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2012 – Let’s make it an INSPIRATIONAL Year!

2 Jan

Let’s start the New Year by being inspired, okay?

Okay, first… shameless plug:

I heartily recommend that you pick up a copy of:

Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings“.

If you want the skinny on ISBUs and HOW to use them to build a home, it’s a great start! And, we’re holding the price of the book at $10.95 until January 16th.

After that date, it goes back up to $15.95 and it’s going to stay there, for the foreseeable future…

So, get it NOW and save a few bucks.

Sales of the book still supports the Corten Cavalry, and…  it always will.  Help yourself and help others at the same time!

For those of you waiting anxiously for the release of “The Nuts and Bolts of ISBU Housing” – we’re told that final legal approval and sign-off is just around the corner. While we grow more and more impatient by the day, we’re almost there… finally…

(If we’d known there were so many hoops to jump thru, we’d have done it differently, in retrospect…)

Now… on with the show;

I got a pointer to a post today that really sums up what many of us dream about. We want to change our lives for the better…


Can you change the world in 100 days?

Yes. And, you can do it with a day to spare!  🙂

A Mom and her daughter decided to trek around the world, documenting people following their dreams.

They traveled to 6 continents, filming almost a dozen different people following their passions and dreams, to make the world  a better place.

YOU Can Follow YOUR dreams… It just takes will power and a big heart!

Want more inspiration?

A buddy of mine, Dr. Owen Geiger,  has released a DVD about Earthbag Home Building that is a must have for anyone even thinking about using earthbags in ANY kind of Hybrid or Alternative Home plan.

If a picture is worth a thousand words… this DVD is worth it’s weight in GOLD!

I encourage you to go see Owen at to find out more about this exciting DVD!

My thanks to Owen Geiger, for reminding me about this inspiring media!


But they OUTLAWED growing grass…

25 Nov

While you’re sitting there in your Turkey Day stupor, here’s some entertainment:

From “Stupid Bath Tricks”…

Subtitled; “Things NOT to include in your ISBU Home budget”;


Jungle Grass Shower

Designers Jun Yasumoto, Vincent Vandenbrouk, Olivier Pigasse, and Alban Le Henry came up with the concept when looking for new ways to recycle precious H2O. After you have washed your turkey saturated butt in the special eco-shower they’ve built…

… the water passes down into a series of physical filters and is treated by plants such as reeds and rushes growing around your feet.

Who am I? Freakin’ Moses? I’m surrounded by bulrushes? Oy!

They say (at least one of them did… ;));

“These plants have been proven to be able to remove the chemicals from your shampoo. Using a natural filtering principle called phyto-purification, the bathroom becomes a mini-eco-system by recycling and regenerating the waste water. With this project, we tried to combine the pleasure of taking a shower with the satisfaction of recycling water. We wanted the recycling process to actually interact with the use of shower.”


Great! Now I need a freakin’ Machete to get into the shower!

Look, I don’t even like to mow the lawn. That’s what goats are for…

Now, I know all those guys  (with exotic and even impressive four syllable last names) worked hard on this, but for crying out loud… think of what they could have done with that energy if they’d applied it to something that actually made some sense.

I mean… there’s world peace and starving people and homeless gerbils, and … goldfish just waiting to be flushed to “fishy heaven”.

Wait! It’s just a thought, but… If you’re crazy enough to actually “want” this, aren’t you already using ORGANIC shampoos?

Ummm… You didn’t think of that, did you? Man, I have to do everything around here! I bet Organic Shampoos are WAY cheaper than this “bathroom beast”!

And you won’t even need a plumber… unless of course, (cover your eyes… wait for it… wait for it…) you like some crack with your grass… 😉

The price you ask?

I’m told that if you have to ask… you’d better see a cardiologist before they whisper it into your ear.

YES. I’m shaking my head.
YES. I’m rolling my eyes.

Look, anyone with two brain cells (except TED ;)) knows that Ronin likes recycling, big-time!

But this? This is for the person who “craves attention at Olympian levels” and has money to burn.

If you’re REALLY that concerned, why not just build an “outside shower”?

