Look! It’s a “recycled house,” Martha! I think they used GARBAGE!

14 Jul

Welcome to ALTERNATIVE HOUSING 101.6 and a half…:

Okay, I think I have it all figured out. (Kings “X”!)

The goal is to build housing, El Rapido!

And, it has to be “semi-conventional,” and provide all the usual amenities.

Now, I’ll warn you in advance that this is going to be a long “post,” because I’m going to discuss the house I‘m building out of “aircraft hangar parts, and shipping containers,” specifically.

It’s my hope that by the end of this post, you’ll start to be able to picture exactly what we’re about to do.

Now obviously, you’re going to have to use your “mind’s eye,” so use your “nice” crayons, okay? We have enough obstacles as it is! LOL!

Let’s recap my previous posts, just a tad;

As many of you already know, my families personal housing situation is grim.

We, like many other families in coastal Mississippi, live in the “graces (be they good or bad) of landlords who have a “boon market,” because of housing shortages, and the current housing crisis that plagues America. It’s particularly bad here because Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, dramatically reducing the number of rental units available for displaced families to hole up in, while they wait for insurance companies to pay off claims.

And contrary to what you hear on the news (or from your local insurance salesman), there are still thousands of unpaid claims. The insurance companies will drag them out for decades, to save their own bottom-lines.

What they are doing is criminal. If I’d taken money from you to perform a service, and then just refused to deliver, I’d go to jail. It’s called “fraud.” But because Insurance companies have lobbyists, and a mantle of protection called “politicians,” they get away with murder. Don’t even get me started here, because my blood boils just thinking about what they’ve done to my family.

But, if you really want to know why we’re doing this (you’ve just gotten here for the first time, right?) see my post;

>Daddy’s Slumlord Rant

Anyway, the page is not for the faint of heart, I warn you. But, it’s a pretty comprehensive description of what my family has been forced to deal with, while we “heal” from Hurricane Katrina.

Just click the link, or look over there to the right and scroll down until you see my list of “Stuff you must read!”  We’ll see ya when you get back!

Okay, here’s how “my” family is trying to “recover…“;

If you’ve followed along, like lemmings all headed for that proverbial cliff, we’ve gotten the “grant thing” stuck in our craw.

We’ve applied for a grant, that gives families a lot to build on. Mississippi suffered after Katrina, and many families left, never to return.

And, boy, how the tax base has suffered. Nothing gets a politician busier than the prospect that the money is going to dry up, so they enacted a “re-urbanization” bill, that entices people to return, build homes, and (naturally) pay property taxes.

We coupled that with a grant to build housing using “re-used and recycled” materials. We’re using old aircraft hangars, and “used” shipping containers as building blocks, to build the space.


Yep, thanks to the FAA and Homeland Security (and yet another grant), we’re gonna turn an old airplane barn into a domicile for delinquents. Namely, us.

And, we’re getting some “used but only slightly abused” 8’x8’x40’ shipping containers, to use as “legos.”

A buddy of mine knows someone, and in a “I’ll trade this favor for that favor,“ the guy has offered to pony up “as many containers as you guys need.” I need (12.) I think. So far…

(I may try to get a few more, to build a two story “outbuilding” as a workshop, behind the house. We’ll see…)

My “first” floor will be built of masonry blocks (12” thick) reinforced with rebar (steel) and concrete.

(I   wanted to use “Poly-Steel” blocks, steel reinforced foam “Legos” that you fill with concrete, but I can’t afford them. You get a terrifically strong “pumped” concrete wall, that’s already insulated on both sides. It’s wonderful!)

So, masonry, it is…  It’ll be plenty strong enough to carry the weight of the containers stacked on top of it. And, it will provide us with a big space to use for storage, parking for two vehicles, and a workshop, that will become the “business center” of this project.

We’re gonna carry the walls up to a height of 12’. I’d thought to stop at 10’, but I figured the extra two feet will come in really handy, and affords us an additional “hedge factor,“ in case of floodwater…

Doing this gets us a good “workspace,” and gets the living area up out of harms way.

The 1,600 square feet of “created space” will be large enough to allow us to do a lot of the interior construction, inside, dry, and semi-cool. The workshop is a 16’x16’ space, and with “rolling” base cabinets, it’ll allow us ample versatility, when it comes to actually fabricating and constructing all the elements that we’ll need to haul upstairs.

Man, I am not looking forward to that.

Outside the workshop space is a storage area big enough to use for layout and construction. A bathroom is included, because we’re gonna get messy, and my wife will kill me if I track all that “dreck” into the “house.”

I’m toying with the idea of a large winch system, as well, to actually hoist finished components from level to level, so that we can install them more easily.

Just so you know, initially we’ll all live in the main “room.” As we finish construction, floor by floor, we’ll migrate up. I figure that Joshua can sleep in his crib, and Mom and Dad can sleep on the sectional, until bedrooms get finished out. This way, we can close off the house, wing by wing, floor by floor, until they are complete.

