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Wandering with “Weathering Steel”…

31 Aug

Recently, one of our readers sent us several photographs of a “tiny house” constructed from a single 20ft ISBU.

The boatbuilder owner used his yacht skills to design and build a really nice little house that could be shipped anywhere in the world.

(This can happen because he didn’t cut any exterior doors or windows into the existing shell.)

We were particularly pleased to see the innovative kitchen he laid out in that small home. Frankly, it rivals many of the small kitchens that you or I may encounter in our day to day lives. He used a full sized refrigerator. The space behind it houses his water tank. He didn’t waste an inch. Good lad!

Take a look;

ISBU Bunkhouse - Corten Cabin3

His “corner kitchen” even incorporates a washer/dryer unit. We use similar LG washer/dryers in many of our off-grid cabins in remote areas.

His container isn’t “conventional” as one entire wall surface opens up to expose the inner shell. You can find these boxes from time to time and he’s taken full advantage of the space that it provides. On nice days, he can literally open up one entire wall section to the outdoors. Talk about bringing the outside in!

And because he can ship his little Corten home anywhere in the world, that “outside view” can change whenever he wants!

Guys like this are literally rethinking housing.

As we looked at his little gem, I was reminded of another kind of “traveling ISBU Home” concept we’d seen lately. Many of our readers know that we’ve spent years working on “disaster relief housing” and the establishment of rapidly deployed shelter systems for victims and volunteers after natural disasters strike globally.

The use of ISBUs as a shelter component means that you can “rack and stack” them together to form housing units very quickly. We’ve stacked as many as a hundred units together in less than 24 hours. Read that again slowly. LESS than 24 hours. These temporary constructs can house workers, clinics, first responders and more.

But what if you could just take your home with you wherever your future  led you?

Jeff Wilson, an environmental science professor at the Huston-Tillotson University, had a similar dream. It’s called “Kasita” and it’s basically a little 20′ High Cube ISBU based apartment that actually fits into a steel exoskeleton. By “racking” these apartment units, they can be removed and shipped to other locations with similar exoskeletons.

ISBUs in exoskeleton

Small extension modules are added to the ISBU to expand it’s livability. In fact, those add-ons increase the size of the little apartment by 30%.

ISBUs in exoskeleton4

Inside, you have room for a full kitchen and even a washer/dryer. The bathroom is “normal” as well. No microscopic toilet or shower to force yourself in and out of.

ISBUs in exoskeleton5
The whole idea of a “transportable condo” sounds complicated, but it isn’t. While you wouldn’t be able to ship the little apartments overseas (because you’ve modified the shell) the small ISBUs are easily trucked from site to site. The small exoskeleton footprints allow these units to be “racked and stacked” 3 or 4 levels high without much difficulty.

If you get transferred to another city, you simply call the mover and have him disconnect and remove your unit.

You don’t pack, you don’t box up your gear. You simply take the entire residence and it’s contents with you. When you get to your new location, your unit is racked in an empty space in an exoskeleton and you’re back in business.

ISBUs in exoskeleton2
The fact that the exoskeletons that house the units take up such a small footprint (as little as 1,000 sq ft) means that they can be constructed as in-fill in almost any urban city that you can imagine. These steel racks could bolt together in the configuration that benefits the lot and observe the local building codes.

You could even build a small village of these units in previously unbuildable lots and locations. You could revitalize neighborhoods. You could build them along greenbelts.

Are you listening, Detroit?

Now add a power system like a TESLA Powerpack to this little condo and you have a unit that’s even capable of going off-grid.

Despite a long list of smart-tech and energy saving features, the size of the condo and it’s ability to be placed on small lots that no-one wants makes this a very embraceable idea in many metropolitan areas. And it solves one of biggest dilemmas for employers;

“Where will my workers live?”

Companies could even embrace these versatile condos as “corporate housing” for their workers.

Think about this for a moment;

NO Roomates

NO searching Craigslist for a rental

NO calling friends and relatives in those cities to crash on their couch while you hunt down that elusive new apartment.