I mean, it worked for “the Skipper, Gilligan and MaryAnne”… 😉

Via [Trendsnow ] & [The Daily Mail– ] & [HDF -]

Happy Thanksgiving!

And be kind to Indians, huh? 😉

STOP! How far is “TOO far”?

15 Nov

Dear Readers,

From time to time (mostly when I’m getting hammered by several ISBU projects all at once!) I “share” email with you to give you insight into how ISBUs work.

Well, today is your lucky day!

It’s…. da-da-da-daaaaaah!  (wait for it… wait for it…)  “Mailbag time”:

Dear “Reverend” Ronin,

I love the idea of building an affordable home with shipping containers. It’s “uber-cool”!

After reading your book, I’m more enthused than ever to get my butt to the local Community College, so I can learn how to weld and use a plasma cutter!

And when you say that using the ISBUs (shipping containers) to actually create space, by placing them a distance from each other and then reclaiming the space between them, it just gets better!

I fully “get” that the interior you create this way will cost just concrete for the floor and a roof system to keep the rain out!

Here’s what I’m thinking;

First, I live in coastal Alabama. We don’t get snow, but we do get high winds and rain.

I’m also being told that building codes here are pretty easy to work with.

I want to use (2) 40′ High Cube ISBUs to create a three bedroom – 2 bath home. I need it to be on one floor, as my mother will live with me and she’s handicapped.

In fact, there is a design in your book that is almost exactly what I wanted and even more.

I want to use solar panels to create hot water and also install photovoltaic panels to contribute electricity to the house, to keep my month-to month costs as low as possible.

I don’t plan to be up on the roof. I like to keep my feet on the ground. So don’t try to talk me into a “green roof” or some “uber-cool” rooftop oasis, okay? I just want the “Walmart” ISBU version.

I’m building this with (my mother’s and my own) “saved” money. No frills. Just nice, livable space, please.

But I have a worry… rather, there is something that I don’t really understand.

How FAR apart can you place the containers when you are creating that “reclaimed” interior space?

How much is enough? How far is TOO far?

And can I use the floorplan in the book as a starting point? How do I do that? Do you work with families “directly”? Do I need to buy the floorplan from you first?

And hey, since I’m asking questions… WHEN is the BIG BOOK going to be finished? I am so anxious to read it!

Thanks for all you do!

A devoted member of the Corten Church.


Dear Parishioner,

Thanks for the comments about the book. It’s great to actually hear from people who like it. After all, I did write it to inspire people to want to learn even more about ISBUs.

So, I tip my big ole’ church hat to you… (it’s a “popey lookin thingwhich, by the way, I wear to hide the fact that I have a pointed head…) 😉

Once you figure out what you want in your ISBU design, you have to figure out how to enclose it.

Otherwise, it’s just retaining walls, right?

Remembering that most (if not all) of my residential ISBU builds are “self-financed and self-built”, the idea is to keep things as low-tech as possible. I don’t really get client families that have money to burn on really sophisticated spanning systems, or expensive “high-tech” materials.

When building ISBU homes in “Ronin World”, cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency rule the day.

That said;

There are two things that determine how FAR you can place your containers apart, the way I see it.

(a) How do you carry that roof structure safely and affordably?, and

(b) How to you illuminate that cave you’re creating?

While I like the idea of “really vaulted – cathedral like” common spaces in homes (from a visual perspective), I suggest you quench that thirst by heading for your local church or coliseum. It’s just not practical from an “I’m gonna do this myself” kind of perspective.

First, you have to enclose and glaze the “ends” you create between those boxes. All that glass is going to be incredibly expensive and it’s going to bring with it other problems – like figuring out how to heat and cool that volume of space you just created.

Not only that, you’re going to create “space” that has to be conditioned that you can’t actually use. You know the space I’m talking about, right? It’s the space up by the top of that vault.

Hello? Energy Vampire.

And the wider “your cavern” gets, the more support that energy stealing ceiling and roofing system will require.

So, here’s what I suggest;

First, use SIPs to build the roof.

It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s about the best insulation/roof system that anyone ever got, right out of the box in my opinion.  Better still, those SIP sheets will lock together. This means that they form continuous roof systems that support themselves, if you stay within the guidelines.

