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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.

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.

Happy Independence Day!

30 Jun

Greetings Campers!

Now I know that you’re expecting another “Gather round the campfire whilst I tell ya a story about steel and determination”…

But today we’ve put the welders down and picked up another set of tools…

You see… campfires are now officially a no-no!

Let’s just jump in, shall we?

That “Hail and how are ya?'”  camper reference seems perfectly appropriate as we dive into the July 4th weekend!

I say “dive” as I’m hoping that you are all headed to some glorious beach, river or lake to find respite from the heat waves baking the country!

Here at the homestead it’s been 100 degrees plus daily and it’s not just tempers that are flaring.

Mother Nature has decided, in her infinite wisdom, to try to burn off most of the surrounding forests and we’re seeing the wildfires double in size, in less than a day.

Wildfire4

Just south of where I live (by a few miles) a wildfire is raging out of control. The fire line is miles long as it consumes everything in it’s path.

Many readers remember that a few years back I had to evacuate my own home to get clear of the horrific wildfires that threatened our canyon.

Now, many other Montana families are revisiting that adventure…

Property owners who haven’t evacuated their homes have dug in and fire crews from all over Montana and elsewhere have been mobilized to help combat the flaming inferno that is now the Bitterroot Montana forest. I say “flaming inferno” because the surrounding forests are filled with “beetlekill” timber that is almost incendiary when it’s introduced to a spark. “Beetlekill” trees (trees killed by insects) are literally “standing dead” trees just waiting to go off. The trees literally burst into flames like bombs when embers hit them.

Wildfire2

Despite my personal injuries (I’ve torn muscles in my abdomen), I personally spent the wee hours of last night up in the fire zone, surveying the fire’s growth and photographing it as it jumped from canyon to canyon. You could literally see the trees exploding as the fire races from ridgeline to ridgeline.

As I did this, property owners not in their yards clearing out a firebreak or standing the lines in the surrounding mountains… were packing cars and trucks with precious belongings in case they needed to flee the path of destruction that roars toward them.

Why  I telling you all this? I mean, I’m sure you have better things to do than worry about rural Montana, right?

I’m telling you about this  because I want to remind you to BE CAREFUL as you enjoy your July 4th Independence Day extravaganzas!

One stray spark and you can literally turn your party into an inferno!

Wildfire7

Q. What do Montana Firefighters see as they battle flames in the darkness? . A. They see HELL 80 feet tall and raging out of control.

If you’re  camping or playing in the  woods, PLEASE EXERCISE SAFETY!

Please be careful where you point those sparkleys!

Please make sure that the remains of your fireworks displays are  extinguished! Put a bucket of water next to your display area!

Please make sure that campfires are out and doused with water after you’re  through roasting , burgers, hot dogs and marshmallows!

Please exercise safety in every aspect of your celebrating!

The lives you  save… may be your own!

All you need is a little “bump”!

1 Feb

Greetings, Campers!

It’s that time of year…

You know, that time when (faced with the winter snow and ice outside) thoughts drift (no “snowdrift” pun intended) to “things Corten”.

Elk Tribe - web

As we look out into our yards, many of our building families are eagerly exploring their hopes for Spring, as they begin to draw final lines for their ISBU Home projects. And they better keep at it, because Spring is rapidly approaching. Heck, we’ll get our few days of Spring here, eventually!

As these families get their plans in order, we’re seeing a LOT of indicators that demonstrate that the US isn’t in “recovery” in the housing areas. A lot of investment is happening in Real Estate, but it’s not in the areas you’d expect. It’s in the “rental housing” arena. As times grow hard, more and more families and individuals are renting in lieu of buying that “dream home”.

We’ve received many, many responses lately from singles and couples asking about affordable ISBU (Shipping Container) solutions that use a single 40′ ISBU as structure.

We’ve all seen the medium and even high density buildings being created using these boxes to house people.

High Speed Man Camp - from ISBUs - Oil Country

And, YES… it does make us feel like we’re looking at sardines packed in a can.

But, what about if you simply bump the box out to gain additional footage?

Adding 4′ to a box in width isn’t particularly challenging. In fact, we do it all the time (usually to gain an entry foyer or a space for built-ins). All you are doing is expanding that ISBU to sit on a 420 square foot footprint.