NO hunting through boxes to find your packed goods.

The only thing that changes is your street address.

Imagine how workers in places like NYC or San Francisco would embrace these.

ISBUs in exoskeleton3
It’s the idea of transportable housing taken to the next level. It will allow us to house friend and families in a whole new way.

We can’t wait.

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Roaring Lion, Montana – Forest Fire update

1 Aug

Okay,

Life is hectic when you’re having fun, right?

We’re jumping around all over God’s Creation like crazy people. It’s the trials and tribulations of ISBU madness! LOL!

SO after regrouping…

We’re getting set to jump back out again to the East Coast late Saturday. A client aircraft stuck in London gained us an extra night in our own beds as we work out delays in aircraft transitions. While we need to get to NY, we’re grateful for the sleep.

We do what everyone does in “stand-by mode” on Sunday morning. We take care of clients, email and surf the internet. About lunchtime on Sunday as I’m helping my son build a Lego menagerie, Sheri runs into the living room and tells me that the Hamilton, MT area is on fire, and it’s bad. After a long, hot, dry spell, I immediately wonder just how bad it is.

Moments later, I realize just how bad it really is. This photograph, taken moments before, arrives in my email. The fire is located in the mountains behind Hamilton, in a remote area of a canyon that we used to live in. It’s rugged, beautiful and heavily forested. And, it’s on fire.

Roaring Lion - 2016_07_31
This is distressing because (a) it’s a FOREST FIRE, and (b) we have many friends and my child (and his mother) living in the path of the fire.

While we immediately start to reach out to friends and family to determine who needs help evacuating and to explore the information available to determine how severe the circumstances are, we walk outside our home and realize that you can actually SEE the flames on the ridges burning in the distance.

It should be noted that I don’t currently live in Hamilton, I live 20 miles to the north in a small farming/ranching community. By observation, the firestorm is 200 feet high, fueled by thousands of beetlekill pine trees that explode like Roman Candles when set ablaze. At this point, the fire line is already over a mile long and racing DOWN the mountain toward the highway.

Roaring Lion Fire
An hour later, we get a call from friends who still live in the Roaring Lion canyons that we originally evacuated a few years back due to forest fires. Some of my readers will remember that I’m talking about an incident where at 1AM we were contacted by Sheriff’s Deputies who arrived to wake us up and help get our most important valuables into trucks so that we could get escorted out of the canyon, the fire raging right behind us.

Luckily, we had a small home in town to run to. Many families were not as fortunate as we were.

Yesterday, a wildfire started near the Roaring Lion trailhead that almost immediately turned the surrounding forest into a fire tornado. Within the space of about 4 hours the fire had spread to over 2,000 acres in some of the most rugged terrain in the Bitterroot. The guess is that it was ignited by a campfire or an errant spark. There were no storms or lightning strikes in the area.

We grabbed gear and headed toward the fire to gain some scope on it’s severity. In many years living in the Bitterroot, we’re accustomed to forest fires. They are a part (terrible, albeit) of life lived in the rugged mountains of Montana. The fire was much worse than we expected. Raging out of control, it quickly spread through canyons as the winds blew it toward Hamilton. Even with several helicopter and aircraft already on scene dumping water and fire retardant, it was clear that they were overpowered by the fire racing through thousands of dead trees that virtually litter the countryside.

Roaring Lion Fire4

In Montana, the US Forestry Service uses a “zero management” program in the local forests. This means that they let Mother Nature take care of herself. Today, once again, we see what happens when you ignore threats to life and limb. While environmentalists will tell you that it’s just “nature’s way”, many would argue that allowing conditions to erode to the point where they endanger local lives and a way of life is just foolish. It’s an argument that local residents have had with US Forestry officials for decades, that seemingly falls on deaf ears.

I’ve personally fought forest fires. I’ve run fire crews in these mountains and I can tell you that when the neglected beetlekill trees ignite, they literally explode setting everything around them on fire. The inferno created by these events causes fire lines to jump like Olympic Athletes from ridgeline to ridgeline in moments. This is particularly frustrating as we realize that those dead trees can be harvested and turned into beautiful cabinetry and flooring which is highly prized by many custom builders throughout this nation. The monies regained in this endeavor could go a long way toward offset responsible land management fees.