Attaching them to the roof is easy. You start by building a “tray” for them to fit into, using angle iron and a welder. I’ve talked about this before and you can find “SIP assembly instructions” in the archives.

The thickness of the SIP will determine how large a “roof plane” you can construct without adding any additional support.

Where insulation is concerned, I believe that you should “go big or stay home”.  I’m a big advocate of using the biggest r-value SIP you can afford.

In your case, building a one story home simplifies things dramatically. You’re not concerned with using that roof surface for things like a terrace or an “uber-cool” roof garden. So, all you need to do is support the roof and the solar and photovoltaic panels that you’ll mount to it.

Now, all you really need to do is ask your local SIP manufacturer about span/run requirements. He has a table that will tell you precisely how much roof you can build (by connecting those wonderful SIPs together), without having to add rafters or trusses.

Don’t misunderstand me… You can’t just slap SIPs together and then drop them as one huge lid without any support of any kind, across large spans. That won’t work. SIPs are great, but not quite THAT great! 🙂

You’ll quickly find out that after you get past about 24′ feet in width, the “run” starts to take on a mind of it’s own and things start getting tricky. Beyond that width, you start needing serious beams, or rafters, or trusses to help fly that roof along it’s “run”.

In most cases, we’re only going to add a few simple “engineered” beams across that 24′ width (to cut the “run” up into manageable sections) and they’ll be as much for “roof run support” as they will be for “creating atmosphere” and connecting overhead fixtures like ceiling fans and lighting.

And that 24′ width is important for “Part B” of the program, too.

You need to illuminate that cave. By using ISBUs to create that common space, you essentially end up with fewer surfaces that can be used for glazing (to bring light in).

In most cases, I urge people to keep the ISBUs as “original and container-like” as possible.

The less fabrication you do, the cheaper your build will be!

So, you’ll probably dedicate the ISBUs to bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, mechanical,  or utility space (and they are made of steel) so any holes you put in them are going to be labor intensive and more expensive.

I bet you’re thinking that you can just put some windows in the end walls that connect the ISBUs, and be done with it, right?


NOW, we are talking about the real MEAT of using ISBUs. Let’s assume that you have an “interior” room (between those ISBUs)  that measures 24′ x 40′, and we’ll assume that it’s 9’6″ high at the edges along the interior container “walls”.

You ARE paying attention to my ramblings on the blog, right? You DID use HIGH CUBE containers, right?

That means that you have a pair of  “end walls” that you can essentially plug windows into, to light up that interior space.

Yes, you CAN add “sidelights” to your building space by punching up the roof to allow them to be inserted along the sides. Is it cool? Absolutely. But, it doesn’t come without a price. It requires a lot more work and money.

And you wanted the “WALMART” version, right?

No sidelights or clerestory roofs. Too much money!

Okay… We’re back to the end walls.

How far do you think the sunlight passing through the windows in those end walls will travel?

Math time; (pay attention because there’s going to be a pop-quiz at the end)

As a very rough rule of thumb, the light from vertical windows will penetrate about 12 feet into the interior of a building and still provide enough illumination to work by (you’re going to get roughly 5% of what is available “outside in the daylight”).

If your building is any “deeper” (I’m talking about the measurement from “front” to “back”) than 12 feet (and it IS), you will need some kind of supplemental light source to light the interior space, and that will cost you energy.

Ever look at old factory buildings?

You’ll find that they have usually one thing in common. Old factories, particularly those built during the Industrial Revolution,  are usually around 24 feet wide. The builders knew how far the sunlight would travel (even – gasp! –  then) and the owners of these buildings wanted to rely on daylight (negating the requirement for additional artificial lighting, creating an additional drain on cash-flow) which is “free” –  to give workers enough light to toil by.

And like those old factories, the interior of your home will be very dark, and some might even say “cave-like”. You may prefer a dark house, but I sure don’t. When people tell me that a little dark is okay, I urge them to try it out for themselves by finding a big parking garage and asking themselves what it would be like to live inside it 40′ feet from the entrance.

They usually get it, or, in one case, they actually went off looking for something to simulate the conditions I described. When they returned, we started thinking about “solutions”.

Think: Skylights.