And, dropping it onto pilings that you cast by hand (using Sonotubes and concrete) makes it a no-brainer.

TheSingleBoxRocks
We’ve shown you this before, but I think it’s time to show it to you again. 

Imagine this as a Mother-In-Law apartment or even as an income apartment on your existing property. It’d make a nice guest house as well.

  • Do you have a student in High School or College itching to “get out of the house” without leaving the property?
  • Do you have a rental property that needs more units that are potentially duplexed or even stacked?
  • Are you looking for a “tiny house” type residence?

The “bump” wall is perfect for additional glazing (windows not shown) or even a big sliding glass door and deck.

Or, executed in “rowhouse style”, you could add a front and rear deck to this lil gem and it becomes quite luxurious. Imagine this plan staggered so that each home and deck had privacy! Simply offset these units by 8 feet and you’d have a very attractive rental complex.

While this unit was originally designed to be “home built” by “sweat equity” families, it could easily be executed by builders and contractors without a ton of headaches.

(For all you “naysayers” out there, this home has been built several times in the $50 per square foot range. The costs vary by location, labor costs and choice of materials. If you build it yourself and reuse, repurpose and recycle materials diligently, you can achieve amazing things. Don’t forget to add “beer and beef” to your budget to help your friends in the trade, and volunteers! LOL! )

And you don’t have to DIY this home. While the price per square foot would rise (because builders and sub-contractors don’t work for free) it would still be quite cost effective.

The solutions are out there, folks. You just have to reach for them.

O Magic 8-Ball – Where, oh where is housing going?

15 Jan

Here at “Corten Central”, we’re pretty concerned with the direction of family housing. It’s vital that families have homes that work with them and not against them, especially in troubled times.

We teach families globally to create symbiotic housing environments that provide a nurturing of family life and not a seemingly endless maintenance cycle that requires infusion of resources to keep going forward.

As housing evolves, we find ourselves more and more dependent on systems and gadgets that seemingly make life worth living. But do they really?

yoda

Yoda said; “Live in harmony, you must.”

He was exactly right. Sure, he was 800 years old. But he knew that to live a good life, you have to eliminate the stress and chaos.

(Okay, you can begin this process by NOT telling your relatives where you are moving… but at some point you have to think about the home you’re living in.) LOL!

In a perfect world, your home and lifestyle merge to create a sustainable path that makes the burdens of home ownership easier. In some cases with good design and the right elements, it makes home ownership seamless.

Are you paying attention to the AIA’s (American Institute of Architects) recently announced “future housing trends” for 2016 and beyond?

These “future trends” look suspiciously like a return to the past, at least in our case. For example, we’ve always been proponents of using natural materials that lack synthetic or chemical components that can prove harmful to family members or pets.

We’ve always urged families to build redundant power and water systems that will insure family safety, seamlessly. It’s about being self-reliant and self-aware. It’s about taking control of your life. It’s about being responsible for your family.

We’ve always urged families to use “environmentally responsible materials” whenever possible to insure family health and well-being.

We’ve preached recycling, repurposing and reusing. It just makes good sense and done correctly it can produce amazing results. We love reclaiming materials and turning them into magic.

We know exactly what we are talking about. We have a lot of practice and field work behind us. We’ve earned our scars.

We don’t just “build stuff”. Many of you know that on the philanthropic side, CHC and RR are heavily involved in “first responder” humanitarian aid. Our non-profit foundation is internationally known for being there first and doing the job required no matter what chaos exists. We understand “disasters”, both natural and manmade, at a level that few others can even have nightmares about.

haiti

(Ask us about Haiti, the Philippines or Nepal sometime…)

Let’s look at the “trends” that the AIA just announced as “pivotal”;

1. Disaster-resistant designs

This means designing and building “environmentally responsible structures”. With more extreme weather brought on by climate change, architects and builders are already seeing that design features meant to insure the durability of homes in low-lying areas are being embraced nationally, regardless of GPS location. There is, indeed… a need.

agaton-floods-philippines

Architectural Design firms are already incorporating protective features intended to safeguard homes from flooding, fires and wind damage in impact areas. This will become common even in noncoastal areas.

