Tag Archives: alternative construction

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

5 Nov

Greetings, Campers!

Okay, so I took a break from that plasma cutter.

A guy has to eat, you know! 🙂

My family needs a house. My family has no cash. My family has a plan… and it involves Shipping Containers, recycled steel, and a lot of hard work. Hey, that’s why they call it “sweat equity”!

Most readers of this blog know that after a hurricane and an insurance company wiped out our dreams of  “a life lived like regular people”, we started rebuilding.

Katrina Bites

And, our faithful readers know that our build is harder than most, because we have “complications.” My wife is seriously ill with cancer, and my son (who is 2 years old) isn’t big enough to swing a hammer yet.

I’m not going to bore you with all those details, because I’ve talked about them before. Suffice to say, we have our hands really full.

As we speak, I’m cutting “containers into boxes.” I’m helping a guy build a small “demented village”, out of damaged container segments. And, that’s work that will make a fella mighty hungry…

So, as I sit here watching the sweat rain down, for the 37th day in a row (or so it seems) …

I’m gathering my thoughts, while I gather up this sandwich, and stuff it into my face.

sandwichNote: Not the REAL sandwich. You think I’m crazy? This one’ll kill you!  😉

So… you read, while I eat, ‘kay? Try to ignore the chomping and slurping… my wife does… barely… 🙂

I was out reading on the ‘net a few days ago, and something I read made me think about a guy I’ve been corresponding with for a while.

A reader recently contacted me (we’ll call him “J”), and told me about a “Corten Cabin” he has… stashed up in the woods. It’s what some of us would call a “Bug – Out Box”.

Now, “J” contacted me, because his box looks just like my old blog header, except for his box is twice as long.

cropped-rr-banner-0509cYou remember… this one.

“J” has a 40′ High Cube Shipping Container sitting on cinder blocks, out in the middle of nowhere, that he uses for weekend fishing trips.

There’s a logging road for access, unmaintained for years… that’s passable when it’s not under mud, or frozen under snow drifts.

The story he told me of them towing that container into the woods was hilarious.

His father-in-law wasn’t laughing, however… It was HIS truck they blew up moving that box.

Know how much it costs to get a tow-truck back into 4wd country, to haul out a dodge pick-up? Go on, guess!

More than the truck is worth. Oy.

It reminded me of a box we moved years ago, that kept trying to drag us back down the hill, before we got to the top of it…

You know how people say that when they’re facing their death, their life flashes before their eyes? Well, on THAT day, it kept happening to us over and over again…

After a while, all we could do was hang on, and scream “Deja VU!” at the top of our lungs…

Sure, we sounded like frightened little girls! We were scared “you-know-what!”  🙂

Wait… this post is supposed to be about “J”.

While he goes up there on weekends in the summer, he’s thinking that “with the economy trying to kill itself”, his family may be forced to head there someday, to ride out whatever “chaos and storm” the “hard times to come” might bring…

Now, we’re all nervous. You can’t watch cable TV without some “expert” saying that it’s time America either “checked up, or packed it in.”

We’ve all heard “it.” You know, the “experts” touting their “fearmongering” crap… “All nations eventually fail. Yada, yada, yada…”

I suspect that this is in part due to Cable TV shows like “The Colony” that advocate forward thinking rolled into a nice tight ball, to form a dysfunctional view of what survival in our times may end up being like, if you’re a complete idiot…

colony

I’ve watched a few of these “disaster simulators”. You know, “here’s a look at what happens, when the “you-know-what” finally hits the fan”.

Everybody has a scenario. Everybody is sensationalizing our plummet to a grim capitalistic  death. Everybody is speculating… Everybody is plotting…

But  you know… we may not all get stranded with a rocket scientist, an electrical engineer, a mechanic, a nurse, a martial arts expert, and a doctor, yada… yada… yada…

We might get stranded by our “onesies.” So, we should understand what we’re doing, in case the cavalry doesn’t show up in time to make any repairs.

Or worse, we’ll inherit that drunk jerk up the street. You know the one…

… he’s always passed out on the lawn, none of his cars run (and he’s got eight of ’em), and he’s always getting his lights turned off. The cops are always at his house… and his wife is always at YOUR house, “borrowing” groceries. Yeah, they’re gonna be a lot of help… Oy.

It’s why I also advocate knowing how to safely use and maintain personal firearms. And tasers… lets not forget tasers…

Like  I was saying…  before I so rudely interrupted myself… “J” thinks that if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, he and his family (he’s married with 4 children aged from 3-9) might have to be up there in his “bass box” the winter time, and he reminds me that it’s REMOTE.

There are no neighbors. There is no store. Walmart ain’t got there yet…

There’s just your wife yelling at you because you forgot the big Sam’s Club carton of toilet paper!  “Ya Dumb Moron!!” 🙂

He’ll have whatever he hauls in with his small SUV, and that’s it. He doesn’t want to rely on propane, or any other type of “store-bought” fuel, simply because it might not be available.

There’s a neat little bass lake about 200 feet from his front porch.

basslake

He says you can spit into the pond, and catch a big, fat bass. (So, they won’t lack for protein.) Hence the name “Bass Box.” Paying attention? Huh?

The box isn’t anything to write home about, it’s just a big shipping container. Except for insulation and siding on the outside, it’s a regular box.

The box sits with the front face (40′) facing a few degrees of due south. It wasn’t “a solar plan”, it’s just the way the site worked out.

Actually, the “real” story goes like this:

They argued for three hours about where “the perfect spot” for the box was. Finally, his big brother said:

“@%$^#&#*!!! IT GOES RIGHT DAMN HERE!”

And then he punched “J” right in the eye. Voila! Problem solved. 🙂

He (and his brother – who is no longer available for “cabin help,” by the way…) applied a waterproof membrane on the exterior of the box. They used a rubberized roofing membrane that you spray on. ‘Cept, they used paint rollers, so it’s REALLY thick…

Why?  Well, because they found 2 barrels of it… “just laying around, that nobody wanted”.

I know, I know… Don’t ask, don’t tell…

After they’d added more “water seal” to the box, they firred it out with 2×6’s.  This created cavities, and those cavities received about 4″ of PolyIso foam into the cavities.

When I asked him where he got the PolyIso foam boards, he told me that they’d;

“… found/commandeered/discovered the material from a vacant industrial real estate listing they had. It was just laying there collecting dust”.

“Real Estate Plunder”. Okay, works for me…

Don’t worry “J”… we won’t hold “logistical left-turns” against you. We might, however, hold it against you that you’re a (gasp!) realtor!

Say… do you know a guy named “Clark?” Hmmm? 🙂

He put some siding scraps over the insulation that they found on “a dead building project”…

Hmmmm… I’m not sure if “J” is a recycler, or a felon. Note to self: “If getting stuff from “J”… always get a signed receipt.” 🙂

Anyway, as near as I can figure, he’s got about an r20-r30 wall system (depending on which PolyIso rigid foam product it is, it ranges from about r5 to r8 per inch). So, he can “almost” hold heat in, once he gets it there.

I say “almost” because he ran out of insulation at the top of the box, so the roof is uninsulated.

But, he’d been thinking about some kind of clerestory roof anyway to bring in more summer sun. Right now, “J” has a flat roof with a pair of vents on top, that are identical to the one depicted in my old blog header image.

Steel ShedObviously, we’re going to pay some attention to this.

First, I’ll sue him for patent infringement… 🙂

You know what? I miss that old blog header. I think I’ll do my “Lazarus act” and resurrect it.

Seriously, a cool SHED roof would add headroom, a cool space for a few sleeping lofts, some additional storage, and a good opportunity for vents and windows to help with air movement and heat gain.

Plus we can use that roof pitch to catch water, and get rid of snow.

“J’s” back is gonna hurt for a week or two, by the time we’re done. Boy, I bet “J” wished he’d never heard of me, NOW…

Picture “J” sad. Poor “J.”

That just leaves the floor.

Shipping container floors are treated with serious insecticides and fungicides to keep alien bugs out of foreign ports.

Wood preservatives containing a number of organochlorine insecticides, including aldrin (no, not BUZZ Aldrin!), dieldrin, chlordane and lindane, are just the beginnings of the treatment that floors receive.

Although I know people who’d like to stuff Buzz Aldrin into a container… Oy!

I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, rip these floors out.

You can’t EVER trust the shipper you got the container from. The labels denoting the presence of that toxin are often worn off, or even just missing. Because the containers are moved so often and with so many variables…  you can’t tell which ones got the toxic sprays just by looking.

Some containers escape without being sprayed or treated, but the only way to know for sure, is to take a sample of the floor out, and get it tested at a lab.

There’s are products that you can put on the floor to encapsulate them. That’ll seal the toxins in there, but they’ll still BE there. And, those products are expensive. We’ll go a different route.

Okay, all that accomplished, you’d have a “shelter”.

Inside, it’s spartan. It’s so bad that his wife won’t even go up there! Once you get through those big steel doors, you’re greeted by a few wooden shelves, a tiny wood stove, hammocks, and a blow-up mattress for a bed.