A quartet of well placed skylights or even Solatubes (placed two by two) will brighten up that cave and turn it into an airy, bright abode that will welcome anyone who enters it.

Image Credit to REI - Round Rock

And before you spit at your monitor, please know that ‘skylight tech” has gotten better and combined with standing seam metal roofing, it’s almost unbeatable. You get a high efficiency light source, with little in  the way of “long-term” maintenance drama.

And even better, skylight and Solatube prices have dropped dramatically in the last few years.

The caveat is that you’re going to have your roofers involved in installing them, to protect your roofing warranties. This is NOT something that you do after the fact. If you do and you have a problem, your roof warranty will usually be null and void.

To address your other questions;

The book is “in progress”. “War and Peace” didn’t get written in a day and my book won’t be either. First, I have to learn how to actually read and write…

And, I’m old. That “Old Dog/New Tricks” thing can be a real pain… 😉

The floorplans in my book: “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” are there as examples, but if you find something that works for you, by all means, use them!

And I work with building families “directly” all the time. It’s a “part of the ministry”. 😉

You can contact me for more details.

Good luck with your project.

May Peace be with you. Amen.

A Sermon from ISBU-ville…

18 Oct

In the beginning…

I’m working on a series of posts that talk about the “nuts and bolts of ISBU construction”.

As I do, my email box fills daily, like a virtual wellspring of “Please Help Me…” currents and eddies.

The most common email lately is the “Can I really do this?” question as people start reading the “Dogma of Klein…”

(mostly in book form, as they read my book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings”.)

In the book, I tell them what  I tell you;

Keep it simple, keep it manageable, keep it affordable, and most of all… keep it in the family (and friends).

Here’s the deal;

You CAN build a home that you can afford.

It can even be GREEN, if that is your wish. You simply have to make good choices and then stick to them.

There isn’t any real requirement to take on a soul-sucking mortgage, again… unless that is your wish, your “choice”.  Build what you can afford. In most of my building families cases, the money falls at about $50k.

Look, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not going to be “easy”. Building your own home, especially one built from ISBUs can seem like a formidable task.

The guys that tell you (on a LOT of other “alternative housing blogs”) that “it’s easy” are misinformed. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but most of those guys have never even BUILT an alternative house, they’re just good “readers and myth-adventurers”.

If it was easy… everyone would be doing it, contractors would become extinct (like the dinosaurs) and the world would change as the financial system modified itself as “housing” was removed from the picture.

Life wouldn’t be “turn-key”, where you simply plunked down cash and moved into the home of your dreams.

Nope. Not gonna happen… You’re gonna live with a little construction “mayhem and madness”,  build your castle in phases as you save for “that next step”, and after a few years that would become the “normal” way of life as you and your home evolve together.

Contrary to popular opinion, this is how it USUALLY happens.

The beauty of ISBU construction is that the homes are “modular” by design. That means that you can plug more modules in, as time passes and money allows.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Hello? It’s HOW our forefathers did it.

Granted, they didn’t have the luxury of photovoltaic panels, solar panels, or energy efficient appliances. 😉

They started with a chunk of land that they staked out, bartered for, or just bought outright.

Then, they started building, using whatever they could find. Ummm… I hate to say this, but isn’t that what I’m teaching you to do, NOW?

Sometimes they had a hard design, sometimes they let the land  or the materials they had on hand dictate what they built.

But, they did what they could, with what they HAD. Ummm.. Hello again…

Today isn’t much different, except that the way we go about building has been modified by “want” instead of “need”, in most cases.

For example, the household kitchen is a sinkhole for cash. No matter where you start out, you’re going to find yourself remodeling it over time to include new cabinets, countertops or appliances, not to mention improving the flow of the space. It’s driven by the media, your neighbors (and probably your wife’s patience). It’s just the way it is.

In the beginning… again…

Make sure that what you build will last, and that the structure is solid. Try to keep things workable by “the common man” instead of drawing out designs that will be they very nature require expensive sub-contractors. For example, a 4 pitch roof is easily buildable by you and your friends.

An 8 or 12 pitch roof, on the other hand, is going to send most of you to the hospital or local emergency room, unless you’re VERY careful.

Stay tuned as we start looking at HOW ISBU and other types of alternative homes actually get built.

