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They just keep on coming…

5 Feb

Anyone with a pulse knows that we here at RR, we love ISBUs.

These big metal boxes come to America carrying goods that support our nation (one way or the other…) and then…

… they stack them up in piles that reach the sky.

Ever see them arriving? It’s just staggering how large the ships that bring them in, actually are.

Take a look;

RR Avatar Now consider how many vessels at any given time are transporting ISBUs all over the planet. The list is just mind boggling. And because of the trade deficits, so are those stacks, in the ports they arrive in, as they are off-loaded.

Cold has a name – LEON. America, are you ready?

28 Jan

Winter Storm Leon:

Here we go again.

Despite the extreme blizzard conditions that battered the Northern US in the last few week, experts are saying that this new storm, LEON,  is unlike any that we’ve seen in a long time in the US.

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches, warnings and advisories from central and southeast Texas eastward along the Gulf Coast, into Georgia, most of South Carolina, central and eastern North Carolina and far southeast Virginia.

In some area of the Deep South, the entire atmosphere will be below freezing and vulnerable to snow.

In areas closer to the Gulf Coast, layers of above-freezing air above the ground, setting the stage for sleet and/or freezing rain is likely

Temperatures will remain in the 20s. Wind chills will be in the single digits.

It’s time to get ready. It’s time to stay HOME.

Here are a few considerations when prepping for extreme cold weather:

You need water – At least a 7 day supply at one gallon per person per day.

You’ll need food, too – At least a 7 day supply of non-perishable, easily prepared food (and a can opener!)

Flashlight and Batteries
Extra Batteries
First Aid Kit

Are you taking medications? – You’ll need at least a 7 day supply along with any necessary medical implements or items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contacts, syringes, etc.)

Tools. You’ll need tools. Secure a small toolset. Basic handtools.

Basic Sanitation and Hygiene products – Toilet paper, moist towelettes, and disposal methods are imperative.

If you have babies in your household –  Baby Supplies – Bottles, formula, extra water, baby food, diapers, etc. It cannot be stressed enough to keep extra formula and baby food on hand.

Warm clothes and extra protection – Blankets/Gloves/Hats/Scarves

You have to stay warm. You need alternative heat – Kerosene, wood-burning stove, and an ample supply of fuel. This heating method should be capable of running if all utilities are unavailable.

Prepare for hardship. Stay Home, Stay Warm. Help those you can.

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Some Great ISBU Memories

20 Jan

As we begin the New Year, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the ISBU highlights of the last few years.

I’d thought to kick this series off in the last week of January (as I’ll be traveling extensively and it’d be a great time to do it)  but one of my pals sent me an email reminding me of this home. So, in honor of Ryan, we’ll run this one first.

Without further adieu, I give you the first ISBU – shipping container – home built in New York City.

Now, there have been some “demonstrator units” hauled in and dropped in parking lots and parks for exhibition (I know this to be true as I have personally participated in this process), but to my knowledge, this was the very first permanent, permitted ISBU home in NYC proper.

Built in Brooklyn by Cornell graduate Michele Bertomen (an architect) and David Boyle (a building  contractor),  I do remember  all the hardships the builders faced as they tried to navigate the perils of stupidity in NYC as Code Enforcement tried to make their lives miserable.  The home was finally completed in 2012. I personally interacted with Michele at NYIT  (New York Institute of Technology) where she was a Professor of Architecture and I was saddened to learn that Michele has since passed away, but I remind readers and students that she leaves a Corten legacy behind to inspire others.

You can read more about Michele and David and the incredible home they built together, HERE.

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It’s in the bag… er… um… BOX, man!

4 Jan

It just looked like a box in an empty room!

But, looks can be deceiving… so make sure to never underestimate somebody else’s creativity.

Take this box for example. It seems like it’s just a normal chest, albeit a cool one, right?

What it really is will leave your jaw on the floor. You won’t see this one coming. I didn’t.

It’s an entire room in a box! Yep, that’s apparently possible.

If I could find a way to stuff an entire apartment in a box, I’d be set. Any interior designer magicians out there?

Got a kid headed to college?