After conferring with locals last night, Sheri and I made a bonzai run to Missoula (a large college town to the north) to buy everything we could find to help establish a fallback center for firefighters and first responders. We literally emptied shelves at both Walmarts as we loaded carts with supplies that will allow those retreating from the fire lines (for much needed rest and refueling) the food and showers necessary to help prepare them for their return to the fire lines.

As we drove back down into the Ravalli Valley at almost midnight, we could actually SEE the fire raging almost 50 miles away. Those little spots of red in the photograph below are actually flames almost 100 feet high. It reminded me of those photographs you see of lava flowing down mountains after a volcano erupts. The entire valley glowed eerily from the light of the rapidly spreading fires.

Roaring Lion Nightfall - Valley Entrance View
As we got closer and closer to Hamilton we watched as fire truck after fire truck passed us heading toward the fire in the dark of night toward the glow.  Sadly, we also witnessed tow trucks towing damaged fire vehicles out of the fire zone.

After we dropped off bins loaded with supplies to the First Responder center, we drove up into surrounding hillsides to look up at the fire as we headed back to the safety of our home. I can’t tell you how blessed it actually felt to be safely removed from the fire zone. The forest fire literally looked like it ringed one end of Hamilton as the fire burned toward some of the outlying communities that are home to many of the Bitterroot’s residents.

Roaring Lion - Marcus DalyER

This is the forest fire burning behind Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital. There’s a river separating the hospital from the blaze. Thank Heavens for that.  At least as doctors and nurses care for the injured, they won’t have to worry about being evacuated themselves.

To say that this fire is burning out of control is an understatement. With many, many local firefighters and law enforcement officials standing the line, it’s clear that these brave men and women will personally face danger and destruction as this fire vents it’s wrath on our homes.

UPDATE:

As the sun rises today (Monday, August 1st), many families aren’t as lucky as we once were, as many homes and structures (barns, outbuildings, cabins) have been lost and over 500 homes in the surrounding canyons are evacuated (mandatory) as one of the biggest Type One fires in Ravalli history turns what was pristine forest into a firestorm. Type One teams are quickly arriving and assembling from all over Montana and the region to fight this fire as I type this.

This fire erupted without notice. There was no opportunity for preparation by local residents. Fueled by acres of dead (Beetlekill Pine) trees and 90+ degree heat, it’s like the hillsides simply exploded. Hundreds of animals and livestock are presumed missing or dead as homeowners escorted by Sheriff’s Deputies abandon residences, unable to search for their horses and cattle as the fire races through the canyons.

Returning to the area to seek out lost livestock is impossible. It’s simply too dangerous and cannot be allowed. While it’s a terrible tragedy, the loss of human life is the first (and most important) priority.

This forest fire is currently raging and burning toward Hamilton proper, a town located approximately 5 minutes from the fire’s epicenter.

This morning, some of the downtown areas of Hamilton, MT are covered in a thick layer of ash. As the sun starts to rise today, it simply illuminates the thick red clouds of smoke pouring off the mountains.

It’s going to be a dark day in Montana…

Strong winds have pushed the smoke and ash from the storm all the way to Butte, MT – over 2.5 hours to the east. We’re talking about a distance of 155 miles.  Estimates are that the fire will cover 4,000 acres by midday with thousands more acres of forest standing between it and population centers.

With 40 degree temperature drops aiding the first responders, the firefighters are staging to stand between the fire and Hamilton homes.

Many local families are opening their homes to those families displaced by this firestorm.

Remember that the Bitterroot is a small mountain community. 500 evacuated homes is a huge deal, when you consider the baseline population of this valley. Local restaurants have turned their kitchens into supply lines for firefighters and refugees from the fire. Churches between Missoula and Salmon, ID have opened themselves up to serve as shelters for the families fleeing the fire.