Take Uncle Sam’s money… please!

11 Oct

We’ve been talking about insulation lately.

And while I’m building posts about “HOW” to insulate your ISBU Home…

I want to stress that NOW is a good time to re-insulate the home that you’re in NOW, if you’re considering a DIY project to increase the energy efficiency of your home.

And, it’ll put you that much ahead of the game when you start building skills, as you build your ISBU Home.

Remember that the money you save on your utility bills may actually help you save up to build your ISBU Castle.

So pay attention to what’s happening around you. As the elections get closer , more and more is being said about Tax Credits, and who got them for you. Frankly, I don’t care WHO put them in the pipe, as long as I can use them to make my family that much more comfortable.

You Can Use 2009 & 2010 Tax Credits to Save Even More Money re-insulating your existing home.

Yes, it’s true. And it’s not one of those deals where you have to wade thru tons of paperwork to find out if you qualify. You can get up to a $1,500 Tax Credit on your 2009 & 2010 Taxes when you insulate with SPF (Spray Foam Insulation).

Why? Well according to Energy Star, the 2009 & 2010 Tax Credits allow you to save 30% of the cost of the kits (up to a maximum of $1,500), when you improve the insulation in your home.

I bet you’re asking why you should care about a Tax Credit, right?

I mean, tax deductions are cool too, right?

Dollar for dollar, Tax Credits are MUCH better than deductions because a tax credit lowers your tax bill “dollar for dollar”.

That translates into REAL savings, because a $1,500 Tax Credit saves you from paying $1,500 to the government. That’s $1,500 cash that stays in YOUR pocket.

On the other hand, a $1,500 tax deduction only reduces your taxable income. That means you save some fraction of $1,500.

What is SPF (Spray Foam Insulation)?

Spray foam insulation starts out as a multi-part liquid (think “2 part epoxy”, for an example of what I’m talking about) that is sprayed directly onto your walls, your ceilings, and even underneath your floors. Once it’s there, it expands to fill up all the leaky nooks and crannies in your house.

So, not only does it acts as an insulator, it also becomes a great  air-tight seal.

By using SPF (properly applied, mind you…) your  home will experience amazing new results as it combats Mother Nature. There won’t be any heat-loss during the winter and in the summer your cool air out of the A/C unit can’t seep out, unless you were born in a barn… TED. 😉

This means that you’ll save money on your electric bill as a result.

Let me also point out that SPF is also much safer than other types of insulation. It is non-allergenic and contains no formaldehyde or chemicals that harm the ozone. It has a Class 1 fire rating (and that is the BEST of ALL insulation materials), and it inhibits mold and mildew growth. Further, SPF insulation doesn’t settle, contract, or biodegrade (break down) over time.

Bugs don’t like it. Vermin don’t like it either. Yet another bonus, huh?

You should know that Spray foam insulation can come in either open-cell or closed-cell varieties. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, other than to say that of the two different types of SPF, closed-cell foams (polyurethane) has the highest R value (up to r7 per inch), and it doesn’t “cure” all soft and crumbly.

I always, always, always use CLOSED CELL SPF.

Once you put it where it goes, you can forget about it. It’s there working for you, forever.

Okay, here’s the rules:

The SPF (spray foam) must be installed in a taxpayer’s principal residence in 2009 or 2010.

No vacation homes, no RV’s,  no cabins in the woods… unless that’s where you hang your hat for most of the year.

$1,500 is the maximum total amount that can be claimed for all products installed in 2009 & 2010.

Can you use this tax credit while BUILDING a NEW ISBU home? No.

The tax credit for insulation is only for pre-existing dwellings.

People will tell you that lots of other insulation types will qualify.  But you can rest assured that SPF is definitely one of them. Spray Foam qualifies for the 2009 & 2010 Tax Credit because the primary purpose is to insulate your home.

Remember also that SPF provides a lot of other cool features as well. SPF forms an Air Barrier as well as a Class III Vapor Retarder. It’s a moisture barrier, too. SPF won’t settle, sag, or break down into worthless dust. It’s much better than stuff like fiberglass batts in that regard. SPF has a useful life that exceeds the usual Fiberglass Batt 5 year life.

