Pass the hammer… and the oxygen, please.

24 Oct

Take 4 ISBU’s (shipping containers) and stack them up to the sky, one on top of the other…

What do you get?

ISBU-4roomhouse

NO! Not a nosebleed and bigger quads…

Well… um… you MIGHT get bigger quads… but stairs are good, right? Better than that “apple a day” nonsense… Have you priced produce lately? I’d rather pay a doctor… 🙂

Recently, I showed you a plan that we’re working on, to build a split level home out of a pile of ISBU’s. And my email was filled almost immediately with comments and taunts about how nobody would even build a house like that!

“Only an idiot would stack ISBUs up in one tall pile, Ronin! You’ve lost your mind!”

Oh yeah? Are you sure about that? Well, I must not be the only “idiot” on the block… Take a look at this project that I saw, located (evidently in “the land of idiots”) in Belgium. You remember Belgium, right? That place where some of the best shotguns in the world (Belgian Brownings!) come from?  The land where Belgian Malinois dogs (some of the coolest dogs on the planet!) come from? That place that is the home of NATO, the European Union, most importantly, the world’s largest brewery…  AB InBev?

Guess I told YOU! 🙂

Anyway… before I was so “rudely” interrupted (by myself, no less!)… I was telling you about the home built by doing exactly what I’ve described previously. 🙂

It was built by 2 visionaries… Pieter Peelings and Silvia Mertens of Sculp(IT). IN Belgium!

No… I didn’t GO to Belgium. (sigh!) I wish… I saw it on the ‘Net…

I bet you wished I’d move to Belgium right about now, huh? 🙂

Anyway… this remarkable house has almost NO footprint. It’s “sandwiched” between two existing structures.

Okay… it’s what I’d deem a “fitness home.” It’s not intended for seniors, or even people with small children. But, it would make a cool “work condo,” for people who were living in the city during the work week.

In fact, if you converted that first floor into an office, you could do business out of your home, quite easily, right at street level.

Like I said, it has virtually zero footprint, compared to the traditional building that we’re used to seeing.

(Unless of course, you live in places like Japan.)

“The compact footprint of this vertical house does indeed makes for an interesting exercise in small living .”

…to blatantly steal the words of the reviewer at  Designcrave.com.

A site, by the way, that I heartily endorse.

Why did I “steal” the reviewer’s description? Well, why try to improve on a masterpiece? I couldn’t have said it better myself. I tried. Several times in fact. I couldn’t get their words out of my head… 🙂

It just sucks for you that my head was filled with the “rest” of this review crap! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah… The rooms are minimalistic, and the design is straightforward, and as a result, it’s pretty “clean.”

Each floor (remember that you’re talking about a 40′ x 7’8″ space approximately) is a deep and narrow “cave-like” space assigned to a singular function.

inside_250

But if you use your gray matter for something besides fertilizing your hair… you’ll realize that you get the ability to do exactly that (NO! Not fertilizing your hair… designating space for a “primary” function! Try to stay with me, huh?)  That action actually serves to accentuate each function; Eating, Sleeping, Working, Playing, etc…

ISBU-4room1

The first floor is at street level.

It’s the perfect place to conduct business, and watch the world go by. A enormous glass door serves to open the entire front of the room to the sidewalk.

A HUGE glass front wall sucks in light. It would have to. Remember, the “home” is housed between buildings. No chance for glazing on the sides of the residence.

But… If it was me, I’d rethink that giant front window. If for no other reason, than to avoid having to replace the entire glass wall, if anything ever happened to it. I love the window, don’t get me wrong… but it’s replacement would probably cost me my kid’s college fund.

I can just see the paperboy slinging my Sunday paper at it, and having  that “safety glass” explode into a million pieces.

I think I’d make it a three or even four piece panel system. I’d still get that “translucence” that the architect craved, and I’d save thousands of dollars, maybe even a few times.

Frankly, I’m surprised that they didn’t do some kind of Solatube “Light Suck…” down from the roof, to draw light down into the house. I mean, you have 40 some-odd feet of wall, on BOTH sides. I wonder if they use them in Belgium? Perhaps not.

solatube

It would have been a snap. Okay, so maybe it’s a LITTLE bit complicated. Oh well…

Consider putting a powder room down here, in the back. If you keep reading, you’ll see where the plumbing would come from.

If you do those things, you literally have a working “lifespace.” If you’re an analyst, a journalist, a consultant, or whatever, you have a really nice opportunity to have everything you need, at your fingertips.

(And yes, I realize that if you intend to work in the space, you need a “handicap” bathroom…)

Note that it appears they actually removed the sides of the container. If that’s what they did, I’m speculating that (beyond saving valuable space) this allowed the home to be bonded to the exterior (and insulated) walls of the building on either side. NO insulation costs, except possibly in the foundation, and definitely the roof. Pretty smart thinking… REAL Smart.


