“Mi Casa Es Su Container!!!” It is too! Honest!

9 Aug

I get all kinds of email. Some of it is interesting, some of it is inflammatory, and some of it is downright entertaining…

People get really emotional when you start talking about houses. They start to draw mental pictures, and depending on their “special talents,” some of those pictures can start really interesting dialogs.

As I read my email each day, I get to reflect on those images. Hey, some are really nice, “Mental Monets,” that sooth my soul. But some of them are “Industrial nightmares, right out of Freddy Kruger movies…” Brrrr!

“Cargo containers, shipping containers, ISBU’s… whatever… You’re an idiot. You’re gonna bake, freeze, and fail… And, your wife will kill you, two times! Moron!”

That was an “actual email.”

But, I also get email from people who are really interested in what I’m doing. They even offer to help! Some of them are media types, who want to bring in cameras to document our progress, so others can see what we are doing to solve a really serious problem in the South.

“Affordable housing” isn’t “affordable” here, to a lot of families. But, using ISBU’s (Remember what that stands for?) could make it affordable, and really, really, fast. After all, you’re stacking boxes together, right?

But, it seems that I’ve also started a “Not in My Neighborhood” movement, let me tell you! I get mail from people who want to know where I’m building “exactly” so they can go file an action with the County Commission. People are pretty narrow-minded sometimes, and it’s just one of the hurdles you have to jump, to make this happen.

So, like yesterday, and the day before that… I’m gonna answer some more of my hate mail, publicly. I’m not gonna “name names,” unless I like you, and I’m sure you won’t sue me. After all, I can only afford a certain amount of concrete, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have enough left over to hide all the bodies… LOL!

(My lawyer made me put that in…)

Question: Who wants to live in a home that looks like a Cargo Container?

Answer: There’s this myth floating around that “shipping container homes” usually look like an industrial junkyard. It’s just not true.

Most of the homes built today don’t look anything like a Shipping Container. In fact, if you didn’t see them during construction, you’d never know! The ISBU is only the solid steel, super-structural shell. It’s just a steel skeleton. And, that “skeleton” can be covered with any surface you can think of, be it wood, stucco, Hardiplank, vinyl siding, bricks, stone, or anything else you can afford.

I’ll admit that there is a movement in the “arts” and “trades” circle, to leave the containers “au natural.” The Cargo Container look is also becoming a bit trendy and some prefer all or part of the home to remain natural. I’m not real big on this, because as much as I like the “industrial” and “minimalist” styles, it’s just not appropriate for where I live. I’d probably end up with several “Involuntary Manslaughter” charges filed against me, for causing my neighbors to have heart attacks!

(I suspect the “leave it looking like a container” flag is flown so the owners can demonstrate “how green, and how cool they are.” But, it’s not the “normal” situation. Most Planning and Zoning departments would have a hemmorage, if you suggested that you were going to do that. And, your new neighbors would just string you up, for “ruining their property values.”)

Question: What city would ever allow Shipping Container homes all over the neighborhood?

Answer: An intelligent Planning Commission will approve such homes and development. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not your local Planning and Zoning department is “intelligent.”

Shipping Container homes are already being accepted, in many states. Remember that a shipping container is built out of heavy gauge steel, and it has an internal steel frame, that isn’t dependent on the steel skin. It’s designed to carry tons of cargo, thousands of miles, in every kind of hostile weather, all the while stacked up to heights of ten units.

(Above, I’ve shown you an example of “the piling on” theory. Sure, it’s contemporary, and rather extreme, but it does demonstrate the potential. You could do the same thing, and make it “look” like a regular “vanilla” apartment building.)

Because of the containers ability to be stacked up, an ISBU is already superior to any building material used to meet “standard” building codes. But if it’s never been done “around here,” you’re gonna have to “do the dance…” So, like a good Boy Scout, you should be prepared.

(I got kicked out of the Boy Scouts, but that’s another story, entirely, for another time. Suffice to say that if you try to “haze” me, you’re gonna wish you’d never been born! “I guarantee…”)

In some states, Planning and Zoning will issue what is known as a “one-time” permit, allowing builders to erect a “non-conventional” house. You’ll still need engineering reports, and all the data you can carry into the County Commission Meeting, but if you’re prepared, the odds are heavily in your favor. Do your homework. After all, you’re doing this to better your family!

