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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.

A bed is just a bed unless it’s not!

15 Apr

From the “why didn’t I think of that?” files;

There’s this guy who has decided that the best furniture encompasses every need in one small footprint package. His name is Roberto Gil and he calls it “Urbano”. After looking at his work, we think he’s pretty darned smart.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-1
His forte of late seems to be “loft beds” where your bed is actually perched on top of your other bedroom  furniture to maximize room space. Now, it should be noted that we build loft beds into containers all the time, but I have to admit that his system makes ours look like something cobbled together in shop class by comparison.

They say that “good things come in small packages”. In this case, they hit that nail square on the head.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-2
Measuring 119 inches in length and a width of 83 inches, with the furniture system topping out at 107 inches, you can see where I’m going with this. Let’s do some math, shall we? (Not that new “Common Core” crap. I don’t possess enough patience, crayons or even paper to do arithmetic that way!) Let me see, carry the one, divide by hammer-struck thumbs and a few splinters and you get an entire bedroom suite in an approximately 9’11” long x 6’11” wide x 8’11” tall package.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-3
The Urbano system, based on a King sized bed is the largest furniture unit in Roberto’s “Casa Collection” line. It features interior and exterior closets, dressers with drawers, shelving and a desk underneath its bed. The clearance under the bed platform is tall (almost 6’4″) and that’s enough to enable most people to walk under it without stooping or hitting their heads. The cool part of this system is that you can purchase it with either ONE or TWO staircases depending on your needs. Each staircase has built in storage drawers. To make things light and bright, mirrors and lighting are installed.

As intriguing as this is, it does make me wonder what this format would look like tucked into the bowels of an ISBU bedroom.

Imagine a suite of “sleeping rooms” built from ISBUs that had these units installed. Imagine three containers placed side-by-side, with the outer ones being “sleeping rooms”. Now imagine the center one being a shared “Hollywood” style bathroom.

If you were to build a gable roof with a decent pitch (say 6/12) over these (I’d build that roof on a kneewall of about 3’… and run the single staircase configuration on the inside walls (to take advantage of the gable height) you could do something pretty cool. It would also allow you to utilize the top of that “bath” container in the middle as a shared loft. The best part is that the kneewall floating that SIP (structural insulated panel) roof could also have integrated glazing to allow you both sunlight and ventilation.

You knew I was going to slip SIPs into this conversation, didn’t you? Hands down, SIPs topped with a waterproof membrane and SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing) are my alltime favorite. I’ll mention them every chance I get!

Think about this;

If you used 20′ High Cube ISBU containers to do this you’d have (2) King Sized bedrooms and a large, spacious bath suite tucked into a 20’x24′ footprint. Okay, so you’d be just a little cramped in the headroom department on one side, but by using high cube ISBUs you have a ceiling height of 8’9″. Couple that with a kneewall and this is actually doable.

It the Urbano bed system is just too much for your needs they even have a smaller Arca system that might fill the bill.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-6

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-7

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-8
Unlike the Arca series of beds, the Urbano beds really do have the whole shooting match installed. They feature interior and exterior closets, dressers with drawers, shelving and a desk underneath the loft bed.

roberto-gil-casa-collection-urbano-loft-bed-4Roberto knew that one color wouldn’t be enough so both the Urbano and Arca beds are available in two color options and prices start from (hold your breath) US$15,000 and $6,000 respectively and you’ll wait about 10-12 weeks for your units to arrive.

Look, I warned you to hold your breath…

You CAN buy these in the United States, but I’m thinking about something else entirely. Wait, I’ll tell you about it after I catch my breath. That price tag had me hyperventilating… LOL!

Okay, I’m back…

What if you went to a big box store like IKEA and purchased prefab cabinets and such and then cobbled this together yourself? Look at the photos. You can SEE how easy it is. Heck, a couple of carpenters could build a similar unit for a lot less than $15,000.00. (Well, unless maybe they’re Union Carpenters!) LOL!

(I know, I know… please send your hate mail to alex@nahnahnanahna.com) 🙂

After passing the photos around here, I’m thinking that we might just have a go at building something similar, based on ready-made “catalog” cabinet kits. No offense to Roberto (because quite frankly his idea is pretty darned good) but we don’t know anyone with enough extra cash laying around to shell out $15 grand for a bedroom set for the kids.

Stay tuned.

PS. ALL of the images for Roberto’s bed systems were collected from Gizmag.com. Why? Well to be honest, I don’t have $21,000.00 to go out and buy copies of these bed systems! That’s actually more than it’d cost me to build the ISBU structure for the three rooms we’re talking about!

