Isn’t Missouri the “Show Me State”?

4 May

Recently, I ran a post about a lady in Missouri that is building her container house. I’d spoken with her designer and provided him with a copy of the post I intended to publish, out of respect for “a fellow tradesman.”

But, lately, I’m still getting email from people asking me about what’s going on, and why I got so pissed off. And from the look at the comments, it appears that the circus is trying to pitch a tent in MY yard, and THAT is not gonna happen!

The lady in question posted a “response” to my post (on her blog), after somebody emailed my commentary to her. And that just seems to have stirred things up a bit more.

Here’s the deal. I’ve asked my readers NOT to to air their views on her build (if they were negative) because of the “bad press” it lends to the cause. It’s that simple.

The point of all of these ISBU blogs is to promote PROGRESS, and not create CONTROVERSY. There’s already enough of that, housed most squarely in the jugheaded fascists that run most local Planning and Zoning departments. Becoming a sideshow barker at your buildsite just gives them more fuel. Why give them more ammunition to use against us?

Remember that all readers see is what is on the page, in black and white. And that’s where their opinions are drawn from. The public just sees the “antics” and the “media circus” end results. But, it’s the antics that they’ll remember, trust me.

My blog is a “niche” blog. I cover ISBU construction almost exclusively, as an alternative for people who apparently are in the same position as Miss “M” from Missouri. I have considerable experience here. I’ve personally built, or participated in the construction of almost a 100 of these “Corten Castles,” in the last three+ decades, spread out over several continents.

Anybody out there who has an equal number of ISBU projects is welcome to chime in. If not, then shut up and just read, for once. 🙂

I didn’t “go out of my way to single out “M”.” An almost endless stream of email made me address her situation. In fact, I’ve got to tell you that the post I originally intended to publish was much more  strongly worded.

Using ISBU’s is controversial. Because of the topic, I don’t get hundreds of thousands of hits, I get readers looking specifically for a “new” path to home ownership.  And of the 35,000+ readers we “entertain” (hundreds daily) only a handful will actually build.

Not everyone who walks into an architect or designer’s office actually builds a project, but they all still have opinions, made after first impressions.

I can tell you that as a result of my blog, I’ve witnessed over 20 ISBU projects that are either in design phase or development with construction professionals. And, I’m sending leads to architectural firms weekly, on prospective ISBU projects. So, some of the readers are building.

I’m currently consulting into a few of those builds, myself. I know the homes are getting built, because I’m seeing it firsthand.

My goal is simply to make ISBU construction more palatable. Even the idea of using a shipping container to build a structure is a “comedy act waiting to happen” when you approach planning and zoning, in most locales.

Why? Well, it’s because the predominant press about container houses (if you believe cable TV, or the printed press) is that the people that are building them are paying exorbitant rates (hundreds of dollars a square foot), to be “fashionably green.”

The houses showcased are usually framed around a client who expects adoration for his “green environmental stance.” To think less, is naive. The phrase “attention whore” fits.

I’d personally be excited about the current circus of “ISBU coverage” if it came off as being more “credible.” But, that means that the owner of the project has to actually realize their impact on the whole, instead of just basking in the “ME” spotlight. It’s not about ONE ISBU home, it’s about all of them to come.  As builders apparently giving birth to a new construction “baby”, we have a responsibility to see it safely off and standing on it’s own.

I toned down the post a LOT (something that I NEVER do) even though I was pretty pissed off,  to prevent “M” from having her feelings hurt. (I have a mother too…) I’m positive that she means well.

But, I’m known for calling them like I see them. Reread that disclaimer up there on the right. I’m sure the “middle finger” clause is in there… 🙂

I think I can speak for most of you when I say that most of my readership just wants to have a roof at the end of the day to hunker down under. The “celebrity” that has been recently rammed down our throats isn’t why most of my readers are wanting that ISBU in their yard.

I conducted a poll a while back, where I asked readers WHY they wanted to build an ISBU home. Know what the number ONE reason was? They wanted to live away from everyone else, secure in their home, with a defensible buffer. Self-sufficiency was number TWO. Being “Green and Sustainable” was number SIX.

Being “fashionable or “acclaimed” didn’t even make the top ten.

In fact, due to the lack of understanding by P&Z Nazis, you won’t see ISBU homes in your average neighborhood anytime soon.

Anyone who says otherwise is living on a different planet than most of America.

Sure, I’m guessing that the publicity is cool, at first. But, unless you have a huge need to have your ego massaged over and over again, it’s gotta get old after a while. And actually inviting people to come scrutinize your build is just absurd. Not only will it give your insurance agent a heart-attack, it’ll disrupt your workflow, and cause your workers distractions that will translate in elevated construction costs for you.

Entertaining the minions takes time. Dealing with “looky-lo’s” takes even longer. Having your worksite interrupted by people wanting answers, is expensive.  I urge all my people to close their worksites to the public until the job is complete. Cite “insurance matters,” or whatever, but keep them off the site. I don’t want the sanctity of my site violated by mini-vans filled with “Ma and Pa Kettle” getting in the way.

Then do one of two things;

(A) After the C/O, run one or two “press events,” if necessary, and invite the Realtors, et all… in… or;

(B) Point ALL inquiries back to the Architect or the Design/Builder. Let them handle the press, and deal with the minions.  Inspections by appointment only. The people responsible for the build are the best ones to deal with it’s “public face…” on THEIR time.  Otherwise, the client goes off and reinterprets the build, which only creates more confusion later.