And, although insulation professionals will tell you that you can’t do it;

“It’s just too difficult for DIY’rs!”

That is nonsense. I’ve trained 16 year old high school kids (we’re talking “trained monkeys”, folks…) to apply SPF insulation. 🙂

There are some things you’ll need; (and they aren’t even that expensive)

  • a hooded tyvek suit,
  • eye protection – goggles, please,
  • gloves (even gardening gloves will work),
  • extra nozzles and fan spray tips,
  • and patience… TAKE YOUR TIME.

SPF is fast, easy and energy efficient. In fact, it’s about twice as effective as fiberglass batts, in half the space.

And for you” whiners” out there…

Yes, SPF costs more than fiberglass batts.

There’s a good reason for it. Because it does so many jobs “seemingly all at once” it’s more expensive to manufacture and apply. Although spray foam insulation is more expensive than other types of insulators, it’s easy to justify to anyone with a brain in their head. It can singlehandedly lower a household’s electric bill up to 60%.

Those savings will pay for the insulation materials in no time.

You’re gonna get what you pay for.

And you all know how I feel about fiberglass batts…

About the only thing that they are good for is landfill… And they aren’t good for that, either.

Stay tuned.

Stacked and Racked, those ISBUs are packed!

1 Jul

Funny, funny…

So, I’m in the middle of releasing my brand new book;

“Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings”

and I get this email from a wise guy who includes THESE photographs:

Note: these photos came from, one of my very favorite places to lose track of time on the Internet. I go there looking for one thing and an hour later I’m still there “cruising the coolness!!” I love these guys! 🙂

And, he wants to know if my new book will teach him how to do the same thing.

The short answer is;


While ISBU shipping containers are often used as  building blocks to create homes and other structures, apparently only in Sweden are they used to intimidate anyone who’d be crazy enough to want to stay at your ISBU house.

Michael Johansson decided that he wanted to “make a statement.”

It took me a while, but I finally figured it out.

The statement is;

“Mom-in-Law, dearest… of course you can come visit. We finished your new guest room! It’s that travel trailer right there in the middle… We wanted you to be front row center…”  🙂

Seriously, beyond committing sacrilege by maiming that poor Volvo (look hard and you’ll see it) he demonstrated that ISBUs can be stacked creatively and even artistically. He also demonstrated how to build an ISBU structure that is sure to give the Planning and Zoning guys aneurysms, and the neighbors fits of apoplexy.

It’s “Win-win! I tell you what…”  🙂

But, if you want to learn enough about ISBU containers and the art of turning them into solid, safe, energy efficient homes, homes that you can AFFORD… I urge you to check out my new book;

“Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings.”

In it you’ll learn WHAT ISBUs are, what they AREN’T, HOW to use them, WHY you should, and then…

I’ll share some “insider tricks of the trade” with you, about actually building them with your own two hands…

Pop quiz: Which ones AREN’T REAL ISBUs?

I’m going to show you a bunch of my favorite floorplans, just to get those creative juices flowing!

And speaking of juices, it’ll cost you less saliva than salivating over your lunch at most fast food restaurants.

For only $9.95 (okay, you’ll have to buy the “Big Meal Combo and a half… with extra cholesterol”) you get a good look inside the world of ISBU Construction and enough inspiration to keep you up late at night with a sketchpad as you start planning a Corten Container Home of your own!

What’s “Corten”, you ask?

Well, you’ll have to read the book, won’t ya?  😉

There’s a big button at the top right of this page (in the sidebar) labeled ;

“Buy my new book.”

Please. Buy my new book. My wife thinks I’m an idiot. Please help me prove her wrong! 🙂

Alex Klein

aka: Ronin

BTW: She doesn’t really think I’m an “idiot.” She’s just thinks I’m “slow.”  😉

Simmer DOWN!

14 Jun

Lately, as the temperature starts to warm up, my email is starting to fill up, with questions about “affordability, sustainability, and that mother of all dragons, energy efficiency”.

Here on RR, we’re all about Affordability (after all, I’m teaching you to build a home using the pennies that your boss calls “your paycheck”), Sustainability (because being nice to Mother Nature just makes good sense) and Energy Efficiency (because being frugal with power makes YOU cents).