(But I have to admit that I wish I did. I think they’re pretty spectacular!)

Corten Canopy – Simple, solid structure…

11 Apr

Dear Ronin,

Unless you live under a rock…

We all know that when it comes to ISBUs and Container Construction, you’re the man.  You’ve become our “Corten Champion” for good reason. We know your dedication to “everyman” and it’s greatly appreciated.

I live on a farm property in Iowa. Outbuilding space is at a premium and I need a place to store hay temporarily. I mean that I need seasonal storage. The hay comes in and then it leaves to market. By early winter, it’s all gone. At this point the cover is no longer necessary.

Lots of people have suggested that I simply purchase and build one of those prefab steel buildings. You know the ones, the ones that look like Quonset huts. I guess they don’t understand what “temporary” means.

I already have a pair of 40′ Containers that house farm tools and provide a place for a secure workshop. They sit about 25′ from each other with dirt in between them.

I can weld and I can follow instructions. I don’t need a crayon drawing, I just need some inspiration.

So, I’m gonna venture  out from my village full of idiots and ask the stupid question;

“If I offset a pair of 40′ ISBUs, how do I cheaply and effectively provide seasonal cover between them that is weather resistant?”

Help Me, Obiwan… all my friends are dopes.

The Hay Jedi

***************

Dear Jedi,

Okay, you piled so much praise on top of that question I can’t really ignore you. I was going to talk about world peace, space exploration and cold fusion, but… oh well. LOL!

First, the praise (while greatly appreciated) is really unwarranted. There are a number of ISBU specialists (okay…. maybe 8…. or 9) out there who recognize that ISBUs combined with “Sustainable Architecture” are the future of this nation. We realize that for this great nation to heal, we have to first have safe, affordable, energy efficient, environmentally responsible places for our families to sleep.

(Oops, that cost us two… 7 left!) LOL!

I suspect that there are those who among us who actually overthink structural solutions because it’s simpler to just “buy” a solution and modify it to serve their purpose. That’s a luxury that  many of us don’t have.

(Yikes… there goes three more ISBU guys! Now we’re down to 4!)

Jedi, your question isn’t really “strange or even odd”. We live (by choice) in rural America. We’re actually lucky enough in life that we got to choose where we’d live and raise our families. It’s a great blessing to us and we wouldn’t trade where we live with anyone on the planet. That said;

We get asked this question all the time and we’ve even been faced with your “storage problem” ourselves. As working ranchers, we build shelter for horses and cattle all the time. As working ranchers we also grow hay. We bale in large and small squares and that hay either gets trucked or railed to the buyers. While it’s sitting, we want it protected from the elements.

Now you can either simply tarp it (like we do our round bales), or…

You can build a canopy out of galvanized pipe and tarps that runs between a pair of ISBUs to form a “tent” of sorts. Once you’ve seen the photos of the finished product, you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. At least we did.

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

You can see how simple it is.

What you want is something that is easily erected  and taken down (in a few days by a few guys), something that breaks down for easy storage (perhaps stored in the cavity of one of the ISBUs that supported it in the first place) and something that is durable and easily repaired if necessary. The reasons for the canopy are obvious. It has to provide protection from the sun, rain, wind and snow.

(We actually cheat and use the stacked hay as the “scaffolding” required to erect the canopy cover. It beats hanging off the end of a cherry picker or a forklift.)

The canopy has to be “idiot proof”. The reason for this is simple. At some point, your idiot brother-in-law is going to have to help you erect it and you want to insure his survival through the project.

(Oh stop it! I’m just saying what you’re thinking. Admit it. You love the big dork, you just feel like thrashing him or pushing him off a roof every once in a while! Huh? Okay, well maybe it’s just me.)

Where was I? Oh yeah…

Your “canopy frame” is going to be constructed out of galvanized pipe that you can find at any big box store (like Home Depot or Lowes).

Remember that it’s not necessarily the OD (outside diameter) of the pipe that implies strength. It’s the WALL THICKNESS of the pipe (the pipe material thickness) that determines how strong that pipe will be when used as structure. You want that pipe wall to be as thick as possible. You’re using it to create rafters that will interconnect to form a big tent frame. We use 11 gauge pipe for the risers and at least 13 gauge pipe for the rafters.  Yes, it will be more expensive to construct. But built of high quality components, it will perform well and last for decades.

The connector fittings that you’ll require to construct your galvanized pipe frame will come from the same place. We’re not going to use anything exotic or “special order”. Using “off-the-shelf” parts insures success and easy replacement if you need extras.  You’ll need the typical L fittings, T fittings, 3 ways and 4 way fittings.