Such protective measures can include elevating a home several feet up in the air on pilings, building safe rooms in the home to protect the residents and installing water cisterns or providing back-up power generation.

2. Healthy building materials

Everyone is talking about this lately. We’ve all seen the “local farmers market movement”. We’re reminded that eating healthier leads to a better life and it improves the local economy at the same time. It’s win-win.

This “organic” movement is influencing building material selection as well. Home builders and their buyers have become more educated about building materials that don’t promote good health and clean living.

Think of all of the materials in your home that “linger on after the tradesmen, construction workers and installers have left the building”. Paints, flooring, adhesives, and even cabinet materials off-gas, giving off fumes that can make you and your loved ones sick. Remember also that those off-gassing materials are often installed low enough in your home to be harmful to your pets as well.

TIP:

Look for caulking materials that are solvent free. Look for adhesives that are water based. Insulate with cellulose instead of fiberglass. Look for solid wood cabinets and fixtures instead of their laminated or particle board counterparts. Anything laminated or particle board based probably contains formaldehyde.

Did you know that although plywood is NOT a “healthy choice”, the exterior grades of plywood are actually preferable to their interior grade cousins? It’s because the phenol formaldehyde binders of exterior grade plywood are waterproof and more stable than the urea based formaldehyde binders used in the construction of interior grade plywood materials. And it should also be noted that the binders in interior grade plywoods are only water resistant, and not waterproof. It makes a big difference.

3. Smart-home automation

Architects anticipate that smart-home automation will continue to intrigue families as the features include more and more “relief of input” in areas like temperature control, elevated levels of security and more efficient lighting programmable from a laptop, tablet or even your cell phone. Costs for these products have dropped significantly. They are no longer gadgets for the rich and famous. With a little planning and foresight, they are easily incorporated into your home.

home-automation

The idea is to make the home work FOR YOU. If done properly, the home becomes a nurturing family member.

4. Designs catering to an aging population

We’ve known for a long time that good design means building responsible structures that look after the inhabitants as they grow older. Trend driven design fixes that will allow people to continue occupying their homes longer are likely to become more popular as the families age.

Hallway2

These features will include elements like wider hallways. Think about this for a minute.

In our view, hallways should NEVER be dark, narrow gauntlets crafted to be navigated with caution.

Hallways should embrace a family and add functionality and efficiency.  Wider hallways provide the opportunity to utilize that space by allowing the creation of multipurpose areas, additional (and quite stylish) storage and even provide display locations for family heirlooms and galleries.

They become focal points instead of confining and herding you to other locations.

Great design contributes to your quality of life. Great design increases function, reduces costs associated with building and focuses on efficiency and reduction of maintenance.

Now add lower windows and features like smaller footprint structures similar to that of cottages and bungalows to the mix and you have something. 

5. Energy-efficient design

We’ve always known that homes should work with you and not against you. We’ve always known that resources diminish over time. Looked at your power bill lately? Has your water bill gone up?

Good design includes efficiency, especially in areas of water use and energy consumption. But you can pursue this too far. Take LEEDS for example. While it SOUNDS like a great idea, LEEDS adds significant costs to construction that few homeowners realize as a viable return. GOOD design will lend itself to not only efficiency and saving, but provide alternatives in times of hardship.

SONY DSC

For example, photovoltaic panels (PV’s) sound expensive and complicated when first embraced. But boiled down, they’re simple, relatively easily understood systems that are easily monitored, insuring that your family has reliable power despite local conditions. Remember that when your neighborhood is suffering rolling brown-outs and your house is the only one on the street with power because you get it straight from the sun.

We’ve always thought “out of the box” despite teaching families to live within them. And as we grow older, wiser, more experienced… It’s good to see that we really weren’t the “crazy guys” our peers claimed we were, way back when.

It’s funny what a few decades does to prove theory (and dispel myth and urban legend) when properly applied.

Holy Hernia, Batman! Can you “heavy lift” an ISBU?

12 Jan

Okay, while we sit here in the snow and ice pondering our next post, I thought I’d share this little gem with you.

The proud folks at Boeing, the parents of air transportation everywhere on the planet…

… have finally decided that maybe, just maybe, a shipping container is for just that. Shipping stuff.