Did I forget to mention that they have a “shanty with a hole in the butt seat” kind of outhouse.

Oh yeah, they have an outhouse.

I bet he found THAT at a construction site, too… 🙂

He has a composting toilet, but it’s still in the box, in the garage. That’s kinda dumb… Lotta good it’s doing him, there! 🙂

Okay, he needs a bathroom, too.

And, he reminded me about 11 times that the box gets cold. So, we turn up the heat a bit.

He doesn’t want to try any “geothermal nonsense” (his words) because the container is already in place, and he couldn’t move it if he wanted to.

Actually, his exact words were;

“Ronin, don’t be giving me none of your Geothermal nonsense, I don’t like shovels, my friend…” 🙂

He doesn’t want to rely on solar panels, because he’s not a guy with a lot of money to set up a complete “off-grid” situation. The closest he’s come to that is a Harbor Freight photovoltaic set-up with a pair of small panels.

So, he has enough power for a laptop computer, a TV, and maybe a radio.

(I’m going to try and talk him into replacing that crap inverter, and adding a panel or two so that he can establish some kind of “real” electricity, for refrigeration and other necessities.)

With the world going digital, I wonder what TV signal he’d get? I’m thinking he uses a VCR or a DVD player… Remind me to check, okay?

He has a good water supply.

It’s a hand-pumped well that draws water from about 175 feet. If he wants a shower, he pumps water up into a black painted 55 gallon barrel on the roof of his container, and then gravity-feeds it to a showerhead.

This is great for one guy on a weekend, but it’s not gonna work for a “family in residence”. Nuh uh!

We need a solar powered pump, too.

BTW: The gray water from the shower, and doing the dishes goes out into the garden, that for now, only feeds the wild animals that live around his box.

That’s good, but we’ll do better.

They have a small swedish fireplace/stove combination installed, but they only use it for heat at night. It’s sitting on patio tiles as a hearth. So, it’s not exactly ideal. We’re gonna move the stove, and build it “into a better box”.

Again, it’s about managing resources. “J” says that he doesn’t want to use it during the day, if he doesn’t have to. Why? He hates chopping wood. HATES it! 🙂

The stove vents out the side of the box. Sort of… It’s a rather shaky connection.

So, we do some chimney repair, and then we use what I call “idiot solar” to help bump up the heat. But, we’ll use solar in a different way than “normal people” are used to.

Okay, I can see that there is a lot to do, but he needs to do it one weekend at a time.

And, he needs to do it in a way that maintains the security of the structure, so that he doesn’t end up with visitors he doesn’t want, or need, while he’s away…

So, over the next few posts in this series, we’re going to take that empty 40′ High Cube Shipping Container, and we’re going to turn it into a full blown cabin, complete with sleeping lofts, and enough interior to let it be used comfortably, for a long vacation in the woods.

It’s all about his family’s survival, if times get hard. And, it’s all about HIS survival, if his wife gets mad.

After all, out in the woods… nobody can hear you scream… Muuuuwahhahah!

We’re not just going to insulate that container top. We’re going to “weatherize” the box.

Weatherizing isn’t “turning off the heat and freezing in the dark”.

Try that with your wife sleeping next to you. I guarantee you that you’ll wake up, dead!

It’s all about using ‘stored’ energy (and less of it than you might think) combined with small resources to achieve the same level of comfort that you used to get from that McMansion of yours.

How do you accomplish this?

Well, first, you find all the “energy nasties” and you give them the boot. In this case, we’ll start with that leaky stove chimney, and work outward from there. Careful planning and attention to detail will have this family in a sustainable vacation home, in no time.

We’re also going to deal with indoor air quality.

Remember that the air quality is 2-5 times worse in your house, than the air outside it.   This is a small space, that may be inhabited by a family of six (or maybe even more, if that damned brother promises not to punch him in the eye again) , under rather severe conditions, and maybe for extended periods of time.

Beyond air quality, we need to pay close attention to energy use, moisture (and it’s movement… unless you LIKE mold and mildew), combustion zones, and ventilation.

Remember, condensation is a killer.

Areas in walls and roof cavities that stay moist, start to grow funky things that attack your lungs. YUCK!

Ice dams on roofs can contribute to this problem, too. So we’re going to pay close attention to that roof, it’s construction, and it’s pitch.

We’ll talk about fixing that stove vent/chimney, before you huff and puff… and burn your house down…

We’ll talk about designing, building, and attaching a roof to catch the sun and even a couple of kids.

We’ll talk about photovoltaic panels on the cheap, and an “in-wall solar heating” solution.

We’ll talk about building loft spaces into it, to get the kids up and out of your hair.

We’ll talk about a “hidden” Master bedroom.

We’ll talk about the floor of that shipping container, and what to do about it.

We’ll talk about a kitchen (with a refrigerator, and running water, and everything!) and even a real bathroom.

We’ll talk about catching water and setting up a graywater system.

And, we’ll talk about building storage.

We need to add some serious storage  into that shipping box, so that it can house all their crap, so that “J” doesn’t step on everything they own, in the middle of the night, when that damned bear is trying to beat down the door!

And we’re going to accomplish this, a goal at a time, a weekend at a time…

Why?

Because you “Show me a man who failed… and I’ll show you a man who didn’t have a good plan”.

We’re not just  going to meet his needs, we’re going to exceed his expectations.

Why? Well, because… I know his wife… and she’ll kill him! (gulp!)

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

It’s about time for some Heavy Metal In Michigan!

3 Nov

3D Rosa ParksAh… another fine example of “Mi Container es Su Casa!”

“Oh, give me a home,
I can build on my own,
where the bankers can kiss my big butt…

A ‘slight’ mortgage I’ll pay,
while I’m happy all day,
and the neighbors all think I’m a nut!”

(I writ that, I did… all by my onesies… You can tell, huh?) 🙂

Call it “Home on the Range…” or “Home, sweet home…”

I’ve shown you cabins, castles, and even condo’s before, but this is a good one…

Recently, I got involved in conversations over a project that would build a factory in Florida to actually produce ISBU homes. The idea is to take a plant that used to build modular homes and simply “retool and convert” it to process ISBUs, using the same workforce that was laid off, when the plant recently closed. That’s Win-Win.

And, they wanted “my advice…”  The rubes… 🙂

(Well, it’ll be worth exactly what they paid for it…. nada.) 😉

As we talked, they kept talking about this Detroit project. Now, I’ve known about this one for a long time, but frankly, although it has real merit, IMHO there were too many cards stacked against it.

And everybody is still talking about it… even though it’s dragging out longer and longer… without making any real progress.

Until…

On October 6, 2009… Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks was approved by Detroit City Council with a 8-0 “YES” vote to move forward. Now, they “WAIVERED” it, which means they can’t change their minds or rescind the vote.

So, maybe a model home will get built. IF… they can raise a quarter million bucks of front money. So far, all they have is $50 grand.

Detroit architect Steven Flum and company have finally convinced the city of Detroit to let them build the “Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks” project on top of land currently containing vacant lots and burned-out homes.

It’s a 17 condo project that was projected to cost about $1.8 million bucks!

(Man, I could build over 30 ISBU homes with that kind of money!)  🙂

IF built, each unit will range from about 960 to 1,920 square feet, at a cost of between $100 grand, and about $200 grand. This is about 25% less than most of the units around the area, and these puppies are “Green, green green!”

I’ve seen the floorplans, and they’re pretty sweet. It’s not the approach I would have taken, but they know their market far better than I do! And, the project will make a lot of people happy, most importantly, the residents.

Thanks to the use of recycled materials, efficient appliances, and green design, these babies will be about 60% more efficient than the neighbors, too! Talk about your annual energy savings!

They want to have a $1 Million Five hundred thousand dollars of Investor money by Novembers’ end, drawing interest. That may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back…

According to the Detroit Free Press;

(BTW: Why is it the Free Press, if you have to buy it?) Hmmm?

Like I was saying…

The project would stack empty containers four high, cut in windows and doors, install plumbing, stairways and heating, and add amenities such as balconies and landscaped patios…

The developer, Leslie Horn, chief executive of the Detroit-based PGH “Power of Green Housing” organization, said using empty shipping containers is not a new idea.

Well, DUH! And it’s funny… I thought that PGH stood for Professional Golfing Hooligans… I got an invite from John Daly, just the other day… 🙂

Anyway, again with the “back to’s…”

“It’s been done in Europe and, to a limited extent, in this country. But no one has looked at organizing the process on a larger scale incorporating a range of recycled materials and efficiencies that could save a homeowner as much as 60% annually in energy costs,” she said.

What? Careful, lass… You’re overloading your bottom there… Many of us have done exactly that! WAY before this project ever got penciled…

Horn and Flum said they would use special insulating paint inside and out (Supertherm, probably), high-efficiency water heaters and other energy-saving methods. But by far, the most environmentally friendly aspect of the project is the use of discarded shipping containers.

Finally, there will be a “highly public” project that will test the claims of the Supertherm folks…

Think about it. It’d be homes made out of steel. And if you’re living in a drive-by zone, what better material to use?

