I know there’s an ISBU House here… somewhere!

1 Feb

I’m currently in the Northwest, planning and prepping!

Great things are coming! Soon, there WILL be a dedicated ISBU production facility in the US aimed at building sustainable, affordable housing and even (gasp!) ISBU building forays into commercial and industrial buildings!

I’m literally working from dawn till dusk, so today, I’m hitting the mailbag to answer that age old question:

Bull Elk (seems fitting as I’m literally surrounded by them) asks:

“How about pointing us to some ideas how to make an ISBU blend in! This is the one thing my imagination is having a hard time overcoming. I’m thinking an off grid or perhaps on grid but semi-isolated rural setting. Perhaps pine forest, but could just as well be rolling hills with sage brush & few trees. Expecting a move to SW Idaho in early summer…. (Yes, new around here, still working through some of the older material)

Love your blog, Ronin! Great insights on matters of not only cleverly economic housing but also life & economics. Good stuff!”


Okay Bull Elk,

One of the biggest myths perpetuated by “wood and brick ilk” is that ISBU buildings (especially homes) stick out like sore thumbs.

These naysayers say things like: “ISBU Structures are garish, ugly, and property value killers.”

Bull. They’re just boxes.

Sure, they ARE boxes made of steel, but they are simply boxes, none the less. They can look just like any other home in your area, in your sub-division (should you live in a progressive area that allows urban ISBU construction) or on your block. The possibilities are endless.


People who have read my blog and books (start with “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” – you can find out about it in the sidebar on the right of your monitor) know that we’ve built homes that look like “modern/sci-fi” dreams and we’ve even (gasp!) built homes that look just like the house next door.


But if you use your imagination, you can “hide” an ISBU structure MANY  other ways.

Here’s something to think about;

Your only limit is your imagination…

Image of “Living Wall” from JetsonGreen.com


11 Responses to “I know there’s an ISBU House here… somewhere!”

  1. Bull Elk February 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Highly encouraging! And a new production facility in the NW? Intriguing, although I still hope for a (mostly) DIY experience when the day comes. Wife is slowly buying into the idea. Saw some “au naturel” corten creations online which look really nice sans paint. A natural earth tone from corten steel! So my imagination is starting to get there too. Not that it would have been a roadblock- it wouldn’t.

    Care to drop any hints about the location of this new production facility? Guessing Portland or Seattle. Or Vancouver BC?

    Will order all the good book & CD materials soon as I can. Right now putting every spare penny into maintenance & repairs so we can sell. Hope we might actually be able to cash out some equity. This was economical, but the next place will need to be quick to pay off & energy efficient. Don’t like the looks of the economic horizon, but the sun can shine any day you are not in debt and have a roof, clothes, something to eat, and especially each other!

    Keep up the good work!


    • Renaissance Ronin February 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Stu/ Bull Elk,

      The heart and soul of RR is in looking at how things work and then reverse engineering them so that you can do them yourself (DIY), efficiently and inexpensively.

      For example, that “living wall” depicted in the blog post could be duplicated with recycled galvanized steel posts and galvanized fence material.

      ISBUs can be sided, veneered, stucco’ed, textured, you name it. OR…

      You can apply a home-brewed (and relatively harmless to humans) acid compound to them with a yard sprayer and then let them “degrade” into the colors of your choice. Can you say “Camo Corten”? I knew you could.

      Much of what needs to be done to turn an ISBU into a home can be done by diligent families and friends. In fact, I’m still amazed at the levels that families take these little steel gems to.

      Stay tuned for news about our new facility. It’s going to be amazing.


  2. Dr. Tom February 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    I can’t even GET ISBU units in Hawaii for less than $10,000 each, delivered 20 miles. Anyone want to ship one to the Big island and sell it to me after it’s unloaded?

    • Renaissance Ronin February 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      Hi Doc,

      Perhaps we should consider looking for LA based trade groups that drop-ship to the Island. You could buy the containers HERE on the Mainland and then let a trade group or manufacturer use your boxes to haul their gear your direction. I think perhaps we need some Sherlock Holmes kinda brainstorming, but it CAN work. I’ve done it before with the help of a friendly freight broker.


      • Dr. Tom February 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

        Let’s rock.

  3. Alina B. Klein (@AlinaBKlein) February 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Alex, I can’t wait to hear more about this new facility! Hope you’re all well out there! You’re in my thoughts!

  4. edmania February 5, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Hey Ronin,

    Quick question without beating a dead horse! The second photo in this post seems to have the cantilevered look I’ve asked about before. Am I to understand that the area over the porch would, over time, produce saggy floors and cracked drywall?

    • Renaissance Ronin February 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      Okay, you’re actually talking about the FIRST photo, the home with the covered porch.

      No, no sagging, no rogue drywall activity, nada. When WE do a cantilever, we take point loading into consideration and reinforce accordingly.

      Don’t get me wrong, cantilevering ISBUs is quite possible… you just have to use your head and really think about what you’re doing… and have the building budget to deal with the extra work you’re creating for yourself.

      It has more to do with WHO draws your plans and HOW they deal with structure. Capish? 🙂

      • edmania February 6, 2012 at 7:17 am #

        Got it. As long as the project is engineered to compensate for the lack of support on the overhanging end, it should be ok.. Thanks again!

    • Dr. Tom February 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

      Unless you can compete with Chinese prices, you are already off-market. But, if you can, there is a serious market in Hawaii where everything comes and goes by container – and people are starting to build serious homes with them.

      I’ll be perfectly happy to be a stocking dealer.

  5. The Daily Prep (@UrbivalistDan) February 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Cool ideas! I really like the look of the container (with maybe some fresh paint), but always nice to see the options.

    p.s. thought I’d let you know that I gave you a Liebster Blog award in today’s prepisode…keep up the great work buddy!

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