As the day begins to bloom, we can only hope that everyone survives this day. It’s hard to think about tomorrow, when today brings such hardship.

To those first responders, brave firefighters and LEOs… we can only hope and pray for their safety as they face this inferno trying to protect and save the citizens of Ravalli.

To the families fleeing the fires, we can only pray that they are evacuated to safety without loss of life or limb.

It’s going to be a very long day, in a string of very long days to come.

To friends and clients:

As we reach out to assist those assisting others in this terrible time, we ask you to be patient. Our deeds and prayers are with all those impacted by this fire and as we work to aid them, we pray for their safety.

We’d ask that you remember Bitterroot families and the brave men and women that stand the line to protect them in your prayers as well.

Stay tuned.

Some Thanksgiving LOVE

26 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we perch greedily in front of “Bird and Beverage” surrounded by our families and friends on this fine Thursday afternoon celebrating Thanksgiving, many of us are counting our blessings and looking forward to projects near and dear…

Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a beautiful mate who stands beside me and reminds me daily that life is indeed good. I have a wonderful son who makes great strides daily as he wanders his world here in the mountains. I have  wonderfully talented children who are out there in the world contributing to making the world a better place. I’m surrounded by incredibly skilled people who have devoted their lives to helping families near and far fulfill their dreams of ISBU Home ownership and the pursuit of a sustainable life. I have good friends I can celebrate life with and even count on in times of need…

I actually have friends. Wow. Who would have thought? LOL!

By the way…

In Montana, we don’t usually go to the store or the butcher shop to buy a turkey. This is because among our many blessings is the constant appearance of flocks of wild turkeys that wander into our yards…

Who needs a Butterball when you already have them in the yard!

Who needs a Butterball when you already have them in the yard!

Many of us know that the concept of Thanksgiving goes back  to the 1620‘s when the English Pilgrim Settlers fought for survival on the New Continent.

Almost half of those original Pilgrims lost the battle for survival during the first winter and many more died in the seasons to come as they fought for the skills and knowledge that would sustain them. They made many mistakes. Survivors had much to be thankful for. As they moved forward in a new place, they sought to keep their feet on the path to progress, safety and sustainability.

As many of our readers explore sustainability, many have emailed us asking about “the path”. It’s a road that we are very familiar with, having spent most of our adult lives in it’s exploration.

Okay, so our path is presently covered in new snow. That’s okay, we remember what it looks like;

Pathway to Pleasure
We’re certain that this exploration of “path” is in part due to discussions about planning and progress as families share  their dreams of a sustainable life with loved ones over the holidays. It’s important that your family understands what you are doing especially after seeing that big truck full of Corten boxes show up in the yard. Many of our families seek the help and assistance of their relatives as they move toward grasping their dreams of “Corten Security”.

Many of our readers ask us about the steps taken by families as they fulfill their destiny as “ISBU Pilgrims”. In our book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings”, we help families understand  just where the path leads. Once they’ve determined that they actually want to embrace and then explore that road, we start teaching them about the processes they will use to build their ISBU homes and fulfill their Sustainable dreams.

Over then next few weeks, we’re going to discuss some of the processes and paths leading to developing and building an ISBU home.

Speaking of development, the first installment will discuss residential land development. After all, before you build a home, you have to determine where it’ll sit, right?

In closing, as you sit in front of your hearths at home counting your blessings, I’m reminded of this poem;

An Iroquois Prayer for Thanksgiving

We return thanks to our mother,
the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines
for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,
the beans and squashes, which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
which, moving the air, has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and the stars,
which have given us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
that he has protected his grandchildren from witches and reptiles,
and has given us his rain.
We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in whom is embodied all goodness,
and who directs all things for the good of his children.

May your days and nights be blessed!

Stay tuned!

Need to butcher a whole deer or elk? Go big or stay home!

4 Sep

One of our readers/client families recently completed their ISBU home.

It’s located off-grid in a rural location and it was built using recycled, repurposed and salvaged materials. We worked with him extensively as we massaged his home design so that it could be built “paycheck by paycheck”.  By the time they’d gotten to the kitchen and bathroom counter-tops we had to get pretty creative.