And remember that you’re dealing with “boxes.” It’s a “blank slate.” The exterior design can echo any look you want, in virtually any neighborhood.  A “conventional home design” can be made of multiple ISBU units for economy and super strength.  Take another look at my floorplans, and you’ll see  what I mean. From inside the “boxes,” you’re never gonna know their origins, once they’re finished out! So it doesn’t matter whether you use wood walls, masonry,  or ISBU walls, the exterior has the ability be “the same.”

See? Getting that new house isn’t as hard as you thought, is it? Hmmm?

Stay tuned…

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6 Responses to ““Mi Casa Es Su Container!!!” It is too! Honest!”

  1. Twodog August 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Ronin:

    Thanks for this blog and your courage to step outside and think for yourself.
    My wife and I are in the planning stages of building an off grid, highly efficient house that suits us, not the government. We’re fortunate to live in area without building codes. Our neighbors are live and let live types.
    I read about your desire to use LEDs for lighting and the trouble you were having finding useful advice. I don’t know if you’ve found these two yahoo groups, but they’re full of wonderful, generous and knowledgeable folks. I remember a thread about LEDs but don’t remember which group. Check ’em out
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/organic_architecture/?yguid=139074726

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LittleHouses/

    Keep fighting the good fight and I’ll do the same.

    Twodog

  2. Nik August 9, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    Not sure if any of those showering you with negative replies really understand anything about construction or if it just the pure thougth of stepping out of line that makes them scream and shout. Here in Europe it`s not such a big thing , although by no means a common sight… some arty architects do it as alternative design things, but to most people it is out of sheer need, not for lack of funds but due to planning restrictions : you see, a container home is not a permanent building as it can be moved and therefore does not need a building permit from the local authorities, in most places. I understand that there are two basic types of shipping containers available here – the standard version and the “luxury” one, use for shipping stuff that needs to be kept at a certain temperature, which is why they already come prepared with insulation . However, having read about the ceramic spray-on coating, I would imagine this to be the ultimate step (this and plenty of add-on covered terraces on all levels..I mean shade is shade, never mind the rest 🙂 Needless to say I wish the author and his family all the best and sincerly hope that , although faced with all of lifes little problems – which seem to concentrate when involved in building anything bigger then a LEGO house – they will come out on top of things and will be proud to have taken a step in the right direction.

  3. Mike. August 23, 2008 at 5:29 am #

    You know you’re right, I know you’re right, lotsa people know you’re right, so just keep on doing it!!
    The nay-sayers and NIMBYs will very soon see exactly how wrong they have been, would love to see their embarrassed faces!!
    These homes could, with a bit of modification, even be built on flood plains, quickly and easily…it’s not rocket-science, just a wee bit of lateral thinking!
    I spent 6 months building containers for the Norwegian Army, they’re terrific things, rugged, self-supporting, and, with a little bit of imagination ADPTABLE…like a lot of folks AINT!
    I hand-roll my cigarettes, my tin bears the legend “I’m trying to see things from your point of view, but I cant get my head that far up my arse!”
    Make a nice poster? 🙂
    Keep going mate, you’re on the right road!
    Mike.

  4. Loose August 28, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    I just ran across your site, and I like you already. I’ve been looking at containers as alternative housing for some time now. It makes perfect sense, seems more than affordable, and should be easy to work with (I have welding skills AND equipment). I’m goung to follow along with you on this, as I’m looking to possibly “build” my “Steel Chalet” in another inhospitable climate area, South Dakota.

  5. renaissanceronin August 28, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    Hey “Loose,”

    Thanks for the comments. And remember to take into consideration that there is a “stigma” attached to these “homes.”

    People just can’t seem to grasp the idea of using them as a “starting point.” Makes sense to me, but I’m not gonna preach until I’m “blue in the face” to “unbelievers.” I have too much work to do.

    So, I hope you hang around to watch, and it you’re in the area, I’ll put you to work! And if you’re a welder… you’re a “prime target!”

    Ronin

  6. Loose August 31, 2008 at 9:48 pm #

    I don’t think the folks in the area I have in mind will much care…I’d be happy to “burn a few rods” for you, if I ever get in your neighborhood…I don’t get much time off from work, being an independent contractor, but you just never know…

    Loose

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