Anyone out there live in Detroit? Would you live here? It’d be built on the southeast corner of Rosa Parks and Warren. How’s that neighborhood, now? I was there years ago, and it was pretty rough! ? Can you go outside, during daylight hours without getting shot, or stabbed, or maimed??

Anybody else wanna live there?

I mean, I know it’s in DETROIT and all… 🙂

Wait! I just figured it out! This is just a scam! You pay your dough… You go to bed in Detroit, and the next thing you know your ‘house’ is on a slow boat heading for South America.

Argh! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninLike I said… although they’ve been talking about this project for months, and although it’s looking better, it’s still not looking too good.  I recently spoke to one of the heads of the Realtor network up there, and between the economy, the alternative approach, and local politics, it’ not looking like “diamonds and pearls.”  I’m betting it’s not going to happen on the publicized timeline, if at all… It’s a shame, too. It’s a really nice project that would set a wonderful example. I really hope they prove me wrong! I’m rooting for them, big time!

“I’m sorry – We’re Broke.”

1 Nov

I have been accused of being a “treehugger”around here, recently. Again…

I’m not sure why…  Sure, I write posts about saving energy. Because I have to pay for the energy I use! Well, duh!

I like CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent light bulbs). Why? Well,  because I don’t have to change them as often, and they save me money.

treehugger1

Sure, I write posts about being kind to the trees that give us WOOD, and oxygen, and shade… Why? Wood gives me an excuse to use POWER TOOLS!  Plus, if you water those trees, they give you SHADE! Shade saves energy, and gives me a place to hang the hammock!

I’m not a militant “tree-spiker”, and I don’t agree with a lot of the “treehugger agenda”. Or maybe it’s just the methods I don’t’ agree with. Saving a tree is never worth killing a human being over. And that’s what “tree-spikers” do. I know from first-hand experience.  If you kill a person over a tree, you’re NOT an “environmentalist…” You’re a MURDERER.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what “flag” you wrap it up in.

Nothing good can come of it.

But… people see shipping containers being cut up and reassembled into houses, and they immediately think “Eco-Whackjob.”

Look, I love trees. Truly! But my primary goal isn’t to clean up the earth, or save the environment, or even make sure that my kids breathe clean air right now.

WHAT? RONIN SAID WHAT?

As my wife slowly dies, as my two year old son starts venturing out into that great big world… my family is living in a hovel. It’s a horrid little box, that hasn’t had anything resembling “real maintenance” done to it, since about the Kennedy Administration.

It wasn’t always like this. We had a nice home, and it was almost paid for. We had a decent car, and we had money to pay the bills. Until…

A hurricane wiped it all out. Sure, we had insurance. But, you know what? The insurance company is pleading “bankruptcy” if they are forced to pay off all their claims. So, we’re part of 2,000 families in a class action lawsuit against them now, trying to get the “protection that we paid for.”

The facts are that they HAD the money.

But, the stockholders would’ve taken a huge hit (okay, an even bigger hit), and the fat-cats in charge would have seen their bonuses (and possibly even their jobs) diminish. So guess who gets screwed? Guess.

I’ve written extensive posts about all this before, you I’m not going to rehash it now. It just raises my blood pressure.

While all those environmental goals are noteworthy, and even applaudable, I just don’t have the means to change any of  circumstances that contribute to them. I have to leave that to you guys and gals.

What I am out to accomplish is getting my family back into a safe, secure, weather-resistant house, that we can afford to live in. One where we have the same basic needs covered that most of you have. And, we’d like to do it without a huge mortgage, huh? Is that too much to ask?

And if I manage to slay any environmental dragons along the way, well, that’s just a wonderful bonus.

From the feedback I’m getting, you’d certainly think that I might be asking too much…

I’ve groveled,  I’ve crawled, I’ve lobbied politicians, I’ve made speeches before “Capital cronies,” I’ve written “blood-covered” posts, and I’ve even begged, because my family is FAILING, but help is just not happening…

Some of you already know that we just got a shipment of damaged shipping containers, that we’re cannibalizing for fun and “experimentation.” Okay, three. We got three. It’s not like we got a container ship fulla boxes. Don’t I wish. I’d build houses  for families that needed them… until I dropped dead from exhaustion.

While I was out behind a warehouse recently, using a plasma cutter to dissect a Corten Cubicle, I had a guy walk over and get on my case about my “ambition.”

It seems that if you cut up a steel box and then live in it, you’re “putting carpenters out of work” in an already failing economy. Why, what you’re doing is downright “un-American!”

Exact words.

I had to laugh. Right in his face.

That just made him madder. For a minute I thought that he was looking for something to hit me with, but everything laying around was steel, and way too heavy for him to lift. So, he just rattled off a string of obscenities, shook his fists at me repeatedly, and then waddled off.

I guess he forgot that you have to put interiors into these boxes in order to make them livable, and then… you’ll probably put insulation and siding on the outside of them, to confuse the neighbors even further… I think carpenters do that, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve never seen any “Container Gnomes”, or anything like that… 🙂

If wanting a safe, affordable, sustainable house to live in is considered “Un-American”… then sign me up and send me a lifetime membership card.

Having had just about enough of his nonsense (and his threats), I calmly put down the plasma cutter (Remember, campers… always treat your tools with respect. Your neighbors? Well… um… er… it depends on what day it is…), and took off my goggles, and my wristwatch.

This was going to be just the “attitude adjustment “I needed. I hate taking “anti-stress and blood pressure medication.” But, I’m all pent up with frustration. What better outlet, than an idiot cursing my family ancestry? Hmmm?

But he didn’t possess enough “conviction” to actually put his butt behind his mouth. He literally ran away.

Now, I realize that I seem a little bit “up-patriotic” at times. I’m disenchanted with government. I’m tired of give-away programs that only benefit the elite, or fund projects that seem unlikely to succeed, while the rest of us suffer.

Bailing out Wall Street?

I’ve heard all the arguments. And now, I’ve seen everything go right back to the way it was… except the bonuses are even bigger. Why?

Bailing out the Car Companies?

Again, why? Not ALL companies started withering like grapes in a heatwave! Only the ones that refused to change with the times.

Cash for Clunkers?

Okay, some of us got new cars. (I didn’t.)

But, I’ll remind those of you who did that the REST of us are paying for them. Billions of dollars. So, when you go out into the driveway, to start up that new car you bought with your $4500 free bucks, remember that the rest of the taxpaying citizens of America helped put it in your driveway, and now we’re helping you pay for it.

Like it or not. I don’t remember voting for that one. Oy.

The Stimulus Package?

Sure, now hundreds of large US-based corporations can afford to outsource jobs to Malaysia, to build solar panels and other cool environmental stuff. And, it’s exactly what’s happening. I just read a report that several large companies here in the US are on a hiring binge in other countries, to build these products, now that they have government money to do it with. In fact, they may offer to move you to that country, if you want to keep your job. I hear India is nice this time of year. And, the  curry is good…

We just picked our own pockets until there was nothing left but lint. Am I really the only one who sees this?

Recently, I ran a post that talked about grants, and loans, and “money lost.”

I got a list of grants and banks, and “other” organizations helping American families to build homes. And, it wasn’t worth the paper that they printed it on. Should I be surprised? After all, I got it from a Government official.

And, I got pissed off, and wrote a post about it.

People emailed me like mad, telling me that I was crazy. After all, the Government is just giving money away, to anyone who wants it!

Yeah? Bull.

Apparently, they’re only giving it away to people OUTSIDE this country, who supported Presidential Campaigns.

Want yet another an example?

The Wall Street Journal (Yes… Ronin reads… I don’t just look at the pictures…) The Department of Energy just awarded $529 million to Finland…

FINLAND!

… for an $89,000 all-electric sports car, while US projects die, jobs languish, and American companies go bust.

The U.S. Government has offered a $529 million loan to FISKER,  an Al Gore-backed company making $89,000 all-electric sports cars in Finland, while US projects, and the resulting US jobs go unfunded.

Why are US projects unfunded? The Government says they don’t have the money to fund them… Whaaaa?

It might interest you to know that Fisker‘s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a “significant” partner.

Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million recently to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

A representative from the CRP added; “And that’s just the money that we can actually track.”

You wonder why I hate (okay… I don’t “hate” him, I just dislike him…a lot…) Al Gore?

Here’s yet ANOTHER reason. This backstabbing b@st@rd continues to rake in the cash, by using his “global warming platform” as an ATM.

There is a distinct difference between “Global Warming” and Climate Change. I totally, totally, totally…  believe in Climate Change… but “Global Warming?” Bah-Hooey! 😉

But, back to Al Gore… First, it was “Bad Science“. Hey, if nothing else, Al Gore IS the Paris Hilton of the Scientific Community… He’s stinking rich for no apparent good reason, he’s a “charismatic idiot,” he turns up every time he sees a press camera light go on… and he looks good on camera… sometimes.

Thousands of notable, credentialed scientists (including many who specialize in Climate Change Science) are now going on record to state that Gore pulled a fast one on EVERYBODY…

Then, it was “carbon credits.” Again, Gore‘s “Carbon Credit Trading Company” made millions of dollars.

