More thoughts on ISBU Shelters…

22 Aug

In a disaster… the first thing to go is usually the utilities.

The Japanese learned that firsthand on March 11, 2001. The tsunami and earthquakes that savaged the region plunged Japan into darkness.

In my house, we’re still praying for those families and counting our blessing… every day.

AS a young adult, I lived in Japan for a time. As a result, I learned Japanese.  I can still read and write Japanese, to this day.

Or so I thought.

I recently read a press release sent to me by a co-worker in Japan, as we collaborate on ISBU Housing Solutions for the Japanese families left homeless by the tragic events of last March.

So, instead of reading the English translation, I decided to “translate” the Japanese version.

A firm called YSMR in Japan has provided a rather interesting solution to what I thought was a “Utility distribution” problem in the province rocked by the tsunami and earthquakes.

The way “I” read it…

Not only did they develop a “utility” box based on a 20′ High Cube ISBU, they used it to create not only space for the required Utilities, apparently they also included sleeping quarters for the personnel responsible for running them, once they are established.

Rather than try to explain it, I’ll let them do it:

They say (in their press release);

“We have collaborated with Daiwa Lease, Japanese pre-fabrication company, to produce an infrastructure free unit as a front-line base when a disaster happens.

Using 20ft ISO shipping container module, it is possible to convey the unite by the existing transportation route: by land, sea and air.

At the moment, in order not to rely on the infrastructure of the site, the utility equipments have to be too big.

So that it occupies the almost all of the container space and there is no room for living…”

From what I read… I figured that they were building generators and other utility equipment into ISBUs. Sounds easy enough. I’ve personally rackmounted support gear into containers. It’s a job that takes careful planning, some skill and a little bit of luck.

So, I know that the gear they need to ship will fill up the entire ISBU, for sure.

And that led me back to the basic question:

WHERE will the workers sleep?

Okay, it looks more like a colander than an ISBU, but…

The box will “transform”.

Note the “now”  exposed photovoltaic panels.

Ahem… but WHERE will they sleep?

They will sleep in “Utility Jail”.

YSMR Goes on to say;

“EDV-01 has been designed to extend its shell above and transform itself to 2-storied after its set-up.

This gimmick enable us to produce a hard shelter which is durable in the affected area as well as to avoid an useless transporting of empty container.”

When I was a kid, I was completely enamored with “All things Japanese”. You know… the architecture, the Samurai, Ninjas and even Sushi. I actually used to yell at my father because I wasn’t born Japanese.

Man… after seeing this, I’m glad he didn’t listen. 🙂

Me thinks that the Japanese may be taking this “Transformer Craze” a bit too far…

Can you imagine? I wonder if they’ll have to wear ear protection to sleep?

At  least they won’t get cold. 😉

 Actually, I’m just kidding. I found myself thinking that if they could mitigate the sound pollution and the fumes from any exhaust, this is a clever solution.

I just don’t wanna be the guy saddled with camping out over the greywater and water reclamation modules… Oy.

BUT… That’s not the deal AT ALL.

I received a second email. It had another image. And…

It indeed confirmed that I mistranslated the kanji and I presumed that “Utilities” meant “utilities” like power generation, water treatment,  telecommunications, et all…

That’s what I get for assuming and presuming…

What they meant by using the word “Utilities” was actually “services”…

As in a bathroom, kitchen, etc…

Here’ s the real deal;


Now… it’s a whole new ballgame…

While this is pretty neat… Um… Can you imagine the expense of building these boxes?

I mean, they are cool as heck, but man… talk about expensive to construct.

And they didn’t start working on this in March of 2011. They’ve been working on it for a couple of years.  And, one of the primary considerations was insuring that you could use the box exterior as a billboard. It even drove the concept of the “punchboard” metal walls that could be backlit with LEDs to allow messages to be sent.

So… even though it’s (in my view) a marketing gimmick as much as anything else…

Maybe we can all combine our grey matter and think of a way to make something like this REALLY work, without breaking the bank. Here’s the original again (click it to supersize the image);

Like most ISBU projects,  it requires very little actual construction on site – once it’s set into place. Once you have it where you want it, you flip a switch and the  hydraulic pump raises the walls in four and a half minutes to form the second floor.

The first floor contains an induction heating  kitchen,  a decent sized shower and a bio-toilet. Climb up the ladder to the second floor and you’ll find a pair of fold-away beds and even an office space with a real live desk.

Boil it down and what have you got?

It’s just a prefab “box over a box”.

Using “drop-in” (removable) flooring panels, it wouldn’t be hard to do this at all. The “hard part” is really just getting your “lift hoists” to synchronize.

If you built an oversized steel box to put down over the top of a 20′ High Cube, you could use the end frames as a mounting point for something like a cable or even a a chain drive lift system.  Using a winch off a 4WD vehicle, you could “pulley and gear drive” a lift system that would run off a truck battery.

Once you got the top “popped” you’d put lockpins in place so that when your three year old terrorist somehow finds his way to the roof to jump up and down, the resulting collapse doesn’t leave you looking like a mere (paper-thin) shadow of your former self… 😉

Okay, maybe we don’t have the budget to install the nifty system that literally pulls water out of the air (to the tune of 20 liters a day). And we will probably leave out the self-leveling legs that cost as much as the container to build.

(Before you ask, YES, I WOULD build them if I could, They’re just cool.)

All that duly noted;

If you could pull this off, you’d have a single, slightly oversized solid steel box to haul back into the woods, to set up your fishing camp, hunting “lodgette”, or even (gasp!) a Fallback Cabin. 

Um… forget about the hydraulic leveling arms. Too expensive, even if you built them from tractor scraps. Use a bunch of  concrete block or even some railroad ties.

Hey, if nothing else, I’ve given you something to think about… like how much you don’t want me translating any of your mail… from Japan.

All images (except those noted) were received from Edo Mitsugawi, LLC.

Youtube footage provided by…

2 Responses to “More thoughts on ISBU Shelters…”

  1. joestolfi3 August 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    I’ve really enjoyed looking at this…’s making me rethink the Vardo I plan on building, maybe it’ll have to be more utilitarian, and as I’m definitely thinking on a collapsible top for it, maybe I’ll think about a higher roof line……two story? Hummmm

  2. Ted August 23, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    Two words Alex… Zombie proof! 🙂

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