ISBU-4room2

Walk up one floor on the spiral stair and you’re in the kitchen/dining room.

I’d have done it different, but that’s just me. Well… it’s just because we “live” differently in America, I suppose.

(BTW: Don’t you hate people that criticize somebody else’s excellent work?)  😉

Here’s the deal. This is ONE COOL HOUSE. Don’t think that it’s design is lost on me. And, it shouldn’t be lost on you. I want you to look at this idea, and use it as inspiration for your own use. I want you to see the versatility in the design, and appreciate the house for what it is, and then, make it into something that works for YOU. If that translates into making me sound petty and envious…

Well, “sticks and stone’s…” bucko! I have really thick skin, so bring it on! 🙂

Would I love to have a house like this in MY portfolio? There aren’t enough words for YES!

Okay, now that we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way…

What if you had the spiral staircase run almost dead center? You’d essentially dissect each floor into two spaces, that measured 16′ x 7’6ish”.

NOW… Run “light tubes” down right next to the spiral staircase on either side, from the roof. Voila, you’ve lit the interior, and concentrated most of the light directly on the staircase, where it’s needed most.

Okay, back to what was REALLY there…

ISBU-4room3

It looks like this. Not bad, but it needs some improvement, for me.

In the back, install a powder room across the back wall. There goes about 5′. You still have 10+ feet for a kitchen. Think “Galley” style. Run cabinets down both sides, with an aisle right in the middle. This means that your powder room door opens in the middle too. That’s not so bad, toilet on one side, and the sink on the other. It’d be quite cool.

Now, you have over 20′ of counter space (10′ x 2) . Go nuts! If you can’t build enough kitchen in this space, you’re either that fat guy ‘Robert’ from “Hell’s Kitchen” (who claimed that all kitchens should be as big as a living room) or a really lousy space planner.
🙂

Oh stop it! He’s FAT. I’m FAT. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t discriminate against fat people. I discriminate against STUPID people! 🙂

I could get a kitchen into that space that would make a chef have… um… er… well, just trust me, they’d be delighted.

In the front of that level?

Forget about that HUGE glass window, and that narrow dining arrangement.

Who are these guys? Glass Factory Owners? 🙂

Think a HUGE banquette seating arrangement, across that front wall. Go crazy… Say, about 7′ x 7.6′. Build it in, and put storage under the seat cushions.  Because the benches would be so “deep” you could even do some really cool wine storage on roller cabinets, under them. Pull ’em out, and grab your bottle to match the meal!

NOW, you can seat about a dozen people there, easy.

Plus, that huge table can also be used for other things if required, like food prep or a little bit of buffet space.

You still get a huge (opening) window… it just starts 3 feet up, and runs almost to the ceiling.

And, there’s a ton of room to move around in, so you don’t feel all cramped together, even if you’re having a small party.

Remember, if you started with High Cube containers, you have a ceiling way over 8′ high. Lot’s of room for ceiling fans, and cool lighting opportunities.

The only gripe I really have… is that they could have put a powder room in here, quite easily.

ISBU-4room4

One more floor up is the living room.

Why didn’t I reverse the order of the levels?  Why didn’t they? Well, I’m betting that they saw it like I do. If I’m doing business out of that first floor, I might just want access to the kitchen to fetch drinks and snacks for a client that I’m trying to “arm-twist.” No use interrupting everyone else in the house…

A projection screen lowers in the small space for viewing videos. Okay. That’s it?

ISBU-4room5

The projection screen is a real good idea.

It retracts to cover the light source that would interfere with your enjoyment of “Die Harder…” Good idea. Instant Home Theater. And, when I’m not watching TV, it opens the room up to the world. But, what about the rest of that space? I mean, you’ve got 40′.

Okay, opposed seating, and a cool table. Art Gallery wall stuff…

Put in a library wall across the back, and then add a gaming table and chairs. Maybe a wet-bar.  An electronic dart board, perhaps.

Maybe even… (gasp!) yet another powder room?

Why create a bottleneck on the stairs, after one of Ronin’s world famous “Guaranteed to clean you out – Chili Fests?”

Man, the more I write this “hatchet job of a review” I start seeing a picture of a frat party in my head, with people crammed into every nook and cranny of this house, testing it’s ability to hold all the weight, before it bursts! 🙂

Because so far (with the changes we’ve “made”) I already have about 30 people in this 8′ wide house, moving around comfortably. That’s why.

ISBU-4room6Ah, young love… Hey, I was young, once. Whaaa? I WAS TOO!  🙂

Okay, time for the top…

The highest floor of this “Corten Condo” is a bedroom suite. Their version has a great view from the bed right out through the glass front wall.

Okay. One word. Drapes. This isn’t Amsterdam. And, if I’m living in this house, trust me, you don’t want to see me climbing out of that bed. It’ll give you nightmares, and a huge therapy bill.