(Which I often compare to asking a “sales rep” how something complicated actually “works…”)

Either way… After that, it’s; “Get the [expletive deleted] off my lawn. Period.”

Here’s something else that you might consider;

Most builds of this type finish higher (appraise higher) than they actually cost, if the team in control has any brains.  Making a big roar about your new house will bite you on the butt when it comes time for the tax appraiser to come in and place a value on it.

Whaaaa?

If that “really cool job”  is out there for everybody to talk about, and your worksite is surrounded by camera crews… you’re probably gonna get hit with a high appraisal. And that means you’ll be wasting a lot of time in front of your county commission, trying to talk sense into them, and bring it back down to reasonable levels. After all, you’re still going to pay property taxes, right? And as a the home owner, you’re the one who’ll be facing the town council, all by your onesies…

As to “first impressions…”

Although I encourage people to look to the positive, sometimes the scale appears to be “out of balance.” That’s not jealousy. It’s fear that another’s actions (implied or otherwise) may either prohibit you from doing what you want, or impact the way you wish to accomplish it in.

I was recently told, by “M’s” designer that;

“I think people who do not have experience in building see a budget of $150,000 and think that her “container house” will be extravagant. What people don’t realize is the cost of getting a site ready for a house which includes clearing the land, foundations, drilling a well, installing a septic system, getting electricity to the site. The actual amount of money being used to build and make the home livable is greatly reduced when you add the expense of all these things.”

That may be the experience that he suffers under, but readers of this blog don’t fall into that category at all. I go to great lengths to talk about how much has to be spent, to build a successful project. And, nearly every one of my projects are “off-grid,” or “near off-grid.” We understand what has to happen.

That’s the beauty of a “niche” blog, compared to a blog like “Treehugger.com.” You might SEE a Shipping Container house there, but on MY blog, we talk about how you actually DO it. And then… we put our money where our mouths are, and we produce.

He went on to say;

“I could try defend all the negative things people are saying but it’s not worth it. None of these people will ever get to meet her and that’s a shame. My wish for people is that they would take all the time and energy being used in criticizing and trying to bring others down and put that energy into a project. I think the world would be  a better place for everyone and those people would be much happier.”

My wish is that people see successful projects (without any “circus acts” or drama to act as a distraction, or an inhibitor to the next guy trying to build) and see it as another stone in the foundation of the “ISBU Home” future. But, I stopped trying to “dictate the actions” of others a long time ago. That weapon is firmly resting on the mantle, now. I don’t have enough hair remaining to pull out in frustration!

I want a house for every family, world peace, basic medical care for everyone, and an end to hunger, but I might as well go outside and spit into the wind…  🙂

In conclusion, “M’s” designer told me that;

“There’s only a small percentage of people who are going to buy into living in a container house or working in a container office.  The container should be used as a model to explore the possibilities of using less and more efficient materials and systems to build.”

While it’s possible that used to be true in America, it’s not true globally at all, and it never has been. I’ve been participating in ISBU builds for decades, both here, and offshore. Out there across “the big water” people see them for exactly what they are; “high speed steel frames” that you build housing into.  And, as America goes through growing pains, it’s changing the way we look at housing too, if my email is any indication. I see hundreds of families looking for affordable housing that takes advantage of millions of steel boxes just laying around collecting dust. I hear from twenty families a week (A WEEK) who want me to help them build a home out of these boxes, so that they can be safe and comfortable. That means that the tide is turning.

More and more people are trying to figure out how to find affordable housing, as times get harder and harder. When I was doing this in the 70’s, we were “just those damned hippies.” Now, in the 21st century, all of a sudden, “we’re visionaries.” There are a million dormant containers parked on America’s shores. If we can find a way to soothe the “but Grandpa didn’t do it that way” ills, more people will find a home.

The same could be said for Rammed earth homes, straw-bale construction, “Little Houses,” and even Earthships, I suppose, but my way happens to be the one that I see work the most effectively, in many different environments.

It’s also my hope that the Stimulus Bill may actually have money in it for families to build with. It would put a lot of Americans back to work, and provide homes at the same time. I’m working with Congressman Taylor to figure out whether that potential exists.

I’m not trying to single out “some poor old lady,  because it’s an easy post. I have TONs of material. Hit the archives, folks. I have well over a hundred posts in the last year alone, and all of them have lots of content. “I don’t think that “M” is dancing like a “Trained Circus Bear” to drum up publicity for herself, and I’m not saying that she built this home simply to get the spotlight.

I’m just asking her to consider using that new fame a little bit more responsibly, to help other people trying to do what she’s done. It’s as simple as that.

But in the end, it’s her “pig in a prom dress,” and she can wear it any way she wants. This is, after all…

America!

And “M”…

I wish you all the success in the world, where your ISBU home in concerned. Just make sure it’s a success, huh? Contrary to what you might think, we’re pullin’ for ya!

  • SHOW ME (and everybody else) that your project was more than just the media hype and “cable TV chicanery” that hungry reporters have seemingly turned it into
  • SHOW ME that you’re in your home, happy, secure, safe, and full of resolve about what a great job you did! And then…
  • SHOW ME that you’re gonna live a long happy life in that new home of yours! 🙂

So, that’s my last word on “the divine Miss M…” she’s on her own, in capable hands, and ‘Nuff said…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

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