You see, when aircraft move cargo, they don’t use a shipping container, they use a palletized system that allows that cargo to be loaded with a high level of versatility and efficiency.

But what if you could just shove that loaded shipping container (and several of it’s friends) into the cargo bay of a modern aircraft and just fly off into the wild blue yonder?

I mean, military aircraft carries heavy equipment all the time.

So, the idea of moving containers using aircraft should be doable, right?

Check this out;

And BOEING is serious about this;

Patent Information:
Number – US 9,205,910 B1
Title – CARGO AIRCRAFT FOR TRANSPORTING INTERMODAL CONTAINERS IN TRANSVERSE ORIENTATION
Inventors – Lowell B. Campbell, Mukilteo, WA (US); and Victor Ken Stuhr, Seattle, WA (US)
Assignee – The Boeing Company, Chicago, IL (US)
Filed on – Aug. 20, 2015
Appl. No. – 14/830,867.
Application 14/830,867 is a division of application No. 13/968,422, filed on Aug. 15, 2013, granted, now 9,139,283.

Coming up;

Looking at “Future Architecture” sometimes means looking at the past.

Stay tuned.

 

 

It’s a brand New Year!

1 Jan

As the New Year dawns;

New Years Day 2016

I’m reminded that this IS the year for change. Many of us have spent long hours on the couch, saying things like;

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda…”

Look, you’re not getting any younger, my friends. All of us are caught up chasing the same clock. You know, that one that ticks off days, weeks and months of your life, as you sit idly by wondering where the year went.

And now… 2015 is GONE. As 2016 debuts, it’s time to dream, plan and then act.

Okay, okay… many of us will make New Years Resolutions that aspire “hope, change and challenge”…

But few of us will actually rise to the occasion and embark on that long, lonely road to happiness and fulfillment that requires almost immeasurable amounts of sweat, blood and tears… and the realization that success will actually require communicating at high levels with your significant other, your kids and (gasp!) your relatives.

The facts are;

While the administration and Congress touted growth in 2015, we just didn’t see it in our driveways.

The recession has left new home construction on shaky legs due to the less than robust economy, the scarcity of land to build on and the ever rising costs of construction… and IF you could overcome all those obstacles that same recession has left many families out of the buying market.

Those traditionalists who have purchased homes are bringing with it a new view on home ownership. Gone are the days of “swapping up in pursuit of that perfect abode”. What we’re seeing in the data is a sentiment that make homes far more durable as investments. People are buying “the good bones” and then remodeling that home to suit their family’s needs.

They’re digging in and they’re making no bones about it. (I know, I know… a pun. Go ahead and groan. It’s okay. I groaned a little bit too!)

“First timers” aren’t gonna revitalize the market either. Kids aren’t getting those degrees, getting married and then rushing out into high paying jobs that stimulate growth in the economy. Businesses simply aren’t building jobs to fuel a new economic revitalization.

Less than 30% of all home purchases last year were by First Time Buyers. In fact, it’s been that way for the last 19 months in a row. You can blame that on the economy, the fact that we’re not growing new jobs and that the future is uncertain despite optimistic claims to the contrary.

With housing prices and rents rising, many “first timers” are already struggling to save for down payments without splurging for extras. They’re still trying to get into the door.

Housing starts are always a good indicator that the economy is moving the right direction. But new housing construction isn’t exactly setting any records either. The only real growth has been in… you guessed it… rental properties.

People aren’t buying. Investors are. Guess what they’re buying?

You guessed it. Savvy investors are buying rental properties. It’s because the economy has created a vacuum that has caused the rental market to boom. Many families are simply renting as they wait for the dark days to end.

Multi-family structure starts are moving rapidly and are doing better than they have been since 1989. In fact (since we started tracking these starts in 1974) they’re at an all-time high.

Did you know that over 90% of all recent construction over two units was rental based or inspired?

Back in the day, these structures were being built as condos. Now, what we’re seeing is “simple rental”. Build ’em, book ’em and then keep them full.

It should be noted that the construction of single-family homes hasn’t improved much. While some tout that building permits for single-family homes hit their second highest level since the downturn in October, permits are actually running just 1% ahead of last year’s pace through October. That’s hardly inspiring.