Now FISKER is using Gore‘s contacts and political prowess as a “Hollywood backed media darling“, to bilk American taxpayers again, and again, and again.

Other car companies have gotten money recently. Hello? You know, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, for example. Even one of my favorites, TESLA,  got some cash, in the form of a loan.

Now, I’m okay with Tesla getting some cash. Tesla builds electric cars. Cool electric cars, I might add. Those idiots in Congress gave Tesla $465 million bucks, in the form of a loan. Okay, so Tesla has to pay it back… I’m okay with that. They actually build their cars here. So Americans get jobs and Americans want, and will get the cars they build.

But Fisker? Wait a minute!

The Silicon Valley-based Fisker said that the bulk of loan proceeds will go towards the development of a $40,000 family sedan.

That they haven’t even designed yet!

And if that’s true, why are they diverting a large portion of the funds to fuel yet another car, an “alleged” $90,000 electric car that nobody can afford except status seeking… um… er… Hollyweirdo’s and fatcats…. Oh… I get it… never mind! 😉

Wait a minute! you say… It’s a Silicon Valley corporation! That’s not  “alien.”

Um… where do Finnish cars get built?

So far… FINLAND.

So, how many American jobs will that money fund?

I’m Betting ZERO!

Fisker‘s Silicon Valley operation is just a glorified design center. It’s a place for the top 1% of their employees to hang their hats. So either Fisker plans on giving them HUGE pay raises, or that money is going overseas.

I read the data. The plant in America (Wilmington) that they’re talking about is hopelessly locked in turmoil. Moses couldn’t bring that plant on-line any time soon. The Union isn’t budging, and there are big troubles ahead…

But… employees of Fisker’s top investor, KPC&B, donated more than $2 million to the Obama presidential campaign, and customers who have pre-ordered the Fisker include… who else… Al Gore.

Wanna bet that his doesn’t come with an invoice?

The DOE denied that politics played a role in the decision.

abductions

Yeah, right. And yesterday I was abducted by aliens…

I’m thinking that if you spend about $4 million dollars on the right politician, you can get a hell of a loan… no matter where you live. But, I bet that the DOE will deny that, too…

But zero is still zero. Unless you count the millions of bucks that Finland (and Al Gore) just raked in.

For 1/10th of 1 percent of that money, I could have built homes for 15 small families. Okay, sure… it’s only 15 families, but it’s a START! It’s 15 families safe, dry, and warm in their 600+ square foot houses made of steel. And one of those kids could grow up to be President. But probably not… because growing up to be energy efficient, self-reliant, and socially  responsible… would probably disqualify them.

Somebody pass the Tylenol…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Look, if you like this blog, if it helps you plan your ISBU project, or even if you just enjoy watching me make an @$$ out of myself … hit the Paypal button up there (if you can afford to), and donate a few bucks to help us out. Look, if I didn’t REALLY need it, I wouldn’t ask. It’s humiliating, and it’s embarrassing. I just ran out of options. If we don’t help “ourselves,” no one will. Government isn’t going to do it. If something doesn’t happen REAL soon, my family will fail, and we don’t have a safety net. I write this blog, to help as many families as we possibly can, while we try to heal, ourselves. Thanks for reading!

Maximize your Experience!!!

31 Oct

Greetings!

Happy Halloween!

In keeping with “scary things…”

Welcome to another exciting episode of:

“What’s that Shipping Container Idiot up to… NOW?”

While I usually go on a rant about this ISBU topic, or that one, today I’m going to give you some advise;

RenaissanceRonin uses a lot of YouTube footage on the blog. And, when those little episodes are posted into the blog pages, they can be pretty hard to see.

I bet you’d love to watch those videos in “Cinema Style”, huh? I know I would!

Now, if you use Firefox as your Internet browser, you can watch YouTube the way it was meant to be watched!!

Ronin doesn’t just explore the darker side of Shipping Container life, I’m also a “closet geek.” And, one of my favorite places to learn about the newest gadgets and geek tricks, is the “How-To Geek”.

I strongly suggest that you head over there and read his post, on “maximizing the YouTube Experience”.

Watch YouTube Videos in Cinema Style in Firefox

He’ll show you how to transform “that little bitty box and all that background clutter” into this:
youtubecinema04

With just a few “right clicks”.

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Go to your ROOM!… Um… Corten Cubicle!

30 Oct

Greetings!

I know…I know…  I’m gaining a reputation as a “Corten Crazy…”

I’m building a home for my family (if it kills me), by using Shipping containers as the core. I’m doing it for a lot of reasons, and I’ve talked about them all here, over the last couple of hundred posts.

As I continue down my ISBU laden path…

I’m experimenting with boxes that are being cut up into smaller boxes. Although it doesn’t happen often, sometimes these boxes get their butts handed to them, and when they do, they go to a shipping container graveyard. And I just happen  to have the keys to one, and a plasma cutter…

I’ve been talking about this, on the blog.

Recently, a family in Louisiana contacted me, to see if I knew of any solutions for “storm overcrowding.”

After reading about our “tree-house project” , they wanted to do something similar, and build a pair of small modules to be used for “EGQ“.

Now, when I first read that, I wondered what EGO had to do with it, until I re-read it.

Then… I thought they were just talking about building something that would be cool enough to grant them “bragging rights” (or possibly house some “top secret military project”), but they were actually talking about;

EMERGENCY Guest Quarters.

They really needed a place… so if the relatives flocked to their house during a weather event, these boxes would be waiting, and they’d have a safe place to put up their kinfolk.

Yes, Virginia, there are actually some kinfolk that you don’t let in the house. In the yard… maybe. In the house? Nope. 🙂

Now… in MY family, you’d never get INTO one of these boxes in the first place… for fear that someone would slap a padlock on it, and ship your sorry butt  to China! 🙂

Hey, if I lived in Louisiana, and my kinfolk showed up unannounced, that’s exactly what I’d do…

I’d have  a “kinfolk Cattledrive”… herd them into those boxes, lock ’em up tighter than Fort Knox, and then ship ’em off to “points unknown…” But, that’s just me. 😉

Anyway, the folks in Louisiana knew that we were cutting up High Cube containers, to make smaller boxes.

Surely, being “hurricane victims” ourselves… we could come up with a solution to their dilemma.

So, plasma cutter in hand… I started cutting, with the idea that I’d turn ONE 40′ box, into FIVE 8′ boxes.

Okay, there are some things that have to happen immediately here.

As you cut these boxes up, you have to support the “cut” end. We do that, by bracing them up in the first place, and then welding “columns” into them, between the floor and the ceiling frames, after they’ve been dissected.

Granted, you need some extra steel, to replace the framing that you’re eliminating. Where does this steel framing material come from? Well, in our case… Garbaged containers… where else?

Each frame connection is actually “sleeved”. It makes for a stronger connection, in case we decided to stack these boxes back up. It’s not that much more work, so why take chances?

Then, you weld in crossmembers. It’s easy. Now you have a steel box with a steel frame at each end, AND steel framed sides. Congrats! You just delivered a “baby box!” Okay, it weighs about a thousand pounds… so don’t try to carry it. 🙂

A High Cube container is 9’6″ tall. So, has a 8’9″ ceiling inside (on average, all containers are NOT alike).

But, if you lay it on it’s side, now you have an almost 9′ width to work with.

If you insulate that box on the outside…  you have a little steel cocoon to hide from the weather in…

Like I was saying… years ago, we built a small hunting/fishing encampment up in the mountains, using this same kind of idea.

We built several insulated (it was a LONG time ago, so we used firring strips, fiberglass batts and old reclaimed siding…) “sleeping modules” that had 2 burner hotplates, a double sink and a dorm (under-counter) refrigerator.

In-Law_CellCozy, secure and big enough for that long winter’s nap! 🙂

A small closet was included, and most of the storage came from 9″ deep cabinets we fabbed to hang on the walls, floor to ceiling.

A Mexican wedding hammock that we stretched out, was mounted to the top of the ceiling, to give us about a foot more more “hanging” storage.

We’d forgotten to tell the guy who owned the pair of hammocks that we were using them, but… oh well… 🙂

We built a U-Shaped bench that filled one end of the container. A table fit into the center, that would raise or lower, depending on function.

Anybody who has ever been in an RV has seen convertible dinettes that turn into a bed. Well, that’s what we did.

We made three big thick foam pads to cover the platform we’d just built. Then, we made three more bolsters to line the walls around that bed/sofa platform.

The three bolsters equaled the depth of the bed platform, to form an additional layer of foam. The back one had a hinge in it, to allow a part of it to be folded over to form a big pillow/headrest.

Yes, we made a foam pad the size of the table. It’s stored under the bed.

I bet you’re wondering why we made so many pads… Well, we got the foam for free, but it was really too thin. So, we figured that if we doubled it up, it would make enough for a suitable mattress.

It was actually an evil plot hatched by the fabric store we got it at. That lady knew that if we were going to build sleeping platforms  and use that “free foam” to do it, it’d have to be doubled to actually work… so… we’d have to buy twice as much fabric to cover it with!

