your footsteps.

Do you have any tips about the wood selection, preparation or even the flooring installation? We know the mechanics of actually installing the boards into the  box, but is there anything  that we might be overlooking? Selecting trees from the site and then making lumber is a mystery to us.

BTW: When do we remove the sonotube casings? Do we even have to? Will they just eventually rot away?

Signed,

Corten Carolinas

Dear CCs,

Making flooring from reclaimed trees isn’t difficult. (We regularly drop, sawmill, kiln dry and fabricate flooring as part of our rural and off-grid projects.) Saying that it isn’t “difficult” does not mean that it’s “easy” however.

I can’t possibly explain the entire “lumber” process in an article, but I can touch on points that I think will be crucial to your success.

First, you have to identify the trees you have available. A good place to start would be this publication;

http://ncforestservice.gov/publications/IE0115.pdf

I’ve seen the site you’re building on and I’m betting that most of the trees you’re looking at are loblolly pine, a wood that is used quite frequently in commercial lumber applications.

Pinus_taeda_loblolly_pine_large_crown

Species identification is crucial as each species of trees has a different drying characteristic. It’s not best (or even smart) to simply cut whatever is laying around and kiln in the same passes. It rarely works that way.

Sawmill selection is really, really important. Sawmills are like Fords and Chevy’s. You have to select the sawmill for the task. You can see many different operations in work on Youtube and that’s a good place to begin your orientation of the “lumber making” process.

(BTW: I prefer Dodges or Chevys to Fords, hands down. Let the hate mail begin!)

Wide boards are quite attractive but not without peril for the DIY homebuilder. While they seems a no-brainer because it appears that less boards equals less labor, it doesn’t really work that way. The reason is simple; The wider the board/plank, the more potential for movement. Wide boards will “cup” and drift more frequently. When you’re making lumber yourself, think of this as “warp on steroids”. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and you’re going to need a local woodworking mentor to achieve your goals.

For example, after sawing, wide planks must be carefully “stickered” and sorted/stacked in the kiln to insure the best drying environment.

kiln stickering for charging

A kiln sticker is basically a long wood or plastic spacer that is inserted between boards to aid in the drying process. The purpose of “kiln stickers” is to separate each board surface to maximize air can flow over each board surface and increase the potential for the evaporation of water. There’s an art to stickering lumber in a kiln. Stickers must be selected and placed so that they give adequate support to the boards so that there is minimized warping of the lumber and decreased breakage.

And you’re not simply trying to create “2x4s and 2x6s”. Since your intent is to make flooring, you really need to pay attention to details. Stickers should also be chosen to minimize the stains that sometimes develop in the lumber where is makes contact with the stickers. Important consideration of stickering isn’t easy. It includes thoughts about the species and grade of wood used for your stickers, the moisture content of your stickers, the sticker size and the placement in stack, especially in areas of your load supports.

You can find a lot of information of stickering (and sticker selection) using a resource like Google.

Once you’ve sawn and kiln-dried your boards, you want to acclimate them in your home for as long as possible to get the adjusted to their new home. Place them in a spot that will get good air flow and stack tall and narrow. The idea is to use as little space as possible and maximize airflow to the center of your lumber stacks.

Once I’m ready to go, I set up a router and then start running my tongues and grooves in the flooring boards to begin my install process.

A pneumatic nailer and barbed nails work best for wood flooring in my experience.

And thanks for taking it easy with the agitator! While the use of an agitator isn’t recommended, I find that it does aid in creating strong pilings. The idea is to coax the air out of the piling without doing damage to it.

There are several manufacturers that make a snap on form footing that attaches to the bottom of a Sonotube casing to create a “bell” or  footed piling. Where applicable, I highly recommend them.  They look like this;

Footing FOrms attached to Sonotube piling tube

FYI: Here’s the original photo they sent me of the pilings that they had in mind to give me an idea of what they were tackling;

Sonotube Piling Example

Builder’s tubes are designed to be used without stripping the casing away. There are tubes that require removal, but builder’s tubes are most commonly used  by the DIY families for decking and fence posts, etc…

http://www.sonotube.com/UserFiles/sonotube/Documents/Sonotube%C2%AE%20Builders%20Tube%C2%AE%20concrete%20forms.pdf

Until next time…

AK

The Horrors of Halloween!

31 Oct

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Okay, so it’s raining and the wind is blowing enough to remind you to put on extra layers, but…

Tonight our villages and venues get invaded by ghouls, ghosts, goblins and (gasp!) geeks!