It’s gonna look like this;

Container House - Main Floor
Container House – Main Floor

This is an early “floor plan,” but it’s real close. I’m not going to post actual plans here yet, because they’re in a constant “state of flux” as I deal with planning and zoning…

When the office (beyond the kitchen) is completed, we’ll move into there, as a temporary bedroom.

The “first level” will just be perimeter walls, and some built in storage areas.

It’ll be like living in a remodel. It’ll be stressful, but we’ll be warm, dry, and safe.

FYI: To increase the headroom of each level, we’ll put “spacers” in between each stacked container, so that we can increase each rooms ceiling height. It will also allow us room for wiring, plumbing, and duct work.  The “container beams” that actually show, running from end to end will get sheathed in wood, so that they look like rough beams. We’ll finish the “inset ceilings” with fans, recessed lighting, and some kind of cool texture (we haven’t decided yet, I’m pulling for an “Armani strip ceiling” kinda look). You’ll honestly never know you’re standing in a “series of container,” when we’re finished.

Just think of it as an “erector set” for grown-ups.

(Thank goodness I’m real good with welding rod…  I was going to use “bubblegum and baling wire,” but it became a planning and zoning “issue…”) LOL!

Seriously, like I’ve said before, the goal here is to erect (as quickly as humanly possible) a house using scraps and cast-offs, that will allow us to spend the night without worrying about “what happens tomorrow.”  The first priority is getting a roof over our heads. I have to make sure my family is safe, and no longer at the “mercy” of this slumlord, first. I figure we can build the shell, secure enough space to actually live, and we can move in while I finish it out, one room at a time.

I know, that get’s complicated, but I think I can do it. The certificate of occupancy is going to be tricky, but I think I’ve figured out a way to make everyone happy.

(Picture me doing the “Planning and Zoning Political Happy Dance…)

The way I see it, if “we” can so this, anybody can. And if “we” can teach other people to do it, too, then… it’s all good. There are still hundreds of families displaces by Katrina, in my county alone. The end result is affordable, safe housing, that is sturdy and secure, even in the face of heavy weather.

And in the end, the important thing is where my little boy lays his head, every night, to dream of bicycles and go-karts, and puppies… It’s truly the only think that my wife and I care about, right now.

So now that we’ve defined the “foundation,” let’s start taking the house apart, floor by floor.

That way, you can see just how crazy I really am…

Stay tuned…


5 Responses to “Look! It’s a “recycled house,” Martha! I think they used GARBAGE!”

  1. Mike Harmon July 14, 2008 at 6:00 am #

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. Ashish July 16, 2008 at 5:40 am #

    That was a good insight to your plans of the home. People just need an example… “Hey if it worked for him, it might work for us too.” 🙂

    Btw, the link works A-Okay if I just copy and paste it into the HTML side of things. Were you using the HTML editor to paste it in or the WYSIWYG editor? If its the latter, the string would post as is. 🙂

  3. renaissanceronin July 16, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    @Ashish; Thanks for the “clue to the clueless… i.e. the HTML fix. I thought if I just typed in the proper code, it would work. But I forgot about the WYSIWYG thing…

    And, my hope here is to not only get this house built (fast, fast, oh please!) it’s to do it “publicly enough” to allow others to duplicate it, easily.

    The materials are readily available. The land is everywhere (just bulldoze the hurricane relic off it first.) The FED grants and tax credits for building “green” aren’t going to disappear any time soon.

    It seems like a “huge” house by most standards, but the costs involved are less than half the price of a normal 1900 square foot tract home, around these parts.

    (1900 square foot “new construction” homes are averaging about $237k)

    And, it will save you money, year to year, in energy expenses.

    My prayer is that this will change lives. Ours too. My son “Emperor Josh” needs a throne room… Usurpers are such a nuisance!

  4. Poonam Sharma July 17, 2008 at 2:28 am #

    The floor plan actually looks good. I really marvel how you learnt all this.

  5. renaissanceronin July 18, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    @ Poonam; Thanks! It’s a rather unique house in that it travels straight up in the air. But, the principle is simple; “build upon what’s already there.”
    I have an architectural education (that I never used except to build my own houses, and houses of friends and “the natives.”)
    I’m real big on living symbiotically, and at the lowest cost levels possible, so families can sustain themselves. That means interaction, at th highest levels of “design.”
    There’s no “real profit” in this ambition, so people shy away. Thus, nothing gets done.
    We’re out of time, here. Families are homeless. And since the politicians won’t do anything that moves us in the “right” direction except debate and posture for cameras, it’s time to step up.
    So, I’m just doing what I can do. I’m no stranger to “fighting,” it’s been my life for over three decades. Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it. I feel another “scar” coming…

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