There are words about women like that… but I’m trying to cut down on my swearing… 🙂

Anyway, the whole thing ended up being about the size of a queen sized bed.

Under the platform, you had all kinds of storage room.

Probably even enough to stuff that old lady into. But, we could never get her to come out into the woods to visit us… 🙂

In sofa mode, you could sit several people easily, and above your head were cabinets and bookcases that covered the walls. We punched in a few salvaged windows in, to complete the package.

Each unit had two windows, and two doors.

In between these sleeping boxes, we sandwiched a bathroom module, that had a sink, a toilet, ample storage and a 4′  diameter “soaking tub/shower”.

The tub was the product of a few years living in Japan, where they actually bathe in special tubs, called “Ofuro”. In our case, it was essentially a big half barrel that you climbed down into. We found several of them in Napa Valley on a wine buying spree, and we decided they needed a good home.   Also included was a solar assisted – wood-fired hot water heater (carefully boxed and insulated OUTSIDE the module), and all the necessary plumbing to get water in and out of the sinks in the sleeping modules.

We wrapped copper tubing around a barrel that we turned into a firebox. Water circulated thru the tubing and got warmed up. The whole thing sat a couple of feet from the back of the bath box, so you had to reach thru a sleeve of steel ductwork (by opening a steel door) to stoke the firebox, in order to aid the hot water production, from inside the bathroom.

It was “hokey,” but it worked really well.

And, we only got burned… um… sometimes! Okay, it wasn’t “kid-proof.” But, that firebox put out enough heat to actually heat up all three modules if you left the bathroom doors open.

And, if you opened the firebox door, you could read by the light of the fire, while you were… um… otherwise engaged in the bathroom… 🙂

Now, the idea was to allow the boxes to get disconnected and moved around. Hence, only the center “bath section” really had any guts…

It’s ability to be relocated wasn’t an act of “coolness”.  It wasn’t because we were particularly “Nomadic”. It was because the whole thing was built without building permits! 🙂

On the roof of the bath module was a solar hot water system that more than provided enough hot water for the pair of modules. We used a pump to get the water up to a holding tank on the roof (it was actually an enclosed Army water bladder) and then gravity did the rest.

Now, we were up by a river so we did a little bit of “MacGiver Hydro-power”, into truck batteries.

A boat dock plus a very small hydro electric generator… equals power. All we needed, in fact… and then some…

Voila!… “Instant fish camp”.

We scattered a few of these all long the riverbank of the property, and soon the vegetation pretty much concealed them from view.

Decks built outside the front door made it easy to go outside and commune with nature, and they were quite comfortable, all things considered.

The whole thing measured about 9.5′ x 24′, and it stood about 12′ tall, after we put a pitched roof on most of it, to shed snow. That pitched roof also gained us some attic space over each module.

I say “most” of it, because some idiot decided that it would be cool to use a part of it as a terrace deck. So, when it snowed like hell, somebody would have to climb up there and clear that section off, before the snow got too thick. Not a good plan…

BTW: I’m sorry to have to admit that the “idiot” was me. Hey, I thought it’d be cool. In the summer, we could get up there and watch girls in bathing suits (and sometimes even less) go by…

And in winter… it was… about 20 degrees “cool” and knee deep in snow. Brrrr!

Oh well, live and learn… 🙂

At least we were smart enough to get small electric heaters for each unit that ran off a generator.

Back to the guts of this post.

I’m going to toy with the idea of building a series of “In-Law” lodges, that are essentially just “bedrooms.” You’d be able to just set one in your backyard, on cinder blocks, like a utility shed. Run a hose and an extension cord to it, and you’d have a place to sleep, away from everyone else.

The idea is to use the same concept as the “Fish Camp”.

  • Cut up a 40′ High Cube Container. Put the pieces on their sides in order to get more square footage.
  • Build in furniture and fixtures to allow them to be used for extended periods of time, as temporary dwellings.
  • Make them efficient (and even cozy) but not so cozy as to make you want to overstay your welcome!
  • Use solar and maybe even photovoltaic panels, if possible.

They’ll all utilize an existing bathroom. You’ll just have to knock on the back door first, and hope that someone’s awake to let you into the house!

The budget is $5,000.00 each.

Wanna bet it’ll turn out cool?

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Sometimes the Cavalry never comes…

27 Oct

Welcome back!

Now, before you start thinking; “Oh Man… that Ronin is on a tear again…” I’m going to ask you for a few minutes of your time, to read this post. I know how valuable your time is. I’m asking, because this is important.

Look, I know it sounds like I’m trying to become a “Political Activist…”

But that’s really not the case at all. Truly.

We’re living in a time… in an economy… that has changed the way “We the People” must do things, in order to insure that our families survive.

Congress isn’t going to save us. They talk… and they spend… but somehow, they manage to miss the mark on almost every target they supposedly focus their attention on. In fact, some would say that they are only making things worse.

That’s why I’ve brought forward some of my views on what’s happening in America, as I discuss the creation of alternatives to traditional housing…

Good, bad, or indifferent, I don’t have time to wait for the outcome… to determine who was “right or wrong.” My family needs help NOW.

Congress is completely insulated from the conditions that most of us are suffering from on a daily basis.

From their “Hallowed Sanctuary on the Hill” they make decisions with impunity, that affect each and every one of us, without EVER being subject to the circumstances they create. Remember, they’re wealthy, protected, and isolated for the most part, from the constituents who elected them.

It can’t be “just me.” I’ve already proven, for almost 200 articles/posts on this blog alone… that I’m not “all by myself” in this thought process.

If you’re reading this blog, I have to think that you are looking for answers, too. I don’t WANT you to feel like you’re alone in this.

In part, it’s why I have that Counter up there. It’s not “vanity.”

If it was vanity, I would have admitted defeat and quit, long ago. I know of many, many blogs that get that many views in a single day.

I want you to see that there are thousands of us, thinking in the same mind. This blog gets hundreds of views daily, from people just like you and I, from all over America and beyond… who are looking for a way to provide both ourselves and our families with safe, affordable homes, at a time in America’s history where they just don’t exist for most of us…

In the meantime, winter is coming, and we MUST house our families safely. My family cannot survive without a roof over it’s head. And neither can yours.

I’m bringing forward some of my “politics” so that you can see that it’s going to require a different way of thinking, a different course of action, to achieve our goals.

Because, Virginia… Sometime the Cavalry never comes.

I’m recycling, reclaiming, and even BEGGING for material (sometimes “on my knees”) because my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake.

I’m asking you to get involved.

If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you… consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help us survive and build. Our family needs a home. Our situation is dire. And yes, I’m begging…

I’m not going to waste bandwidth plastering pictures up of my wife in her sickbed… or my little 2 year old son. I’ve written about the circumstances here, already. And… if  you’ve been reading the blog, you already know how cute he is. He’s our source of JOY.

The reason I try to keep this blog “humorous and light” is because if I can’t find something to laugh about, I’ll start crying. It’s my requirement for the ability to actually stop crying, that scares me…

If you’re building something, and you have scrap lumber or materials left over, find someone who needs them, and help THEM.

I talk about how we are helping other families build their homes. It’s not because I’m rich, or even because I can afford to… because frankly, I just can’t. It’s because I HAVE to, because I know what it feels like to live in fear. I cannot, will not let another family fail, because I stood idly by.

We don’t live in a housing tract, or even in a house. We live in a two room hovel, in a place where Landlord/Tenant law is devised to protect the property owners (because THEY pay taxes). We don’t drive an SUV or a big sedan… in fact, we don’t drive at all. The cars were sold long ago, to insure that my wife got the medical care she needed to survive. We don’t have a satellite dish, a widescreen TV, or even an iPod. We live – day to day.

My dreams aren’t about far off destinations or the next holiday. They are about whether or not we’ll be safe, the next day. I don’t have control over anything else. All I can do is try as hard as I can to influence the next 24 hours.

In fact, they aren’t even dreams, they’re nightmares.

“We’re” everywhere.

You probably know someone in your neighborhood, in your inner circle… who is going through what we’re going through.

If you’re talking to someone who needs help, even if it’s just understanding something, help THEM.

Even if it’s just to offer some kindness, do it. Strife and crisis isolates people, and they start feeling alone. That leads to feeling “lost…” a feeling I’m intimately acquainted with. FEAR is a wicked mistress…

Every single small step you take will lead toward helping a family.

And that will make all of us stronger.

And if you pray at night, please pray for us. We’re in “trouble deep,” and the water isn’t getting any shallower…

Ronin

The Renaissance Ronin

Are we successful? You bet!

26 Oct

Welcome to my life… and the wonderful world of Shipping Container (ISBU) Housing.

This week, we’ll definitely break 100,000 visitors.

Quick note: On Thursday, October 29th, at around midday, we did just that. We exceeded 100,000… that’s a lot of people! Talk about one massive village! You guys and gals rock!