Part of living in an ISBU based home is being a PART of the solution. ALL of the solutions…

This includes making the home work for YOU, instead of you always working for the HOME.

In the South, when the temperature starts to climb, local temperatures do, as well. In fact, the natives get downright unpleasant  and restless.

So, lot’s of people are looking for solutions to heat related problems.

Some resort to drinking enough “frosty cold ones” to drown most mortal men, but still… they get overheated. Okay… alcohol doesn’t work.  And the roof isn’t the best place to drink beer. The ground is HARD… So… What next?

Some resort to moving to another locale, but frankly, in this economy, it’s not likely for most as “a solution”.

I mean, I like tropical beaches as much as the next guy, but mine is covered in oil (or soon will be) and I can’t afford to move to “the good ones”.

So, that’s not a solution, either…

So, I need to actually DO SOMETHING to combat the heat.

Now, for lots of readers, the immediate question is:

“How do I make more power?”

But, I propose that the real question should be;

“How do I use LESS power and stay cool?”

While I’m an advocate of using Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs), saving power by switching to them just lets you see the sweat running down your forehead.

It will affect your power bill, but it won’t solve your immediate problem.

You can unplug all the appliances and battery chargers that you aren’t using. Cell phone chargers and iPod chargers still draw power, whether your phone or player is attached to them or not.

Again… power savings, but I’m still H-O-T!

Okay, what’s next?

You can add a solar sunspace, or even a few more Photovoltaic panels to your array, to offset your enrgy usage. But, that’s expensive, and it still doesn’t solve your biggest problem. You’re HOT.

Anyone (and I mean ANYONE) can improve the comfort levels in their house, and use LESS power… by insulating it and sealing up all the leaks.

A weathertight and well insulated house is an energy efficient house.

First, caulk all the window joints in your house, inside and out. Then, install sunshades on the windows, to cut down on heat gain.

And then… break out the big guns. That’s right… Insulation.

And, there are a ton of insulation options;

Fiberglass batts (EWWWW!)

Sawdust (okay, I suppose… but not for me)

Cellulose Fiber (better)

Old Blue Jeans and cotton shreds (um…. okay)

… and my personal favorite (fanfare please!)

SPF! Spray-On Closed Cell Foam!

(And YES! You can too do it yourself. I teach people to do it every day. Okay, maybe not EVERY DAY, but on quite a few days…)

Regardless of the method you choose, super-insulating your house will keep the “cool” in, and the “hot” out…

NOW… think about upgrading that old HVAC system you have, and I bet that you’ll save money, stay cool, and be a lot more pleasant to be around…

Stay tuned…

And since you’re saving money… How about helping us keep this blog running?

A few bucks goes a long way towards helping us write posts, maintain computers, and keeping you informed! We need your help? How about it?

There’s a Paypal button on the top of the page!

“Crating” your kids…

19 May

Oil, oil, oil…

I’m so sick of oil…

This is a Shipping Container Home construction blog.  I swear it is.  I know that I’ve been doing the oil spill thing lately, but frankly, in part, it’s because I have about 200 emails a day asking me if there is oil on my beach yet.

Yes, we have oil on the beaches.

It’s the beginning of the storm… It’s the trace that gets here first, carried by the tide. In the next few days, the “real oil”  (“The OMG – This is HORRIBLE” stuff) will start to get here.

We’re already seeing dead and dying wildlife.

Oy… I really don’t want to be thinking about this right now. It just breaks my heart…

So, let’s shift gears, shall we?

I actually get so much email that I could use a clerk. I swear it’s true.

Some of it is the typical “Can you really live in a an ISBU Shipping Container? Really?” kinda stuff… but some of it is grass roots;

“How in the hell do I convince my kid to sleep in an 8′ metal box” kinda stuff.

In fact, I get asked that question a LOT. People see the box as “a crate”, and they just can’t imagine sleeping in it comfortably.

One set of parents I know are on the fence, and the hold-out is the 12 year old son, who is scared to death that they’re going to ask him to sleep in “the end of a metal crate”, and get teased by all his friends.