What do you do when your brother-in-law works at a lumberyard and has access to scraps of oak, cherry and maple?

Why, you build countertops, of course.

We actually taught him (drew it out and then walked him through) how to build his own butcherblock counters.

ButcherblockIt was labor intensive, but QUITE affordable.  (He got all the scrap wood for free and cut it up himself using jigs and templates we helped him create.) And as you can see, the results are just beautiful. I’d be proud to have this counter in my own home. In fact, I’d do a whole kitchen this way. Couple that with a cool farm sink and bronze fixtures and you’d have something that looked like it came out of one of those designer magazines. Best of all, you’d accomplish those luxury looks for peanuts. I don’t think I need to point out that good butcherblock is “forever” if you maintain it properly.

We just hope that he also built a doghouse so that he has a place to sleep when his wife comes home from her “Ladies Auxiliary” meetings and finds him butchering a deer on the kitchen counter… LOL!

Till next time.

RR Avatar

Create Corten Art!

20 Jun

As we toil on ISBU projects (projects that encompass the finest in residential, industrial and commercial ISBU construction) that span countries and even continents, we thought we’d show you what other people are doing with ISBUs across the rock;

What better way to display art, than to display it WITHIN art?

Art gallery “cc4441” is located on the corner of a small alley in Torigoe, Tokyo.

cc4441
When you approach it, you discover that the gallery consists of two shipping containers that appear to have been dropped haphazardly on top of each another.

cc4441-1

But, you’d be wrong. On closer inspection, a large rear door opens to reveal a modern office and gallery space that stretches up across two levels.

cc4441 was built using two reclaimed (is there a better way?) 40 ft High Cube shipping containers.  This ISBU based gallery (measuring 394 square feet) was designed by the brilliant guys and gals at Japanese architectural firm, Tomokazu Hayakawa.

To address the site and maximize the use of space, the bottom ISBU container was cut into two parts that were then placed  perpendicular to one another, forming two small rooms that face in towards one another. They are connected via a central exterior courtyard.

cc4441-8

The second container was then placed above the two smaller rooms and is accessible via the exterior staircase.

We’ve often reflected that the use of ISBU containers lends itself to intimate little spaces perfect for the pursuit of endeavors like art.

cc4441-4

But don’t feel left out if you’re a working professional. Imagine a small architectural or design firm, an insurance agency, accounting firm or similar operation working out of this same building.

cc4441-6

Or imagine this as a modern little ISBU home dropped into a scenic setting…

We’ve done similar projects  that sat ON TOP of existing buildings. Holy corrugation! Talk about the Corten Tiny House in the Sky! 🙂

You can read more about this wonderful little gallery, here:

http://www.gizmag.com/double-storey-container-office-tokyo-tomokazu-hayakawa-architects/32606/

ET’s Stealth Cabin

1 Dec

Here at RR, we often talk about “symbiotic life”.  We’re talking about letting your home live with your landscape in harmony.

Sometimes, we’re so successful that you can’t immediately SEE the home on the property.

While this cabin isn’t exactly invisible, it does pose some interesting opportunities to “blend” structure into site.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Now, I know what you’re thinking. Washing the house takes on a while new meaning with all those mirrors, huh?

You’re gonna need an industrial sized barrel of Windex! 🙂

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20Okay… you won’t have any trouble finding it at NIGHT…

From the website:

On the weekend of October 12th in Joshua Tree, California, artist Phillip K Smith III revealed his light based project, Lucid Stead. What was expected to be a two day event for a handful of viewers, turned into over 400 people making the journey over two weekends. People as far away as New York City and Canada traveled to the California High Desert to experience it. Numerous media sources have asked to do cover stories on the work. Thousands of photos professional and amateur, were taken, posted and shared across blogs and social media sights. In just over 30 days, Lucid Stead officially became a phenomenon.