BUY this BOX! :)

Corten plus Concrete equals CAVE? :)

26 Nov

Greetings Corten Campers!

As you know, we’re working our proverbial butts  off doing EMO (emergency relief operation) management in the Philippines.  Right now, it’s pretty much 24/7. First it was the Oct 15th Earthquake. Then, Typhoon Haiyan tried to tear the rest of country into pieces. Typhoon Haiyan did a pretty good job. This is Haiti times ten. We’re going to be there for years – helping families rebuild their lives and  cleaning up all the damage and rebuilding.

Between that and several projects that we’re working on (including some really exciting luthier work – building and reworking guitars  as gifts for American soldiers – in time  for the holidays) and trying  to weld every container together that we can, to form the world’s largest Corten Castle…

(Okay, I’m kidding about building a massive Corten Construct… or am I?)

We have a family in Arizona that wants to build a multi-family compound using ISBUs (shipping Containers).  They live in the Sedona area and they do NOT want their structures to intrude on the natural beauty of the property.  It’s “rocky, craggy beautiful.”

What would happen if you mixed Chris Angel (that zany Las Vegas Magician), some concrete and  a stack of Corten Shipping Containers together?

(Yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard the “rumors” about mob  guys in cement shoes who got “incorporated” into Casino foundations. That’s NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking about “Corten Concrete Magic”… LOL!)

I’m talking REAL MAGIC! You might get some thing that looked like THIS:

Corten Cave Cabin ConceptThese AREN’T ISBUs (shipping containers) but they sure could be…

You can do amazing things with concrete and pigments these days. You can build rocks that look so real that they are indistinguishable from “real” rocks sitting right next to them. We’ve actually built hidden entrance/exits this way, many times.

What if you gave that technique a shot of steroids and did it to the entire home/site structure? Interconnect the residences using something like DOT Culvert pipe, give them the same treatment and you’d have a concrete reinforced Corten Community.

The photo above is actually a “Cave Hotel” located in the Cederberg Mountains of  South Africa unless I’m mistaken. It’s built using “conventional construction”, but you can see what it is… it’s structure clad in concrete and stone… just like we’re suggesting. The difference is that we’ll use lightweight concrete “sprayed” into reinforced forms built on site to duplicate existing “rocks”.

This isn’t an inexpensive proposition – but with some time and some creativity, you could have You could build something that looks like the photo you see above.  IMHO – you’d have the best of both worlds and then some;

  • Solid Corten Steel construction
  • Concrete reinforced structures and
  • a level of “High Desert life” tranquility never before achieved.

Would you live in a home built like this?

We would, in a heartbeat…

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Do you have a yearning for a “Corten Cottage”?

23 Oct

I’m a HUGE fan of LITTLE houses…

We work with families all the time that want to build them affordably and efficiently.

A pal of mine just sent me a notice that an 8×20 Tiny House was for sale in Mississippi, just outside Jackson, the state’s capital.

8x20-MartinAfter Katrina, a bunch of these sprang up from the rubble to house families while they either rebuilt or relocated. We personally participated in the building of several of these “Katrina Cottages” using 20′ High Cube Shipping Containers for local families on the Gulf Coast.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this is that many families are now looking at these little cabins as vacation and holiday homes, or even fishing and hunting camps.

The notice I received states that the wood framed Tiny House offered for sale was purchased for $37,000. NEW. Are you doing math? That means they paid over $230 a square foot for it.

$230.00 per square foot.

You realize you can build a “regular” sized house for that kind of cash, right?

Now, many years later, they’ve put it up for sale. It’s a bit worn, it needs some TLC and it’s needing an “update” to make it more modern and efficient. They’re asking $10,000.00 cash. That’s just over $60 a square foot.

Okay, it IS a cool little house.

8x20-Martin3And I’m seeing this same scenario happen over and over again.

Frankly, I’m a bit amazed by this.

We help families build 8×20 Corten Cabins that can be trailered from scratch. Yes, we use recycled materials when we can. Yes, we use volunteer labor when it’s available. Yes, we repurpose like MacGiver on Acid…

And in the end, at project completion, these little Corten Cuties cost approximately $9,500 – $10,000.00 brand new.

