ISBUs – Live from the road!

9 Jan

Here at RR, we’re traveling right now – checking up on ISBU Projects that are now firmly underway in several states!!

So, while we’re fighting traffic and chronic indigestion (now I know why they call them “Greasy Spoons”…) we’ll hit the mailbag!

Here we go!

Dear Ronin,

We thought that we would start the New Year by making firm plans to build our ISBU “Corten Castle” by the lake.

We’re Seniors with no kids or grandkids to worry about sheltering.

That said, we’d like to build an affordable (2) bedroom (1 for guests) 1 bath home that will allow us to downsize substantially.

While I see the merit in using ISBUs to create inexpensive and strong homes, my hubby is more worried about numbers.

And as I am growing older – I want a small, low upkeep home.

John simply wants a porch, a place for his recliner and a refrigerator stocked with frosty cold beverages…

What should we be considering? Can you give us any tips about the many facets of homebuilding that we need to start learning about?

Any suggestions?

Senior Sally – and John


Dear “Smart Seniors”,

Many families are now building smaller, more versatile homes by using “multipurpose planning”…

This is further refined by designing and building rooms for intended purposes (like SLEEPING) that are efficient, goal driven and economic in scale.

Most of us don’t really “need” 400 square feet to put a bed in. All you’re doing is sleeping in that bedroom, not performing on ringed apparatus at the Olympics.

Many of my families are migrating back toward the “sleeping room” scenario, with a focus on concentrating maximum square footages in common areas, designed to by multi-use.

I live this way myself and I HIGHLY recommend it.

As a result, they’re getting all the home they need and keeping the cash where it belongs… in their pockets.

Here’s the deal;

(Okay, put on your “imagination cap” because I’ve got my hands full of steering wheel. I’m actually dictating this to my wife as we drive cross country! I’ll draw this out later at the hotel and upload it in the next few days.)

What we’re talking about building is an ISBU home of approximately 1,100 square feet, that contains (2) bedrooms, 1.5 baths (including a bath connecting two bedrooms), a laundry room, an Island Kitchen and a “Great Room” common area (containing Dining and Living Rooms), in a footprint of approximately 48′ x 24′ .

We’re going to do this by constructing (2) ISBU structures set 20 feet apart and then reclaiming the area between them.

It’s quite simple, really;

Take (4) 20′ ISBUs (High Cubes) and place them in two “wings” – the first is (3) side by side High Cube Units placed lengthwise.

I cannot stress the use of HIGH CUBE units enough. These taller ISBUs will afford you extra headroom (based on their increased height) and make your structure literally soar! 🙂

This first (3) unit ISBU module becomes the pair of bedrooms and an attached “Hollywood” bath, plus “extended closet areas for each bedroom.

The center ISBU is the only one that really gets a lot of fabrication. That Hollywood (pass-thru) bath measures approximately 8′ x 12′ and contains a toilet, a pedestal bath with surround storage and a pair of sinks.

The rest of that container is divided to allow 8′ (approx) closets in both sides, immediately adjacent to the surrounding containers.  This inset closet area really makes those bedrooms feel much larger than they really are. King Sized beds can easily be inset in these bedrooms, by simply insetting them into the rear of the container, spanning the width.

20′ from this bed/bath module, run (1) ISBU “straight back”.  (Narrow end toward front of lot.)

Place this unit flush with the REAR of the bedroom wing modules.

This placement will provide you with the beginnings of your inset front porch (because of the offset).

This single 20′ ISBU unit becomes the kitchen, pantry space, a dedicated washer and dryer space, as well as a half bath (if desired).

Now span the top of the whole thing with Gabled SIPs. This yields a “created” Great Room with open (Island) Kitchen plan, with 16 foot ceilings. You WILL probably run an inset “King” to carry the SIP “Peak”, but beyond that… it’s all good.

A SIP roof of this size will carry itself (depending on thickness and pitch). This means you don’t buy or construct trusses. Translation = more savings, more energy efficiency, less labor cost.

Remember also that gabled SIP roofs allow for decent pitches to be created without trusses or additional support (as the runs are short enough to allow the SIP to support itself) and that buys you loft storage or even reclaimed living spaces if desired.

It’s really quite simple to build a study or even another bedroom into this reclaimed area to further extend the living space.

Note that only (2) actual ISBU units get plumbing, but the rest of the units are created space with cabinetry, storage and closets built into them.

It’s a decent (2) bedroom plan that would yield about $110 to $150 a foot in today’s market, providing energy efficient appliances were used, combined with SPF, SIPs and a solid HVAC (or even a heat pump) unit.

In a unit this small, I’d personally use “mini-split” AC units.

This makes an ideal Senior or small family home. 

In many locations, this would be referred to as a “starter home” but it is anything but. It’s a refined, energy-efficient, affordable housing solution that will surpass the structural capabilities of most of the homes that will surround it.

Topped with SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing) and photovoltaic panels, it’s a home that will easily support itself, so that you don’t have to!  High efficiency, Low maintenance, easy living.

In fact, we’ve built variations of this home a few times with appraisals running very close to this appraisal number for MUCH less than appraisal costs.

In most cases, the home was built by families (using sweat equity) for under $60 a square foot, inclusive of SIP roof. Instant equity. Day One.

Monday, we’ll start running a “Pre-Design and Design Phase” Primer, a series of posts fulled with lists of the things you should consider as you begin putting pencil to paper, designing that Corten Castle!

More later, from the road!

Stay tuned!