Okay, enough doom and gloom. Let’s look at the other side of that coin;

What we’re seeing here is that our building families are redefining HOW they will live and then, they’re going after it. They aren’t scared and they aren’t comfortable following the neighbors in herds down the path. They’re blazing new trails.

These families are embracing the hope by taking control of their own lives. They aren’t as concerned with gadgets, fancy textures and upgrades.

They’re concentrating on energy efficiency, sustainable products and low maintenance appliances and finishes that relieve them of future labor intensive upkeep.

Which brings me to the heart of this post;

Along with many single family homes and buildings, we’re building an awful lot of ISBU based rental properties this Spring.

Guess why?

Because when you talk to architects and builders about “coming building trends for 2016” and they use terms like “energy efficient designs”, “healthy building materials” (low chemical, for example), “sustainability”, “home automation and monitoring” and “designs that grow with families” – to embrace changes in lifestyle, age and ability… we know exactly what they’re talking about.

You see… we’ve been using these concepts to produce GREAT ISBU Architecture all along – for over 30 years.

Now, either we’re visionaries or somebody needs to get out of their cubicles and watch cable tv for a season or two.

Stay tuned. We have a LOT of stuff to show you.

Happy New Year! May you and yours find health and happiness in the year ahead!

AK

A little “Piney Steel Cabin” goodness!

27 Nov two-tree-house

I don’t usually talk about “religion” in public. However,  many of my readers know that I’m Jewish. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time in my adult life in Israel among “my” people…

One of the reasons for this might surprise you. It’s not simply a quest in search of “those of my tribe” as I place one foot in front of the other on the path to enlightenment…

The world is, after all…  made up of many tribes. It’s not all about ME. It’s not all about MY religion. It’s not all about MY firm or MY work. It’s actually because I’m delighted to discover that some of the work of my fellow Jews is exciting and most enjoyable. It’s because some of the most creative minds I’ve ever encountered are harbored in these old and hallowed hills…

I travel a lot. We’re involved with the building of ISBU homes and ISBU structures all over the planet. Each trip exposes us to local cultures, local treatments that both inspire and delight us.

And then, I go home. My readers know that as an American, I live in the mountains of Montana in a beautiful location cradled high in the rugged Pacific Northwest of the United States. I’m surrounded by trees, rivers, lakes and creeks.

Lake Como

We’re constantly in the company of wildlife – for example deer, elk, turkeys (did I mention it’s Thanksgiving here?) and some of the most pristine fisheries in the nation. Each walk through the woods reveals yet another wonder, another mystery given as if a gift from the Big Guy upstairs.

As we seek to “enhance” that which has been so graciously given us, we’re frequently asked if we’re going to build any little cabins or bunkers in the woods here to demonstrate the prowess of Corten Steel. Okay, we recognize that many of these emails are from readers “fishing” for an invite to Corten Central, but… many of our readers are actually planning or building small vacation cabins, fishing or hunting cabins or just “getaways” in the mountains using these incredible Corten boxes.

We’ve given this task much thought and research and spent a lot of time investigating the work of other extremely talented people as we move forward with our own little Corten Cabins tucked into the trees..

For example;

We’ve already shown you the Steel Farmhouse built by CampCo in Texas.

CampCo1

It’s a brilliant piece of architectural work designed and constructed by a very talented Custom Home Builder. It’s reminiscent of “Corten Constructs” like the “Containers of Hope” project in Costa Rica that so many of us are enthralled with. Like the Steel Farmhouse, it’s so simple that it almost defies the elegance it provides.

Here’s another little “Corten Cabin”, this time nestled in the woods that looks right at home in the trees. What may surprise you is that this little gem isn’t in Montana. It’s in Jerusalem. Yes, Israel. Who would have thought?

two-tree-house

Golany Architect’s “Two-Tree House” integrates Jerusalem pine trees into a pre-fabricated ISBU (Shipping Container) structure to provide the 1 bedroom, 1 bath Corten Cabin with natural air-conditioning and shade which also shields the cabin from harsh sunlight that would otherwise damage the exterior deck and wood.

two-tree-house-5

The designers insulated and finished the ISBU structure off-site, moved it to it’s foundation and then applied the required masonry and timber cladding to give this cabin a more rustic “cabin” feel. two-tree-house-4