The only thing that you’ll want to “special order” will be the twistlocks that we’re going to use to take advantage of the mounting points already engineered into your containers.

What?

Yes. You said you could weld. We’re going to make you prove it. We’re going to affix the canopy to the shipping containers using the twistlock cavities built into them. The reason for this are twofold;

(a) You have a perfectly good mounting point already sitting there waiting for you, and

(b) There are some people out there that actually drill mounting holes into the container to affix the canopy to. We think this counter-productive as you’re then perforating a previously weather resistant structure.

What WE did was to use a pair of fabricated 40′ steel channels (you could even use angle iron) to create a bottom plate for our “tent runs”. (We used scrap steel so the only fabrication we required is to weld similar segments together to establish your “run”.) We modified and then welded twistlocks to the bottom of the channel at the appropriate mounting points for our containers to affix the frames firmly to the top of the container.

And yes, before you ask, we DID flash the connection point between the rails and the containers to further weatherize the structure.

This gives your canopy a “resting place” to nestle into. Here’s where I’m going with this;

We’re going to build a freestanding, weather-resistant canopy assembly that fits down into that created and secured rail on either side, using bolts (drilled through the canopy frame base) to secure it into the new shipping container channels.

We based the entire frame on 1 7/8″ OD  galvanized pipe. Over trial and error, we’ve found that this pipe dimension is cost effective, works the best and proves itself to be the most durable over time. All of your connecting fittings will be sized to allow use of this pipe.

And once you build your frame, you have to cover it with something, right. Well, by now, you know us and the way we think. We reuse, repurpose and recycle everything that we possibly can. While there are those who applaud us for our “green environmental” status, I assure you that it’s just good design, common sense and reflective of the fact that we aren’t made out of money. We don’t know anyone else who is, either.

We used old billboard tarps that we got from a local advertising agency for scrap costs. They’re durable, cheap and easy to source. Overlapping them makes covering a large frame pretty simple. Using billboard tarps also makes canopy replacements easier if Mother Nature spanks you…

We’ve found that by using a multi-panel solution, you’re only replacing a damaged panel and not the entire top. You can replace a panel quickly and then repair the old damaged one when time allows.

FYI: Turn the tarps over so that the white surface faces up. That while surface will reflect sunlight and your hay (or your livestock) won’t care if Subway is having a “supersale” on Spicy Italian sandwiches. It might make YOU hungry, so we suggest that you simply refrain from staring up at that delicious, mountain sized sandwich if at all possible.

(I wonder if that qualifies as an endorsement of Subway Sandwiches? Maybe they’ll send me a fistful of coupons? LOL!)  

Maybe you don’t LIKE Subway. Well, that’s just unAmerican and around here we have names for people like you, but… if you  wanted to go “high tech” with your canopy cover you could use large multiple layer (4 layer) poly covers (12 mil at least) that were fabricated from Ripstop with UV treating and grommets every 12″ on the borders to allow for secure fastening to your canopy frame.

It seems like a lot of grommets but you’re going to want as many tie-down locations as possible. A cover like this will last for about 5 years at least – barring Mother Nature trying to bite you on your behind. There are other tarp materials that give longer lifespans and they’re priced accordingly.

Okay, you get the jist of what we’re building. You’re going to build a freestanding cage out of that pipe to span your two existing containers. It will set on top of the “inner” top rails of the boxes in that new channel and provide you with one long continuous covered bay to put your hay, horses, disobedient children or unwanted relatives into.

I’m not telling you how to raise your kids or your relatives, but I can tell you that making good on the “Subway Solitary Confinement Module” threat at least once will get those dishes and the yardwork done a lot more often without an argument. Just saying…

I’m also not going to get into dimensions because I don’t know how much hay you’re actually storing, but I can tell you that you can get a pretty significant peak height (over 7/12 PITCH) if you think out your solution.

When we determined that we needed more “height”, we simply added containers on top of the pair we’d started with.

(I know, I know… it’s easy to do that when you’re the self-proclaimed “King of Containers”. But hey, it worked. And now my kids have a playhouse that even the elk and deer can’t get into!)

Plan on running rafters consisting of a “galvanized pipe rafter assembly” every 4′ on center. With additional pipe stringers placed between the segments (at least 2 per side) you can build a sturdy, long-lasting pipe canopy cage that will last for years and years. The closer those rafters are, the stronger your canopy will be. We like 4’OC. You can like anything you want. It’s a free country… for now. LOL!