Composed of mirror, LED lighting, custom built electronic equipment and Arduino programming amalgamated with a preexisting structure, this architectural intervention, at first, seems alien in context to the bleak landscape.  Upon further viewing, Lucid Stead imposes a delirious, almost spiritual experience.  Like the enveloping vista that changes hue as time passes, Lucid Stead transforms.  In daylight the 70 year old homesteader shack, that serves as the armature of the piece, reflects and refracts the surrounding terrain like a mirage or an hallucination. As the sun tucks behind the mountains, slowly shifting, geometric color fields emerge until they hover in the desolate darkness. This transformation also adapts personal perception, realigning one’s sensory priorities. A heightened awareness of solitude and the measured pace of the environment is realized.

Smith states, “Lucid Stead is about tapping into the quiet and the pace of change of the desert.  When you slow down and align yourself with the desert, the project begins to unfold before you.  It reveals that it is about light and shadow, reflected light, projected light, and change.

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Well? Step up!

13 Oct

Okay, I’m still out sick. Back from the road and right into the bed… Oy.  Can you say “bleah!” ?

So, lately (from my bed), I’ve been working on a series of two story, small footprint ISBU homes.

In keeping with our mission, we build UP… not “expensive”.  And, since our anti-kryptonite cape is out at the cleaners, we need a staircase.

That started us to wondering:

What are some of YOUR favorite staircases?

Here’s a few of ours;

Alt tread bookcase stairsThis staircase is to die for… I mean… really.

You could get half of the Library of Hogwarts… um… er… Congress in there! LOL!

bookcase stairsOkay, you don’t like the “Harry Potter bookcase”… How about this one? Lots of storage and good looks too!

Bookshelf StaircasesOkay, the lack of a rail IS disturbing. We can fix that.

NY Chic - Wooden StairsI love how clean and industrial this looks. Seriously. I’d have this in MY ISBU home in a minute.

IN fact, I suspect this very same staircase is going in my personal studio.

Joshua's Staircase from his sleeping loftBest Staircase EVER. Joshua (my little boy) is going to love this!

pallet - stairsAnd then there’s the gratuitous  “Pile ’em to the sky – Pallet Staircase” because you guys know how much I like pallets…

Seriously, SHOW us the stairs that really light you up. Who knows? We might just build your staircase into one of our projects!

Stay tuned,

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Fortify me, baby! :)

16 Sep

Here at RR, we get letters.

Boy, do WE get letters.

People who “claim to know better” say mean things. These poltroons have all kinds of “alphabet soup” after their names. They claim that if THEY haven’t done something, it can’t be done.

They use their “status” and “peer positions” to say things to discourage others. You know, things like;

“You can’t stand an ISBU on end. It doesn’t work.”

“You can’t convert an ISBU that serves as a multi-level staircase. It doesn’t work.”

“You can’t use the top of that ISBU for anything practical. It just doesn’t work.”

You know what? YOU may be right…

ISBU Staircase FORT

ISBU Staircase FORT2

ISBU Staircase FORT3
But then, you might also be wrong…

Or.. YOU might not be up to the task, you bunch of posers. 😉

ISBU Tower Staircase with the KING of all “forts” on top.

Fully functional.

Provides multi-level access and lots of child-like laughter daily to the kids (and grown-ups) that live for “the time spent in that fort”…

Take that, you whiny naysayers. Go cry to someone else.

Alex KleinRR Avatar

aka: Ronin

For the last time, Housing ISN’T “Booming”.

5 Sep

I keep reading on all these “Housing sites” that things are getting better. IN fact, “Housing is Booming!”

They heard  Obama say it, so it must be true, right?

Um, WRONG.

I’ve been saying for months (in response to this “booming” garbage) that it’s just investor driven. NOW the statistics are finally coming out and the data proves my point.

According to Goldman Sachs, almost half of ALL U.S. home sales are completed using “full cash” transactions.

Yes, that’s right. Goldman Sachs just reported that cash sales account for 57 percent of all residential home sales versus 19 percent in 2005. Other estimates are not as high, but still range from 40 percent to 50 percent. That’s amazing. And that’s not just new homes; it’s ALL homes.