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Two recycled shipping containers were prepared off-site (much like we often do here in Montana) to allow prefabrication of the interiors and installation of the fixtures. Once the finished containers were shipped to the site and set on the “L” shaped foundation, the cabin was finished out by combined some native masonry and timbers to literally “mate” the cabin to it’s surroundings. Note the window treatments. Think about where this goes. You can fortify your cabin so that when you leave it at the end of the season, it’s design lends itself to it’s security. The beauty is that it looks “natural” – like it’s been there forever.
.
Our Corten Cabins here on the ranch will seek that same bonding, the creation of a sustainable symbiosis that allows the new structures to embrace those old places…
It starts with finding the right site. We’re going to talk about that very soon.
Stay tuned.

Some Thanksgiving LOVE

26 Nov Pathway to Pleasure

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!

Are you Paul Bunyan or Norm Abrams?

7 Nov Pinus_taeda_loblolly_pine_large_crown

As Fall turns into Winter (it’s already snowing here in Montana) we’re working feverishly to get builds completed globally and to get projects phased for next Spring.

Here’s an example of how things work when you build with ISBUs;

Many families build their “structure” during the Summer and Fall, knowing that the containers themselves provide an opportunity to have a “weathered in” building by their inherent design. Of course this depends on how extensive the modifications have been, but some families actually set the boxes and connect them without removing the larger exterior openings (like doors and windows) so that they can work on the interiors during Winter.

This allows them to work inside without getting rained or snowed on and it protects the unattended building from theft or vandalism. If  you’re  building  your ISBU home using “sweat equity”, this can be a real advantage.

Some of the families we work with really push the envelope in ingenuity and craftsmanship. And some of them exceed our expectations by taking on large tasks that other families fear to face.

Like these guys;

Dear RRONIN,

Here in North Carolina we’re finally setting our (4) shipping containers on CMUs and the wrap-around decking is being supported by steel reinforced Sonotube pilings attached to footing forms just like you taught us to create. We didn’t end up setting the ISBUs on pilings as we’re building on top of a newly constructed concrete block basement.

For our decking support we used Sonotube Builders Tubes in 12″ diameter with Bell footing forms and in the ISBU structure we’re using 40′ High Cubes, just like you taught us.

It seemed so daunting at first, building 12″ pilings by hand. That is… until we actually started doing the work. After we figured out the first one, the rest of them were as simple as pie! An auger and a couple of strong backs made the work child’s play. We braced the piers (like you suggested) as they extend above grade 3 feet.

As you suggested, we insured that the concrete was the consistency of “the dry side of oatmeal” and then we used the agitator you urged us to rent to get all the air out of the pours. Prebuilding the rebar reinforcement frames and dropping them in before pouring concrete worked well. Heeding your advice to work “gently” with the agitator… well it worked tremendously.

As you recommended, we did install j-bolts in the pilings so that we can bolt steel plates into the piling caps to weld the container rails to. We left the casings on after the pilings set, as you suggested.

(FYI: Alex literally walked us step by step through the piling manufacture process. We sent him a photo of what we wanted to achieve and he did the rest. His advice made it so easy that we’re wondering why other families don’t embrace this. We saved thousands of dollars.)

You’ve talked extensively about using portable sawmills and even kilns crafted from Shipping Containers to “make lumber”. It’s always intrigued us and we’re ready to take on the challenge. We’ve arranged to lease a portable sawmill and we’re going to build a kiln on-site using an ISBU and a Wood Gasifier. The wood gasifier will later be used to heat the residence.

We have several (over 30) large trees in a variety of species that needed to be removed on the site to allow our home to find it’s resting place. We’re thinking about having the trees sawn into wide planking next Spring and then incorporating that into our build.

This is in part to re-floor the container after the removal of the existing flooring, which we understand  is toxic.  Additionally, we’re thinking  that flooring our ISBU home with planking crafted from local trees will (a) “bond us to the site” and (b) further our “repurpose and reuse” program which is making this entire build possible. We know how strongly you feel about recycling, repurposing and reusing and we want to follow in your footsteps.