This is what the powers that be in the blogging world consider a “niche” blog. It’s targeted at a small group of people who maintain a common view. It’s not “popular,” and I don’t get the kind of readership that other blogs get. Perhaps it’s “the topic,” but more likely than not… it’s because the author is incompetent!

We don’t talk about what “Britney did last week,” or even Paris Hilton. We have more important things to discuss, like how to keep our families safe, and how to protect our personal finances, while things around us change. We accomplish this  by becoming more efficient, more competent,  and more “dependable.”

In the 18 months (man, where did the time go?) that I’ve been writing this blog, it’s gone from visits by a few hundred people a month, to several hundred people per day.

Here in America… we’ve seen an administration change… we’ve seen the economy take a horrible nosedive… and we’ve seen the “pulse of the people” take on something that almost looks like an epileptic  seizure.

I’ve fought “tooth and nail” to assist “the powers that be in Mississippi” in understanding that what I’m doing just makes “common sense.”

You’ve seen where it’s getting MY family.We fight this fight… EVERY DAY. Do I have scars? Oy Vey! Do I have scars…

But, will that deter me? No. Their “naysaying” doesn’t negate the fact that my family still desperately needs a safe home, where we can ride out whatever storm comes, be it Mother Nature, or “man-made.”

Because as things get harder, as economic conditions change, as unemployment looms in the life of thousands of people… people get really nervous. And in order to be able to do that safely, they have to have homes.

That is my “Mitzvah,” my mission…

When times get hard, the prepared and diligent maintain a higher level of safety and comfort. The planning and preparation you do now… will soften the blow if things get severe. And trust me, your family will thank you for all your hard work.

Sure, I talk about my family… and my neighbors, and even “my struggles.”

It is offtimes extremely humiliating to have to admit the things that are occurring in our lives. However, it’s not because I want (or even need) your pity. It’s because by doing that, you are able to see how things actually work. And, understanding how things work makes the process easier.

I want you to be successful. I want you to achieve that level of happiness you seek for your family, in spite of those “uncaring bastards” who would rather watch you fail.

(Sorry, I was raised by Marines… Sometimes my “lesser man” slips out, and I let off a burst of profanity. It’s a curse.)

My goal is to help you build a home that you can afford, that will return it’s value to you over and over again, as your family prospers in it.

And several of you actually have built ISBU homes. Since this blog started in May of last year,  almost a dozen of you have either completed homes, or are well on your way to achieving your dream.

I am SO PROUD of you, each and every one of you!

It takes determination and boldness to go where no one has gone before… and in your own neighborhoods, no less! You’re setting an example that will just make this “housing alternative” even stronger! And… your success will fuel the success of others! This achievement isn’t about “out-greening each other” or making a cultural statement. It’s about being sustainable, energy efficient, and self-reliant… even (gasp!) responsible. It’s really that simple.

For those of you who think I’m just a “Corten Crackpot with nothing better to do…”

History has this nasty habit of recording who was right, and who was wrong.

And I’d rather be reading those books in my own home, without a huge mortgage, and without being a slave to huge and ever growing cash-flow problems, just to keep the utility guys out of the yard my young son is playing in.

Enough said.

Ronin

The Renaissance RoninAnd BTW: For the record… I’m not sorry I was “raised by Marines.” They taught us how to plan, how to fight, and how to succeed. They taught us to “stand up and be counted,” even when it meant getting a scar. They taught us to do what was right, just because it was right. They taught us to BELIEVE, most of all, in ourselves.
Okay, so they also taught us some four-letter words that would make your mom wash your mouth out with soap. Hey, nothing is without it’s price! 🙂
G_d Bless ’em, every one… Hoo-Yah!


Pass the hammer… and the oxygen, please.

24 Oct

Take 4 ISBU’s (shipping containers) and stack them up to the sky, one on top of the other…

What do you get?

ISBU-4roomhouse

NO! Not a nosebleed and bigger quads…

Well… um… you MIGHT get bigger quads… but stairs are good, right? Better than that “apple a day” nonsense… Have you priced produce lately? I’d rather pay a doctor… 🙂

Recently, I showed you a plan that we’re working on, to build a split level home out of a pile of ISBU’s. And my email was filled almost immediately with comments and taunts about how nobody would even build a house like that!

“Only an idiot would stack ISBUs up in one tall pile, Ronin! You’ve lost your mind!”

Oh yeah? Are you sure about that? Well, I must not be the only “idiot” on the block… Take a look at this project that I saw, located (evidently in “the land of idiots”) in Belgium. You remember Belgium, right? That place where some of the best shotguns in the world (Belgian Brownings!) come from?  The land where Belgian Malinois dogs (some of the coolest dogs on the planet!) come from? That place that is the home of NATO, the European Union, most importantly, the world’s largest brewery…  AB InBev?

Guess I told YOU! 🙂

Anyway… before I was so “rudely” interrupted (by myself, no less!)… I was telling you about the home built by doing exactly what I’ve described previously. 🙂

It was built by 2 visionaries… Pieter Peelings and Silvia Mertens of Sculp(IT). IN Belgium!

No… I didn’t GO to Belgium. (sigh!) I wish… I saw it on the ‘Net…

I bet you wished I’d move to Belgium right about now, huh? 🙂

Anyway… this remarkable house has almost NO footprint. It’s “sandwiched” between two existing structures.

Okay… it’s what I’d deem a “fitness home.” It’s not intended for seniors, or even people with small children. But, it would make a cool “work condo,” for people who were living in the city during the work week.

In fact, if you converted that first floor into an office, you could do business out of your home, quite easily, right at street level.

Like I said, it has virtually zero footprint, compared to the traditional building that we’re used to seeing.

(Unless of course, you live in places like Japan.)

“The compact footprint of this vertical house does indeed makes for an interesting exercise in small living .”

…to blatantly steal the words of the reviewer at  Designcrave.com.

A site, by the way, that I heartily endorse.

Why did I “steal” the reviewer’s description? Well, why try to improve on a masterpiece? I couldn’t have said it better myself. I tried. Several times in fact. I couldn’t get their words out of my head… 🙂

It just sucks for you that my head was filled with the “rest” of this review crap! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah… The rooms are minimalistic, and the design is straightforward, and as a result, it’s pretty “clean.”

Each floor (remember that you’re talking about a 40′ x 7’8″ space approximately) is a deep and narrow “cave-like” space assigned to a singular function.

inside_250

But if you use your gray matter for something besides fertilizing your hair… you’ll realize that you get the ability to do exactly that (NO! Not fertilizing your hair… designating space for a “primary” function! Try to stay with me, huh?)  That action actually serves to accentuate each function; Eating, Sleeping, Working, Playing, etc…

ISBU-4room1

The first floor is at street level.

It’s the perfect place to conduct business, and watch the world go by. A enormous glass door serves to open the entire front of the room to the sidewalk.

A HUGE glass front wall sucks in light. It would have to. Remember, the “home” is housed between buildings. No chance for glazing on the sides of the residence.

But… If it was me, I’d rethink that giant front window. If for no other reason, than to avoid having to replace the entire glass wall, if anything ever happened to it. I love the window, don’t get me wrong… but it’s replacement would probably cost me my kid’s college fund.

I can just see the paperboy slinging my Sunday paper at it, and having  that “safety glass” explode into a million pieces.

I think I’d make it a three or even four piece panel system. I’d still get that “translucence” that the architect craved, and I’d save thousands of dollars, maybe even a few times.

Frankly, I’m surprised that they didn’t do some kind of Solatube “Light Suck…” down from the roof, to draw light down into the house. I mean, you have 40 some-odd feet of wall, on BOTH sides. I wonder if they use them in Belgium? Perhaps not.

solatube

It would have been a snap. Okay, so maybe it’s a LITTLE bit complicated. Oh well…

Consider putting a powder room down here, in the back. If you keep reading, you’ll see where the plumbing would come from.

If you do those things, you literally have a working “lifespace.” If you’re an analyst, a journalist, a consultant, or whatever, you have a really nice opportunity to have everything you need, at your fingertips.

(And yes, I realize that if you intend to work in the space, you need a “handicap” bathroom…)

Note that it appears they actually removed the sides of the container. If that’s what they did, I’m speculating that (beyond saving valuable space) this allowed the home to be bonded to the exterior (and insulated) walls of the building on either side. NO insulation costs, except possibly in the foundation, and definitely the roof. Pretty smart thinking… REAL Smart.


ISBU-4room2

Walk up one floor on the spiral stair and you’re in the kitchen/dining room.

I’d have done it different, but that’s just me. Well… it’s just because we “live” differently in America, I suppose.

(BTW: Don’t you hate people that criticize somebody else’s excellent work?)  😉

Here’s the deal. This is ONE COOL HOUSE. Don’t think that it’s design is lost on me. And, it shouldn’t be lost on you. I want you to look at this idea, and use it as inspiration for your own use. I want you to see the versatility in the design, and appreciate the house for what it is, and then, make it into something that works for YOU. If that translates into making me sound petty and envious…

Well, “sticks and stone’s…” bucko! I have really thick skin, so bring it on! 🙂

Would I love to have a house like this in MY portfolio? There aren’t enough words for YES!