So, do you really think that a lot of first-time homeowners are racing hellbent into escrows – buying their homes with 100 percent cash?

Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m betting my paycheck that most second- and even third-time homeowners probably aren’t paying 100 percent cash or anything close to that.

When “cash purchases” drive a Bull market (despite what guys clinging to the sides of lifeboats would have you believe)  it’s NOT an upturn in the marketed item. It’s a FIRE SALE. The fact that this bull market is driven so heavily by cash purchases tells you conclusively that it’s not a real housing market boom at all. It’s just another cattle drive by greedy investors looking to cash in on hardship and market swings. Can you say “investment bubble”? I knew you could. 😉

And, in some states where housing is a huge deal, it gets worse. In places like Florida and Nevada, the cash sales recorded represents 65 percent of the market transactions. Arizona? That’s a big “housing” state, right? Brace yourself. 1 home sale in 2 is cashed out.

This goes right back to what I was saying. Investors are snapping up homes to either try to flip for a profit or turn into rentals as more and more American families find themselves unable to either maintain a mortgage or even GET one.

IMHO – those guys trying to convince you that everything is healing… are simply lying to you.  These so-called “Booming housing markets” are clearly not booming because of a fundamental demand for housing, economic recovery or market influence provided by the tooth fairy.

They’re booming because of investment demand.

And anyone who says otherwise is full of the same stuff in my cattle pastures… and I’m not talking about “grass”… unless you’re talking about it in it’s “recycled form”.

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“Living Walls” Rule…

18 Jul

Okay, many of you know that here at ISBU Central, we’re building a rather expansive facility in Montana, with the goals of providing a home for a “Sustainability Center”. The idea is to give families a good, close look at not only building ISBU homes, but then integrating sustainable practices into their lifestyles to allow them to overcome hardship and live better lives.

It’s a lifelong dream becoming reality and it’s changed the way that I look at my surroundings.

Montana is lush, green and beautiful. Structure is imposing, monumental and usually NOT designed to augment it’s placement. So, we’re taking hard looks at HOW we build, where we put it and then… how we help those structures exist symbiotically with their  surroundings.

One of our goals is to live “unseen” right out in the open. That means that we’re addressing perimeters in a different way than most people.

I’ve been thinking about “living walls” (sometimes referred to as “green screens”) for a long time now.

Living walls are certainly garnering  supporters in the fight against poor air quality. Living walls have already proven themselves to be a key weapon in the fight against poor air quality in our cities.

In the July 2012 edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers investigated the potential health improvements that could be generated if more vegetation was strategically positioned in our busy roads. The research found that there could be a 30% reduction in our streets’ pollution levels through the intelligent use of living walls.

As well as turning carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, plants clean the air by soaking up nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The bonus of using living walls compared to say… trees,  is the huge amount of space and time they save.

Did you know that a 200 square foot living wall will remove the same number of pollutant particulates from the air as an average-sized tree? Or that the ivy that these screens usually incorporate is also effective at absorbing pollutants? Better still, a green screen can be installed pretty quickly (like, over a weekend), while a tree can take many years to reach any stature.

Green screens are being installed in many public venues. They install them at stadiums, civic centers and public spaces. They’ve even been used in  multi-story car parks on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. Okay, so I can’t have a Formula One race car in my barn… but I CAN have the green walls that they race around…

I suppose I’m just settling, but it’ll do… for now! LOL!

And remember that living walls are not just about improving the air quality. If you really think about how you use them, they can deter graffiti, promote more sensible road use, enhance security and privacy, and promote a sense of well-being and calm.

Living walls can also form an integral part of a roof garden when your space is at a premium.

And, best of all, they are beautiful. Let’s face it… walls can be ugly and downright unattractive. But with a living wall, an inert, lifeless space can be transformed into something vibrant and attractive. In this way, living walls have the potential to transform spaces, be they public or private,  for the better – converting the drab into the desirable while also purifying the very air we breathe.

And, that’s what we have in mind for the farm. Farms should be organic, living breathing things. What better way to define them than by incorporating living walls into their design, to designate and define space?

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