Would I put a full bath up here? Yep. Even if it’s just 7’8″ by say about… 10′ I get a really nice bathroom, plenty of space for a nice shower or tub, and I still get enough room left over for a good closet run and a nice place for a cool bed on a storage pedestal.

Here’s a clue; Glass Block Walls… Use it to help catch light for your bathroom. Plus, supposedly, it’s “romantic.” Now, I wouldn’t know, because my wife says “Ronin, you don’t have a single romantic bone in your body… blah, blah, blah…” but for those who do…

You could even put a treadmill next to that window, so you’d have something to give you vertigo  while you pretend to exercise!

Clue number two; Save those ‘barf bags’ from your next airline trip. On that treadmill, you might just need them… 🙂

ISBU-4room7

And on the roof…

Oy Vey… A bathtub? What are you, nuts? Well, if I looked like those guys, I guess I’d do it… But…

… although it’s beautiful, it’s another “perfect” place for the darned birds to drop a bomb. No thanks! I have no real desire to have to spend twenty minutes prior to bathing, to “bathe the tub” first with chemicals… so the neighbors can see me trying to scrub my big old butt, after I’ve waved my butt around in the air trying to sterilize that tub. … No thank you!

If you must, install a spa or hot tub (reinforce the roof first, or you’re gonna get a really cool surprise!) and cover it up with a framed and padded canvas or Naugahyde lid. That way, I can lay on it… and then I can horrify the neighbors, by sunbathing in a speedo. THAT will fix ’em, for peeking at my deck! Instant blindness!   🙂

And, that way I can pretend that I’m on some expensive yacht out in the middle of the Bahamas… being waited on, hand and foot… leisurely SOAKING  (sun OR spa) away my cares, while my son tries to figure out how to burn a metal house down!

If that speedo don’t force them to grope their way down to the car for an emergency trip to the ophthalmologist, well…

… I got a thong as a gag gift a few years ago… and I ain’t afraid to use it! 🙂

(Now there’s a mental picture you didn’t need, huh? Well, you don’t have to thank me… Mom taught me to share…)   🙂

And, I still have a ton of room for a rack or two of photovoltaic panels or solar panels, or even a handy starting place for a wind turbine. Remember, that roof is up in the air “38′ and change” plus your foundation height. 45′ is about the starting point for any “realistic” wind powered electricity production plan… Getting some blades up into a good breeze would be quite possible.

Couple all of that with well designed  geothermal HVAC, and you’re all set.

Need more bedrooms? Just add a level or two to the middle of the stack. You can stack these ISBUs (9) boxes high, folks… Without changing a thing. It’s part of their charm.

And, we haven’t even talked about staggering the container stacks by 8′ or so… to create exterior decks on each level…

And to those of you who shrieked in horror when they saw the photos of this seemingly “Sir Hillary-esque” home…

Having each floor dedicated to task isn’t such a bad idea. It’ provides great separation, and actually contributes to making the home more livable, by more than one person.

Our forefathers did it, and look how we turned out…

Wait… um… never mind.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninNow… think mid or even high-density housing. Put one parking place in front of each unit. And, stack them side by side, for about… um… ten units or so…

Commerce on the first floor, residential above.

Instant housing complex. And, you could build it fast, fast, fast…

And you could build them cheap, cheap, cheap… Just a thought.

And the higher you go, the more the water balloons hurt… Yikes!
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2 Responses to “Pass the hammer… and the oxygen, please.”

  1. Andew K October 28, 2009 at 5:21 am #

    Wow, thanks for this! I am inspired once more to build my container getaway, akin to this style. Now, where can I source some of those sexy spiral staircases cheaply???

    Well done on the blog!!!

    • renaissanceronin October 28, 2009 at 10:40 am #

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the comment!

      About that staircase;

      In your case, referring you to an American manufacturer would be kinda silly, huh? You can buy kits, that allow you to assemble the staircase on site. They slip down over a pole inserted into your build… You can find them on the Internet pretty easily and I bet somebody in Australia manufactures them.

      However… if you AREN’T building your ISBU stack between two existing buildings…

      … why not just take it one step further, and simply install one ISBU, standing straight up, and use it as a massive staircase tower. You’d get a 40′ tall stairwell that was 9 feet (well… okay 8’9″) deep. Just attach it to the side of your stack, right in the center. Not only would it provide really comfortable access to the floors and the roof, you’d also really improve the flow pattern on each level, by eliminating that spiral staircase. And, if you added windows to that Stair tower on each level, it’d light the interior spaces of your stack in the middle. Better and better!

      Plus you could build a “solar chimney” as well!

      Now, you’ve improved access to the levels, magnified daylighting potential tremendously, and increased your ability to cool the house on those hot and humid days that we all hate! Yipee!

      And BTW: Around here, spiral staircases are real expensive. The cost of that ISBU Stair Tower would actually be competitive.

      I can see this working out splendidly!

      In fact, I just might…um… er… oh man… another project! 😉

      Ronin

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