So, while I hope this family gets their tiny house to a good place, making a great home for someone else… I wonder if there are other’s out there who’d rather spend the same kind of cash and begin the Tiny House trek… with a NEW home, instead of being tasked with repairing an older one.

Since this story broke, I’m getting email after email asking us if WE can build a small Corten Cabin for under $230 a square foot. The answer is yes. If you bring us $230 a square foot for a project like this, we could probably build… two of them and have money left over.

8x20-Martin4University Architectural programs are asking us about Alternative Building Practices. We’re actually helping write the curriculum. We’re actually helping sponsor class projects, to demonstrate just how much potential these little boxes hold.

People have been asking us about this for years, so here goes;

If we can find enough people in a given area to support it, we’ll take steps to start a training process that will teach families HOW tho build smart, safe and affordably…

Let us know if you are interested.

Want to see “Smiles for Miles”? Help us feed America!

20 Oct

I recently watched a show on TV (I’m sick in bed as I type this and the TV is providing “white noise” in the background) and I heard someone question a waitress about where “his other half sandwich went” when he ordered a meal.

It made me think about where our food goes and how it gets there, especially in times where we ‘re wondering where our next meal will come from. MANY families wonder about this.

Did you know that 1 in 6 people in America are unsure about where their next meal will come from? Folks, people are hungry all year-round, all across America.

As a part of our “Sustainability Practices”, we teach families to stockpile foods in extended pantries. The reason for this is simple; Hard times don’t generally telegraph their arrival. Hard times usually just show up on your front porch, if you’re lucky enough to have a porch in the first place.


With the early onset of the cold season here in the Northwest, we’re seeing a LOT of families going without as they try to navigate unemployment, inflation and hardship. For example, companies here in Montana, already fighting for survival due to the economy are already laying off workers as they prepare for the cold kiss of Obamacare and it’s increased operating costs.

This isn’t going to be an “Obamacare bashing post”, fear not. We’ve written plenty of those already. We honestly don’t feel that ACA is good for America. Our fears about ACA are being confirmed daily.  This post is going to be dedicated to how you can most effectively help those in need, regardless as to WHY they find themselves in need.

FD6Where we live, more than half of those in need are children and the elderly. We’re pretty sure that this is the case in YOUR neighborhoods as well. It’s these groups of people who are the most affected by a compromised or limited diet. We all know that nutrition matters and caring enough to help others in need means that we’re committed to providing the most beneficial foods possible. We believe that fighting hunger by helping to END it requires a focus on what we eat.

One of the best ways to help those in need, especially in the cold… is to insure they have consumed enough calories to stay warm. This means concentrated food distribution. The most common way is by using a food bank as a common point.

FD2As we watch things spinning out of control, many of us want to help, but we’re unsure HOW to do it. We suggest that canned goods are a really good place to start. All of us have a few cans of “this or that” in our pantries that we can put into a grocery bag or a box in order to help others. The hardest part is deciding what to include.

So, here are our thoughts on HOW you can help families in need, simply by looking into your cabinets and pantries;

Most food banks  can use any nonperishable food and they accept monetary donations.

If you prefer to donate food, it’s been suggested (quite often) that you should select shelf-stable food with the lowest saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour). We buy grains, legumes, rice and flours in bulk and then repackage it… so when WE collect foods for distribution, we usually ask people to donate “other” items.

Here are some suggestions:

General food items:

Whole grain pastas
Brown rice
Tomato products
Canned vegetables
Canned fruit, especially those with low sugar (but not artificial sweeteners)
Canned fish or meat
Shelf-stable milk
Beef stew, chili and similar meals with low sugar and saturated fats
Breakfast Cereals

Infant and baby foods:

Baby formula
Canned milk
Infant cereal
Jars of baby food
Powdered or canned milk
We also accept baby diapers

In addition – we collect a lot of canned soups and pasta meals (like ravioli, spaghetti and such). The salt content is a little bit higher, but the meals are well received and easily prepared. It should be noted that our favorite soups are those that you don’t add water or milk to.