So, just to pour more gasoline on that fire…

Today I’m gonna show you how you can build a really cool teen bedroom, that takes up a little tiny amount of space. By little tiny, I’m talking like 7 ‘9″ x 12’ and change.

How do I come up with 12′?

I like to put a regular 8′ sliding glass door in the room, to “open it up” to the outside, and let in a ton of light. I like to start that sliding glass door at the edge of the bed/desk  system to provide some privacy and a place to hang the bookcases that will form one end of the work/sleep unit.

That means I’m gonna leave about 4′ of wall, and then start my glazing. Voila… 12′ and change.

You still get a good sized closet that measures 5′ wide, by 8′ 9″ tall.

Devote 2′ of that closet to “long hanging”, and then divide that other side up into two hanging rods, and you still have a ton of hanging space.  Plus, you have room across the top and bottom for shoes, and baskets to put clothes in.

In fact, that closet you build will form the divider that provides the doorway into the room.

Now, to give the room some character, instead of using a traditional door, consider using a rolling barn type door. It’s fun, it doesn’t SLAM… and it doesn’t eat up any space… just the few inches it actually travels in, behind that closet.

If you do it right, it can look like this:

Any kid would love a room like this, to do homework, play computer games, and snooze after long weekends of chores and festivities…

Kids will envy him/her for their room, and the cool GREEN house they live in…

More later.

Stay tuned,


Cantilever THIS!

4 May

As we sit here, turning ISBUs into Emergency Kitchens, to feed hungry workers tasked with cleaning up thousands of gallons of oil spill…

Our breaks from the Plasma Cutters and grinders are used up on the phone, trying to get supplies in place, things like chickens, meat, vegetables, canned goods, beverages, and the lot.

Although the oil isn’t here yet, it will be soon.

And those workers are going to want something more than MRE’s… let me tell you.

So you think YOU have problems…

Instead of dwelling on “OMG Projects”, let’s look at another adventure into engineering, shall we?

We talk about ISBUs all the time. It’s a “Shipping Container” blog… hello?

And one of the biggest mysteries in the ISBU arena is whether or not you can “cantilever” containers, to build “willy nilly – helter skelter”  buildings, with containers sticking out everywhere, in every direction.

It’s not a mystery. You CAN’T do it, without some additional support, and a lot of engineering in the background. Those containers aren’t designed to do that. You can cantilever a container, IF you have a ton of cash to throw at it. But on most of my friends budgets, it’s not bloody likely.

But, sometimes the idea of a cantilever can be fun, and even cool. For instance:

This guy in Greece decided that he wanted to really tick off his neighbors, by building a big pool sticking out of  his house. I guess some middle aged guys deal with getting old by buying a Red Corvette. Evidently, in Greece, other phallic symbols do the trick.


Just try and tell me that you wouldn’t kill to have this pool in your backyard… um… on your roof… um… er… never mind.

Designed by Ensamble Studio & Antón García-Abril,  this gravity-defying cantilevered swimming pool at Hemeroscopium House in Greece was constructed out of a single concrete slab, and then picked up by a crane and lowered into place. Amazing stuff, huh?

Now, you can swim laps, and give yourself a coronary (by “swimming into the “abyss”) at the same time. I don’t know about you, but that kick-turn on the glass wall end would stop my heart every time! 🙂

People call it “stunning”. Me? Um… I think it’s just nuts.

For all you DIY’ers out there… Here’s how they built it:

I wonder IF you COULD do this with a Corten box…. Nahhhhhh! 😉

Stay tuned.

Plywood and You!

20 Apr

In honor of the upcoming Earth Day:

And because I’m under the weather and I didn’t feel like writing a long “ISBU” post today…

(When the heck IS Earth Day, anyway? Anybody know? The 22nd of April?)

Here’s a “Construction Site Recycling” project for you!

  1. Got some extra plywood scraps and a bucket of wood glue laying around that nobody wants?
  2. Got a battery powered screwdriver with a knapsack fulla screws?
  3. Wanna tick off the neighbors by filling your street with every News crew from a hundred miles?
  4. Got WAYYYYYYY too much time on your hands?

Build this!

The Ultimate Plywood Pachyderm:

If this don’t get your kid an “A+” at the Science Fair, nothing will!

Stay tuned!