One of the things that we did (that isn’t depicted in these photos) is that we added those “stringers” into the runs between the tent rafter assemblies to add more support to the canopy in case of a freak snowstorm or heavy rain.  When observed without the canopy the framing looked like a gigantic “skeletal” roll cage. I told my kid that it was the start of my new “Transformer” barn. By the rolling of his eyes I could tell that he didn’t believe me.  However, he DOES understand that if he doesn’t do his chores… LOL!

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

Image Credit: HisCoShelters.com

There are those who do NOT add stringers in between the  rafters. The claim is that the snowload tends to create sagging of the tarp cover at the stringer points. Okay, that’s reasonable… but we prefer the inherent strength of the galvanized pipe tent cage assembly as described to the replacement of a damaged tarp panel. YMMV. Again, free country… so far. LOL!

The tarp is secured to the frame using ball bungees passed through the grommets and you’re  going to need a lot of them. Figure on at least 150 (and I’d order more of them so I had plenty of spares over the life of the canopy). Note that if you’re  using billboard tarps, you’re gonna be punching a lot of holes in the borders of those tarps and applying grommets.

I’ve found that this task is best accomplished by kids who don’t want to be grounded for the entire summer. Okay, it’s tough love, but I do need a tough tarp. I’m just hoping that the kids therapy bills don’t eat up the savings this build gained me in my annual ranching budget. 

This canopy is a pretty easy solution and one that can literally be constructed by a family in their yard or service bay area. We’ve done these as “family projects” and even as “vo-tech colunteer projects”.

Before I close this I want you to know that there are sites where you can buy these canopy solutions, pre-packaged. If you’re not feeling particularly handy, you might google them.

A cursory search revealed HisCoShelters.com and I spoke with the company owner, Larry this AM. His canopy solution is efficient, pretty durable and cost effective. If you contact Larry’s company with your dimensions he’ll ship you the tarp cover (which comes in several thicknesses depending on your goals and objectives) and a big box full of the fittings you’ll use to build your frame. While his fitting are proprietary and designed specifically for this purpose, the provided drawing will give you all the galvanized pipe lengths (which you’ll source at your local hardware supplier).

Then it’s as simple as following the diagrams to erect your canopy.

He also has a downloadable book on his website that further defines the canopy building process and the products he provides. I highly recommend that you download this book and then use the information in it to help you design your solution.

Here’s his contact information;

HisCoShelters.com
larry@hisconw.com
360-217-7186

It should also be noted that I have no affiliation with Larry or HisCoShelters.com and I receive no compensation for his participation/inclusion in this post.

So campers, there you have it. If you need a canopy to store hay or feed, a shelter for horses or livestock, a carport for your truck or tractor… this might just be the solution you’re looking for.

Until next time…

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.

A little “Piney Steel Cabin” goodness!

27 Nov

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

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!

Something old plus something older = Something NEW!

28 Oct

So, a funny thing happened to me on the way into oral surgery…

While dealing with the  pain of a shattered molar, I started  thinking  about a hillside on a mountainous piece of canyon that was giving me fits.

The heavily wooded hillside rolls down into a belly that holds a natural groundwater pond. Beyond the approximately 1 acre pond is a pasture that will hold a beloved Percheron Stallion that’s literally as big as a mountain himself. The property is SO untouched, the discovery of that big beautiful beast so inviting, that it seems only natural to keep it as natural as possible.

From the gate above the property and it’s accompanying  drive down the hill to the homesite, it’s essential to allow the casual spectator to bask in the wonder of all those trees, flora and fauna, without being confronted by a monument to someone’s ego.

And, I have an excavator… LOL!

So, the idea is to cut a pair of ISBU homes into the hillside by cutting into the existing hill and then shoring the cut up with a CMU (concrete block) retaining wall. They’re going to look something like this;

ISBU Hand Qtrs and Guesthouse for back 15

Think of it as “Montana Mountain Minimalist Modern”. LOL!

A 2,400 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with detached garage will face down the mountain across the stallion pasture.The garage and workshop are detached because of the severity of the  grade and the desire to keep some of the sounds of  machinery and tools away from the residential structure. Don’t worry, it’ll be easily navigated in spite of the difficulties of the site.

A small (approximately 800 square foot) guesthouse will be located on the opposite side of an enclosed courtyard framed by the  retaining wall and the building clusters. A  single ISBU container will form a “bridge”  between the pair of residential structures, allowing movement between the homes in the dead of winter without having  to actually “go out into the snow”. Think of this as a simple “Mother-In-Law” quarters arrangement. And that Corten created “pass-thru” (reinforced, insulated – with SPF of course –  and glazed) will actually serve as a small walk-through greenhouse supplying  fresh produce to both households.