Image Credit: Chris Sandys

A lot of the food banks here in Montana also accept fresh fruits and vegetables. Our families grow gardens in their backyards as a part of their “sustainability practices”. This gives us opportunities to give fresh produce to families who need it, as part of our food gifts.

Many of us also raise chickens and collect eggs. This is another opportunity to help with food contribution. Our egg counts frequently exceed our family’s needs.  Fresh eggs are usually “gratefully received”. Check with your local food bank or “soup kitchen” to determine if this is acceptable.

If you have large gardens or orchards, please resist the urge to put an ad on Craigslist telling people to just come pick what they want. This NEVER works. The end result will be trampled gardens and damaged trees.

What we HAVE done successfully is to contact local volunteer groups (mostly comprised of retirees and others around here – youth groups to help in the trees, for example) to pick the produce and then pile it onto tables, where families can retrieve it.

We often combine “food ops” with a big “all you can eat” hot meal served up to locals who are hungry. Soups, stews, fresh baked breads and a fresh apple pie or two go a long way to making hungry people really happy. Check around, because many times a local church will volunteer the use of their meeting hall to host these events.

One of our local farmers planted 20 extra acres of sweet corn for distribution to those in need. In the first year, we harvested 30 TONS of corn with the help of our volunteers. The next generation of this “farm fresh goodness” added acres of squash, beans and tomatoes. End result – we harvested more than 200,000 pounds of food destined to feed families throughout Montana and Idaho.

In the matter of hours, that produce goes from the field directly into the hands of people in need. It’s like MAGIC!

One local enterprising FFA member helped establish a “food raising” kind of operation as a project that not only harvested foods, but then saw to it that families in need received them. It was efficient, effective and didn’t cause unnecessary damage to farm or field.  Helpful family members even used the harvested fruits and vegetables to prepare breads, pies and pastries for distribution.

As an addition; In my “backyard garden” we have many, many different types of herbs. Our meals at home usually start with a quick prowl in the backyard looking for cool herbs to incorporate. Not only does this add tasty goodness to the meals, it gives us the chance to teach our young son to identify these herbs in the yard. A few years from now, we’ll be able to point him into the garden with scissors, knowing he’ll bring back “oregano” and not “crabgrass”…

This “herb gathering” grants us an opportunity to harvest them for distribution as well. The herbs, packed fresh or dried, are a welcome addition to many meals prepared with food bank goods.

If you have thoughts about sharing with those in need, please post your comments below. Remember that every family, every person we help…  helps to heal America.

RR AvatarRelated articles

Image Credits: To protect the privacy of those less fortunate, we’ve used images from Bing Images, unless otherwise noted.

The TRUTH about Christopher Columbus

14 Oct

Okay, you have the day off because some Spaniard claimed that he discovered America?

So, while you BBQ and drink beer, here’s WHO you’re celebrating…


2 34 5 6 7

I’m a student of history. Columbus Day and it’s namesake Christopher Columbus never sat well with me.  From my studies, I knew Columbus to be a calculating, murderous dog. In my view, the only thing “historic” about him was the way he bamboozled the Queen of Spain. Then, I found this on

All of the information in this essay came from A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, and Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen, both of which uses primary sources such as eyewitness accounts, journal entries, and letters from Christopher Columbus himself.

Enjoy your Federal Holiday.

And thanks, Seven. You know who you are.

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So, who needs some renters?

12 Sep

I’m currently working on a project where we’re turning a big field into an Equine boarding facility complete with ISBU Barn, ISBU Manager’s Residence and… you guessed it… ISBU Tack Rooms.

The entire project is comprised of structures built from a dozen 40′ High Cube ISBUs.

We’d been discussing the “client storage” dilemma for a while. Obviously, horse owners want a place to store feed, tack and gear. And, they want a place to wash down their horses after a days’ riding. Facility owners want waterproof buildings that are durable, low maintenance and basically vandal proof. Then it hit me… like an ISBU falling from a crane.

Simply take a 40′ High Cube ISBU (Shipping Container)  and divide it up into 8×10 units. You want a High Cube box for this job because you want the extra headroom, right? <wink!>  Leave the end doors alone and simply add a trio of doors to one side.