Do you have any tips about the wood selection, preparation or even the flooring installation? We know the mechanics of actually installing the boards into the  box, but is there anything  that we might be overlooking? Selecting trees from the site and then making lumber is a mystery to us.

BTW: When do we remove the sonotube casings? Do we even have to? Will they just eventually rot away?

Signed,

Corten Carolinas

Dear CCs,

Making flooring from reclaimed trees isn’t difficult. (We regularly drop, sawmill, kiln dry and fabricate flooring as part of our rural and off-grid projects.) Saying that it isn’t “difficult” does not mean that it’s “easy” however.

I can’t possibly explain the entire “lumber” process in an article, but I can touch on points that I think will be crucial to your success.

First, you have to identify the trees you have available. A good place to start would be this publication;

http://ncforestservice.gov/publications/IE0115.pdf

I’ve seen the site you’re building on and I’m betting that most of the trees you’re looking at are loblolly pine, a wood that is used quite frequently in commercial lumber applications.

Pinus_taeda_loblolly_pine_large_crown

Species identification is crucial as each species of trees has a different drying characteristic. It’s not best (or even smart) to simply cut whatever is laying around and kiln in the same passes. It rarely works that way.

Sawmill selection is really, really important. Sawmills are like Fords and Chevy’s. You have to select the sawmill for the task. You can see many different operations in work on Youtube and that’s a good place to begin your orientation of the “lumber making” process.

(BTW: I prefer Dodges or Chevys to Fords, hands down. Let the hate mail begin!)

Wide boards are quite attractive but not without peril for the DIY homebuilder. While they seems a no-brainer because it appears that less boards equals less labor, it doesn’t really work that way. The reason is simple; The wider the board/plank, the more potential for movement. Wide boards will “cup” and drift more frequently. When you’re making lumber yourself, think of this as “warp on steroids”. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and you’re going to need a local woodworking mentor to achieve your goals.

For example, after sawing, wide planks must be carefully “stickered” and sorted/stacked in the kiln to insure the best drying environment.

kiln stickering for charging

A kiln sticker is basically a long wood or plastic spacer that is inserted between boards to aid in the drying process. The purpose of “kiln stickers” is to separate each board surface to maximize air can flow over each board surface and increase the potential for the evaporation of water. There’s an art to stickering lumber in a kiln. Stickers must be selected and placed so that they give adequate support to the boards so that there is minimized warping of the lumber and decreased breakage.

And you’re not simply trying to create “2x4s and 2x6s”. Since your intent is to make flooring, you really need to pay attention to details. Stickers should also be chosen to minimize the stains that sometimes develop in the lumber where is makes contact with the stickers. Important consideration of stickering isn’t easy. It includes thoughts about the species and grade of wood used for your stickers, the moisture content of your stickers, the sticker size and the placement in stack, especially in areas of your load supports.

You can find a lot of information of stickering (and sticker selection) using a resource like Google.

Once you’ve sawn and kiln-dried your boards, you want to acclimate them in your home for as long as possible to get the adjusted to their new home. Place them in a spot that will get good air flow and stack tall and narrow. The idea is to use as little space as possible and maximize airflow to the center of your lumber stacks.

Once I’m ready to go, I set up a router and then start running my tongues and grooves in the flooring boards to begin my install process.

A pneumatic nailer and barbed nails work best for wood flooring in my experience.

And thanks for taking it easy with the agitator! While the use of an agitator isn’t recommended, I find that it does aid in creating strong pilings. The idea is to coax the air out of the piling without doing damage to it.

There are several manufacturers that make a snap on form footing that attaches to the bottom of a Sonotube casing to create a “bell” or  footed piling. Where applicable, I highly recommend them.  They look like this;

Footing FOrms attached to Sonotube piling tube

FYI: Here’s the original photo they sent me of the pilings that they had in mind to give me an idea of what they were tackling;

Sonotube Piling Example

Builder’s tubes are designed to be used without stripping the casing away. There are tubes that require removal, but builder’s tubes are most commonly used  by the DIY families for decking and fence posts, etc…

http://www.sonotube.com/UserFiles/sonotube/Documents/Sonotube%C2%AE%20Builders%20Tube%C2%AE%20concrete%20forms.pdf

Until next time…

AK