The guesthouse will look out over the pond, which is framed by the trees and mountains behind  it. A stone patio and recessed firepit will allow guests  to bask  in the splendor of the Montana Mountains. One of the luxuries of living in a deep Montana canyon is that you’re  surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas  on all sides.

We’ll close off the courtyard using reclaimed barn siding from a few old structures already located on the site and the stone for the fireplaces and retaining wall veneers will come from a local quarry.

You literally won’t see the residences until you round the corner as the grade drops. As you enter the property all you’ll see is trees, mountains, deer and elk.

Most of the materials and fixtures used in the construction of this hillside project will actually come from the “reclaimed and repurposed” piles. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me. I love it when a plan comes together.

Once the pain killers wear off, I’ll give you a better idea of what we’re doing. It’s going to be incredible!

Stay tuned!

AK

We seek “ISBU Independence”

4 Jul

It should be noted that I cannot say anything today that will overshadow the majesty of the fireworks we will observe as our eyes and hearts lift to the sky tonight, as we remember all those brave men and women who stood… and those who fell… to carve out this great nation.

You have all heard the Declaration of Independence, complete with it’s majestic ending… a Declaration worthy of a long life measured in “forevers”.

It was a Declaration carved into stone by iron men wielding wooden sticks, men who used their sweat and blood to build this Republic by selflessly sentencing themselves to death as they drew lines in the sand… in the face of their oppressors.

This Declaration is still hurled towards the bones of long past monarchs, men like King George the III, a monarch long dead, a man like many before him who uttered such words as “better 50 year of English rule than all the cycles of Cathay.”

To those who sought to oppress, to subdue, to control, I say…

This is America. It is OUR land, our beloved nation, a land where once citizens built and Congress followed.

You have all heard the history of this nation from the first to present day… from our beginning… from the Revolutionary War through the days of great struggles and great triumphs.

There are many challenges ahead, both from within and without… but we will faithfully face them  with the determination of our ancestors, our forefathers… as we maintain and re-armor this cradle of Democracy.

ISBU Independence

CampCo’s Steel Farmhouse. A Home built BY Americans… for Americans.

May G_d bless this beloved Republic and… every one of you.

Alex Klein

July 4th, 2015

Fly me to Corten Country!

17 Jun

People have asked me how to approach Planning and Zoning authorities to test the waters when considering building an ISBU (Shipping Container) home.

Remember that to most of these “official” guys and gals, your ISBU home will simply be an “abstract”. Many of them will simply have no idea what you’re talking about. What they’ll visualize is those depictions of graffiti covered “Corten Shanties” so prominently displayed in apocalyptic Sci-Fi slasher films!  You know the ones that I’m referring to, those dilapidated steel shells surrounded by zombies and burning 55 gallon drums filed with trash… LOL!

You need an ice breaker!

Consider doing a series of renders of your proposed ISBU project and include a “fly-by” if you can. With the tools available to us now (even free programs like SketchUp, etc…) it’s pretty simple to do.

Here’s one that someone recently sent to us that was pretty slick;

Additionally, I never use words like “Shipping Container”, or “ISBU” when talking to Planning and Zoning guys. I prefer to use words like “prefabricated steel framing” or “modular steel frames”. Shipping Containers are simply steel building blocks.

Enjoy!

Your “Normal” might be NUTS!

16 May

It’s been said that “normal” is;

Getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work…

Eating a store-bought breakfast for as long as you can afford to…

Turning off all the lights and cranking the thermostat down to reduce your energy bill…

Driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need…

in order for you to be able to afford to pay for the clothes, food, electricity, car and the big mortgage on the house that you leave empty all day…

And, you do this in order to afford to live in it in the first place.

That’s just crazy. Maybe that’s YOUR normal.

It certainly isn’t MINE. And it’s not the life that my friends, families and crew live either!

  • Water comes from a well.
  • Hot water comes from the sun.
  • Energy comes from the roof.
  • Breakfast comes from chickens and the garden.
  • The big mortgage? Non-existent.

We build our homes using paychecks, barter, ingenuity and sweat equity.

Most of us even work from home so that the commute is to the office on the opposite side of the house.

And we do it in our jammies…

(Don’t wanna see it? Don’t SKYPE us…) LOL!

Not everyone can live this way admittedly. It’s a blessing to be able to do this.

But many of us can adapt some of these “ways” into our lives, regardless of where we call home.

Stick around and we’ll teach you how to do it. You’ll be amazed at the freedom that self-sufficiency, self-reliance and self-accountability yields.

And, sometimes the homes look like this one;

CampCo1

CampCo Steel Farmhouse

At least the cool ones do! This is one of my favorites, coming out of a fab barn staffed by a crazy bunch of Texans…

Stay tuned.