Minion Boy - web

We’ve put down the welders, turned off the machinery and we’re eagerly awaiting the tribe of troublemakers that will show up in our yards tonight! Here at Corten Central, we want you to have the best Halloween experience ever! As you venture out with your little ones, please consider the  following tips:

Nothing beats “TRICK-OR-TREATING”!

Keep little ghosts and goblins safe with costumes that have closed toe shoes and some kind of reflectors.
As cool as they may look… leave the masks off for the trick or treating.
Stay on the sidewalks and out of  the streets.
Cross at corners and look both ways.
Only visit homes with their porch lights turned on
Carry a flashlight. Carry a big knife. Carry a taser. Carry a bazooka. Safety first! Your mileage may vary.
Parents, wear comfortable shoes so you can keep your little ones safe by walking with them.

If you’re at home handing out the goodies;

Resist the urge to jump outta the bushes and scare little kids. (It may be funny for a split second… but it ain’t kosher!) LOL!
Make sure there are enough outdoor lights on to let kids navigate your walk and porch safely.
While it’s fun to hide “Trick or Treat tripwires” and snares in the leaves…
Sweep the leaves from the sidewalks and the steps.
Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over. It could be your kid. Be responsible.
Restrain any household pets (or better yet bring them in the house and put them in a bedroom).

If you’re headed out to a party, remember this;
Every cop for a hundred miles is on duty tonight. They WILL be looking for YOU.
Be Safe! Be Sane! Be SOBER!
There will be idiots and sobriety checkpoints everywhere. Act accordingly!

Now get out there and get some candy!

Guys, remember to hide the goodies in your ManCave after trick or treating so that your significant other can’t find them and toss them out while she reminds you that you’ve lost your girlish good looks and figure. LOL!

Something old plus something older = Something NEW!

28 Oct

So, a funny thing happened to me on the way into oral surgery…

While dealing with the  pain of a shattered molar, I started  thinking  about a hillside on a mountainous piece of canyon that was giving me fits.

The heavily wooded hillside rolls down into a belly that holds a natural groundwater pond. Beyond the approximately 1 acre pond is a pasture that will hold a beloved Percheron Stallion that’s literally as big as a mountain himself. The property is SO untouched, the discovery of that big beautiful beast so inviting, that it seems only natural to keep it as natural as possible.

From the gate above the property and it’s accompanying  drive down the hill to the homesite, it’s essential to allow the casual spectator to bask in the wonder of all those trees, flora and fauna, without being confronted by a monument to someone’s ego.

And, I have an excavator… LOL!

So, the idea is to cut a pair of ISBU homes into the hillside by cutting into the existing hill and then shoring the cut up with a CMU (concrete block) retaining wall. They’re going to look something like this;

ISBU Hand Qtrs and Guesthouse for back 15

Think of it as “Montana Mountain Minimalist Modern”. LOL!

A 2,400 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with detached garage will face down the mountain across the stallion pasture.The garage and workshop are detached because of the severity of the  grade and the desire to keep some of the sounds of  machinery and tools away from the residential structure. Don’t worry, it’ll be easily navigated in spite of the difficulties of the site.

A small (approximately 800 square foot) guesthouse will be located on the opposite side of an enclosed courtyard framed by the  retaining wall and the building clusters. A  single ISBU container will form a “bridge”  between the pair of residential structures, allowing movement between the homes in the dead of winter without having  to actually “go out into the snow”. Think of this as a simple “Mother-In-Law” quarters arrangement. And that Corten created “pass-thru” (reinforced, insulated – with SPF of course –  and glazed) will actually serve as a small walk-through greenhouse supplying  fresh produce to both households.

The guesthouse will look out over the pond, which is framed by the trees and mountains behind  it. A stone patio and recessed firepit will allow guests  to bask  in the splendor of the Montana Mountains. One of the luxuries of living in a deep Montana canyon is that you’re  surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas  on all sides.

We’ll close off the courtyard using reclaimed barn siding from a few old structures already located on the site and the stone for the fireplaces and retaining wall veneers will come from a local quarry.

You literally won’t see the residences until you round the corner as the grade drops. As you enter the property all you’ll see is trees, mountains, deer and elk.

Most of the materials and fixtures used in the construction of this hillside project will actually come from the “reclaimed and repurposed” piles. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me. I love it when a plan comes together.

Once the pain killers wear off, I’ll give you a better idea of what we’re doing. It’s going to be incredible!

Stay tuned!

AK

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