Okay, now that we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way…

What if you had the spiral staircase run almost dead center? You’d essentially dissect each floor into two spaces, that measured 16′ x 7’6ish”.

NOW… Run “light tubes” down right next to the spiral staircase on either side, from the roof. Voila, you’ve lit the interior, and concentrated most of the light directly on the staircase, where it’s needed most.

Okay, back to what was REALLY there…

ISBU-4room3

It looks like this. Not bad, but it needs some improvement, for me.

In the back, install a powder room across the back wall. There goes about 5′. You still have 10+ feet for a kitchen. Think “Galley” style. Run cabinets down both sides, with an aisle right in the middle. This means that your powder room door opens in the middle too. That’s not so bad, toilet on one side, and the sink on the other. It’d be quite cool.

Now, you have over 20′ of counter space (10′ x 2) . Go nuts! If you can’t build enough kitchen in this space, you’re either that fat guy ‘Robert’ from “Hell’s Kitchen” (who claimed that all kitchens should be as big as a living room) or a really lousy space planner.
🙂

Oh stop it! He’s FAT. I’m FAT. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t discriminate against fat people. I discriminate against STUPID people! 🙂

I could get a kitchen into that space that would make a chef have… um… er… well, just trust me, they’d be delighted.

In the front of that level?

Forget about that HUGE glass window, and that narrow dining arrangement.

Who are these guys? Glass Factory Owners? 🙂

Think a HUGE banquette seating arrangement, across that front wall. Go crazy… Say, about 7′ x 7.6′. Build it in, and put storage under the seat cushions.  Because the benches would be so “deep” you could even do some really cool wine storage on roller cabinets, under them. Pull ’em out, and grab your bottle to match the meal!

NOW, you can seat about a dozen people there, easy.

Plus, that huge table can also be used for other things if required, like food prep or a little bit of buffet space.

You still get a huge (opening) window… it just starts 3 feet up, and runs almost to the ceiling.

And, there’s a ton of room to move around in, so you don’t feel all cramped together, even if you’re having a small party.

Remember, if you started with High Cube containers, you have a ceiling way over 8′ high. Lot’s of room for ceiling fans, and cool lighting opportunities.

The only gripe I really have… is that they could have put a powder room in here, quite easily.

ISBU-4room4

One more floor up is the living room.

Why didn’t I reverse the order of the levels?  Why didn’t they? Well, I’m betting that they saw it like I do. If I’m doing business out of that first floor, I might just want access to the kitchen to fetch drinks and snacks for a client that I’m trying to “arm-twist.” No use interrupting everyone else in the house…

A projection screen lowers in the small space for viewing videos. Okay. That’s it?

ISBU-4room5

The projection screen is a real good idea.

It retracts to cover the light source that would interfere with your enjoyment of “Die Harder…” Good idea. Instant Home Theater. And, when I’m not watching TV, it opens the room up to the world. But, what about the rest of that space? I mean, you’ve got 40′.

Okay, opposed seating, and a cool table. Art Gallery wall stuff…

Put in a library wall across the back, and then add a gaming table and chairs. Maybe a wet-bar.  An electronic dart board, perhaps.

Maybe even… (gasp!) yet another powder room?

Why create a bottleneck on the stairs, after one of Ronin’s world famous “Guaranteed to clean you out – Chili Fests?”

Man, the more I write this “hatchet job of a review” I start seeing a picture of a frat party in my head, with people crammed into every nook and cranny of this house, testing it’s ability to hold all the weight, before it bursts! 🙂

Because so far (with the changes we’ve “made”) I already have about 30 people in this 8′ wide house, moving around comfortably. That’s why.

ISBU-4room6Ah, young love… Hey, I was young, once. Whaaa? I WAS TOO!  🙂

Okay, time for the top…

The highest floor of this “Corten Condo” is a bedroom suite. Their version has a great view from the bed right out through the glass front wall.

Okay. One word. Drapes. This isn’t Amsterdam. And, if I’m living in this house, trust me, you don’t want to see me climbing out of that bed. It’ll give you nightmares, and a huge therapy bill.

Would I put a full bath up here? Yep. Even if it’s just 7’8″ by say about… 10′ I get a really nice bathroom, plenty of space for a nice shower or tub, and I still get enough room left over for a good closet run and a nice place for a cool bed on a storage pedestal.

Here’s a clue; Glass Block Walls… Use it to help catch light for your bathroom. Plus, supposedly, it’s “romantic.” Now, I wouldn’t know, because my wife says “Ronin, you don’t have a single romantic bone in your body… blah, blah, blah…” but for those who do…

You could even put a treadmill next to that window, so you’d have something to give you vertigo  while you pretend to exercise!

Clue number two; Save those ‘barf bags’ from your next airline trip. On that treadmill, you might just need them… 🙂

ISBU-4room7

And on the roof…

Oy Vey… A bathtub? What are you, nuts? Well, if I looked like those guys, I guess I’d do it… But…

… although it’s beautiful, it’s another “perfect” place for the darned birds to drop a bomb. No thanks! I have no real desire to have to spend twenty minutes prior to bathing, to “bathe the tub” first with chemicals… so the neighbors can see me trying to scrub my big old butt, after I’ve waved my butt around in the air trying to sterilize that tub. … No thank you!

If you must, install a spa or hot tub (reinforce the roof first, or you’re gonna get a really cool surprise!) and cover it up with a framed and padded canvas or Naugahyde lid. That way, I can lay on it… and then I can horrify the neighbors, by sunbathing in a speedo. THAT will fix ’em, for peeking at my deck! Instant blindness!   🙂

And, that way I can pretend that I’m on some expensive yacht out in the middle of the Bahamas… being waited on, hand and foot… leisurely SOAKING  (sun OR spa) away my cares, while my son tries to figure out how to burn a metal house down!

If that speedo don’t force them to grope their way down to the car for an emergency trip to the ophthalmologist, well…

… I got a thong as a gag gift a few years ago… and I ain’t afraid to use it! 🙂

(Now there’s a mental picture you didn’t need, huh? Well, you don’t have to thank me… Mom taught me to share…)   🙂

And, I still have a ton of room for a rack or two of photovoltaic panels or solar panels, or even a handy starting place for a wind turbine. Remember, that roof is up in the air “38′ and change” plus your foundation height. 45′ is about the starting point for any “realistic” wind powered electricity production plan… Getting some blades up into a good breeze would be quite possible.

Couple all of that with well designed  geothermal HVAC, and you’re all set.

Need more bedrooms? Just add a level or two to the middle of the stack. You can stack these ISBUs (9) boxes high, folks… Without changing a thing. It’s part of their charm.

And, we haven’t even talked about staggering the container stacks by 8′ or so… to create exterior decks on each level…

And to those of you who shrieked in horror when they saw the photos of this seemingly “Sir Hillary-esque” home…

Having each floor dedicated to task isn’t such a bad idea. It’ provides great separation, and actually contributes to making the home more livable, by more than one person.

Our forefathers did it, and look how we turned out…

Wait… um… never mind.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninNow… think mid or even high-density housing. Put one parking place in front of each unit. And, stack them side by side, for about… um… ten units or so…

Commerce on the first floor, residential above.

Instant housing complex. And, you could build it fast, fast, fast…

And you could build them cheap, cheap, cheap… Just a thought.

And the higher you go, the more the water balloons hurt… Yikes!

“I’m from the Government. I’m here to HELP you.”

23 Oct

Greetings Campers!

If you’ve been following along, you know that my family is trying to build a steel house, in a backasswards neighborhood.

I’m talking about using Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hangars, to build homes for people who really need them. And, the goal is to do it affordably and sustainably.

Shipping Hangar HomeNo! Not ADAM’s house. but something like it…

It’s a long, pot-hole filled road, but we’re further from the start than we were yesterday, so all in all, it’s a good day.

Until you open your email.

As I sit here, my email box is getting flooded with email from politicians.

Yep, “POLITICIANS”.

im_from_the_government_im_here_to_help

It’s been going on for weeks, and I’m getting sick and tired of it.

They’re telling me about programs that I can sign up for, that will assist my family in building a home. They range from “government backed loans”, to grants for land, and  grants or long-term loans for building supplies. There are even grants that cover the costs incurred when you hire other people to help you build.

Oh Happy Day!” Right?

Wrong.

I’ve been raising hell about this for over a year. I’ve been using the Internet as a hammer, to try and beat some sense into those idiots in Washington D.C. who claim that they are “single-handedly saving America.”

Most of the email I’m getting (and it’s coming from aides, direct mail outfits, and morons… and not the “other morons…” the actual congressmen and representatives…) is just political double-speak, pointing me at programs that either don’t exist at all, are completely deadlocked by political bungling, or impossible to enroll and qualify for, by design.

Here’s an example:

I got a listing of banks and lending institutions that would write loans to people who qualified thru a “government program” allowing them to buy and build. It was a long list, with over 200 institutions on it.

I looked it over, and then like an idiot, started dialing.  I talked to what seemed like every banker in the South. And, I got the same story with each new opportunity.