ISBU Tack Rooms x4

Push this back up against your pasture fencing and you have ready-made tack rooms AND structure to hang an awning off of to grant those horses some shade in the sunny stuff.  Do it right and run the automatic waterers along this same fence-line and you have the ability to pull water right onto that box – using the water line that feeds the automatic waterers –  to supply a washdown area for the horses on the “closed” end of the ISBU.

These do NOT require a foundation, folks – just drop them onto railroad ties. Easy Peasy.

This led me to think about several families who were interested in dropping a box or two onto their properties to supply small “tiny house” style housing as rentals. The objective was simply to spend “skinny money” to make a little extra each month to help generate cashflow.

Why not just build a storage unit box or two (in a similar configuration to these) and then rent the units out monthly. Around here, an 8×10 storage unit rents for $75 a month. That means this same box, turned into a storage unit will bring in $300 a month. We’re currently paying about $2400 for 40′ ISBUs in decent shape. Spend an extra grand on modifications and you’re still making $200 profit year one and then the box is paid off. After that, it’s just an ATM spitting out Benjamins every month.

Tack Rooms - End UnitA pair of these boxes placed back to back (with a Standing Seam Metal shed roof over the top) will not only supply you with $600 a month in cashflow, they’ll catch water you can divert to irrigation or landscaping, easy.

In some parts of the US, you won’t even HAVE to insulate them. (Of course, you know how I love SPF. I would insulate them if only to help “temp control” the boxes to protect client contents.)

Boxes in this configuration would also lend themselves to worker housing, say during seasonal use in agriculture. Put a pair of bunks and a closet in each 8×10 unit and then turn that big “opening” end into a bathroom/shower. Run these housing modules spaced apart from each other about 28 feet. Now add a 20′ box equipped as a camp kitchen on one end (right in the middle of that opening so that you have a “doorway” on either side of it) and deck the middle. Cover this with billboard tarps or an old cargo parachute, and voila! You have a farm camp, a fishing camp, a hunting camp for 12… or a place to put those unwanted relatives who drive all the way up from places like California to freeload.. um… er… visit you for the summer!

And when the season is over (or you run out of patience with your relatives) you simply send everyone packing (TIP: I’ve found that brandishing a large shotgun while hollering loudly and firing indiscriminately into the air helps)  and then padlock the boxes shut until the next year. They’re  weather resistant and solid steel. They’ll be fine until the next crop of occupants arrive.

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A little bit of Opera is good for the soul…

15 Aug

Recently, a reader sent me a few images of a really exciting “water home” he’d been harboring serious lust over.

He (like many readers who follow along) knows that we’re participating in the design and building of “floatel projects” that house oil rig workers offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Wikipedia, a “floatel” looks like this:

Manor_Floatel - from WikipediaThink this through for a moment. These really aren’t much more than floating platforms with modular housing stacked onto them. Now, imagine a stack of “housing modules” similar to those ISBU dorms we see all over the planet? I tell you what… this is fast-track worker housing, for sure.  Think about what you could do with a similar “floating housing block”.  You could easily create “Corten Villages” that floated just offshore, housing workers, scientists, enforcement personnel, etc…

(BTW: Mr Obama – The GULF is that big body of water bordered by places like Galveston, Biloxi, Mobile and even Tampa. It is NOT the body of water near places like Jacksonville, FL. Please, use a few taxpayer dollars to buy a map.) LOL!

He wondered if we could take the “idea” of the water home he’d seen and build something similar, using ISBUs as the basic structure.

We LOVE challenges and this one could be striking! So, I’m going to share the concept images with you and then as this lil gem starts to get refined, we’ll brag… um… share it with you. For some reason, we kept thinking about Foster’s Lager and Vegemite…

(I mean that in the nicest “national” sense… however… Vegemite is just repulsive! Now we understand why Mad Max was so mad… he probably had to eat tin after tin of this dreck! )

But, I digress;

Here we go: (These are Steeltec images, folks. We didn’t draw them. I gotta say, though… those Steeltec guys are really creative. We LOVE this.) :)

Steeltec Floating Home - render Steeltec Floating Home Steeltec Floating Home2


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