“We have not made this kind of loan in the past 5 years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we even processed an application. If you come into the bank, we’ll explain why you can’t apply.”

And those were the ones that seemed to take an interest in my questions.  The rest of them said that they had stopped supporting this kind of loan program decades ago.

They claim that they are understaffed and not equipped to deal with additional workloads created by these programs.

When I did find a bank willing to work with me on this kind of loan program, the guy on the other end told me not to get my hopes up. It seems that you can apply, but the USDA refuses to communicate with the banks.

The USDA? The US Department of Agriculture? I’m not trying to start “Old MacDonald’s Farm!” What the hell?

Keep reading…

I found out that there is a grant program that would help me build my house. But there was one catch. I needed a USDA guaranteed surety bond, for $25 million dollars.

$25 million dollars. Whaaaa? For a house?

I was confused as a mosquito at a convention of Bubba’s (trying to figure out who to bite first), but I figured; “Hey if the USDA wants to help me qualify for this program, I’m game…”

So, I contacted the USDA. Guess what? That’s right. The USDA doesn’t even have a program that gives surety bonds to citizens, much less to help them build residential property. They suggested that I call the SBA (Small Business Administration).

I sent the USDA guys a copy of the grant I was applying for. And I bet it won’t surprise you to find out that;

  • (a) they’d never heard of  it,
  • (b) wouldn’t possibly support it, and
  • (c) didn’t have the funds, even if they could. In their exact words… I was “S.O.L.”

I contacted SBA, to see if THEY had any programs I could use to leverage the building grants. Guess what? That’s right. More governmental BS. The guy told me that I’d need to pay $5,000, to get a business plan written, that would allow me to apply for their programs. Now, it wouldn’t ASSURE that I qualified, it would just increase my chances.

Three days later, I heard from a different SBA official, who informed me that they don’t even have “a product that will accomplish the tasks you are trying to complete.” When I asked him what the $5,000 business plan was for, he replied:

“It’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a program. You should do it.”

When I pointed out that he’d just told me there were NO programs that allowed me to do what I was trying to do, he hung up. When I called him back, I kept getting his voice mail.

So, I talked to someone else, who told me:

“We get points for every person we get to enlist in the Business Plan program.”

Our government at work. Oy. And we actually PAY these people to do this to us.

In all, I called, emailed, or mailed letters to all 200 institutions. You want to know what I got for my trouble? Lost days of work and a huge dent in my cell phone minutes. Beyond that, I got nada.

Where’s the The Golden Fleece Award, when you need it?

I’ve seen a lot of grant paperwork in the last year. So far, my personal favorite grant was announced in July.

It’s an $85 million grant “to support at least 50 early career researchers for five years at US academic institutions and DOE national laboratories.“

The US Government, in all their wisdom, won’t help citizens build decent homes for their families, no matter what they TELL you. But, they’ll give $1.7 million dollars per “researcher” or $340,000 per desk, per year.

But WAIT! There’s MORE!

These university positions are for “summer salary and expenses” only. Only some of these positions — for DOE National Labs — are full time. And if you’re a “full-timer”? Well, full-timers get $500,000 in funding, per person per year.

Okay, color me “googled…” I race off to “Salary.com.” And what do I find? Well, the average salary for an assistant professor in the United States is $62,654.

So, I reread the grant. It seems that “undefined” excess in the expenditures is for DOE Lab expenses. That’s $438,346 per person.

Let’s put this in perspective. This 50-person “sweetheart program” received more money than nuclear energy R&D, hydroelectric power development, solar power research, or fuel cell research.

What is wrong with these people?

Somebody pass me a Tylenol, please…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Oops, they did it again… Or DID they?

22 Oct

“If America is healing… and everything is getting fixed…”

Then how come everything is still broken?

I mean, if I was a Nobel Prize Winning President (and in only 14 days, no less!), you’d think I’d have actually delivered on at least ONE promise.

Pick one. Your choice. ANY one…

Well? I’m still waiting…

After spending trillions of dollars that we didn’t even have…

Taxpaying Americans are still losing their jobs in record numbers.

So, we propped up the banks… Guess what? The money is G-O-N-E!

Those same taxpayers are still losing their homes in record number, too…

Before long, there will be a shortage of packing materials…

boy-in-box

Because we’ll all be living in cardboard boxes, or maybe even…

living-in-a-box… a “Versace-esque box” made outta Italian pressboard and veneer!

Talk about “high density!” Oy Freakin Vey!

And the majority of the banks aren’t releasing those foreclosed homes to “the sales stream…” either. They’re holding them “in inventory,” so that when the market rebounds, they’ll make billions in profit.

Thanks for saving our bacon… now bend over…

And winter is coming.

So, we’ll just help everyone  get more debt, by “helping” them into new car loans…Everybody loves a new car!

Nobody in America would say “NO!” to a new car, unless they were just plain stupid, or absolutely crazy. Right?

And, if you’re “crazy,” you probably shouldn’t be driving!

And buying new cars means building new cars.  It provides jobs. A lot of jobs… It does! 🙂

But as cool as that was… we just picked our own pockets again! “Cash for Clunkers” is a program underwritten by our  TAXES! Oy!

Like I said… we made sure that the banks had tons of cash. Literally TONS of cash.

pallet_1billion-dollars

Pallets of Benjamins stretching as far as the eye could see… But, are the banks writing loans? No. Why? Well, it seems that everyone in America is a bad risk. But, those bank officers get paid pretty well, I guarantee…

To make matters even worse, confidence among U.S. home builders slipped again in October, largely on the looming expiration of a big tax credit.

The National Association of Home Builders’ gauge of confidence in new-home sales fell for the first time in four months, slipping to 18 from 19 in September.

Wall Street expected the confidence gauge to rise to 20.

What’s that translate into? Even MORE construction job losses, that’s what it means!

Oh great… That’s just what we needed.

Hey, the upside is that jolly fat man with the big bag of presents is gonna have a lighter load this year. Hell, he might even be able to stuff it in the overhead bin, as a carry-on…  Oy.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Talk about a lot of coal in stockings! But, wait! Another bright side! Coal burns, and that means that… it’ll provide heat! 🙂

Okay, okay, I’ll stop… Maybe.

We all know that the sale of new homes has been driven by the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers! They said that it was supposed to “stimulate” the economy.

Yeah, right. More like, to coax young “new” home-owners into joining the ranks for the “in-debted public” before the walls come crashing down…

Well, you better hurry up. Come and get your debt before you lose your chance to get that tax credit!

Come and get it… while it’s hot-t-t…

Hey, it worked for a while, home sales rose by 30% through August. But… all good things must come to an end. November, to be precise. That’s when the credit expires.

If you listen closely, the next time you go outside, you’ll hear it… That’s not the wind howling around your ears… It’s the home-builder groups wailing for an extension of the credit.

“It comes as no surprise that after trending upward from an historic low in January, the HMI’s [the group’s main index] positive momentum now appears to have stalled,” said Joe Robson, the NAHB’s chairman.

You see, the bottom is falling out. All three components in the Housing index slipped — and that’s the first time that’s happened since November 2008 when the recession was nearing its worst. The component that measures current sales conditions fell in October to 17 from 18 during September. The gauge of traffic of prospective buyers slipped to 14 from 17. The component measuring sales expectations over the next six months tumbled to 27 from 29.

“Congressional action to expand the tax credit and extend it for one year would provide a critically needed boost to the employment market and economy, generating nearly 350,000 jobs, $28.2 billion in wages, salaries and business income and $11.6 billion in additional tax revenues,” Mr. Robson said. “That’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up at this difficult time.”

Alas, it’s gonna probably fall on deaf ears, as Congress will be too busy… one again trying to quietly pass their annual pay raises. They figure that they’ve all earned it, after all the camera time they’ve been getting about Health Care Reform.

And, after all, it’s hard to make due, on their pitiful six-figure salaries…

In the meantime, the ending of the tax credit will scare away any buyers foolish enough to enter the market…

… and the trickle down will be felt all the way to Home Depot! After all, it’s the home builders who drive the lumber yard production, right?

The best part of this is that the Fed is talking about inflating the dollar, due to so many other countries treating it like toilet paper.

Simple economics: 101:

When you lower the interest rate, you have to inflate the value of the dollar, to bring it back up.

So lumber prices will go up! That’s gonna help get houses built, and sold! Yep! Good thinking! Now we can’t afford the materials, and the house price will skyrocket!

Boy, my local Realtor is gonna be one a sad lady… 😦

And the way things are going, taxes will rise and inflation will jump way, way  up. If you have a mortgage rate in the 5’s, you’ll be doing the happy dance in the street.

But don’t do it around here, or I’ll turn the hose on you, just out of spite… 🙂

This is starting to remind me of the “Jimmy Carter Era…”

But wait! It’s another chance to start a new program! And, Obama can appoint another Czar! Hop Dingitty Dawgie!

We’ve propped up Wall Street. We’ve bailed out the banks.  We’ve even gone into the “national car business…” Now…

We can have a “Cash for Stinkers! Home Rebirth and Subsidy Sale!”

All we have to do is bail out every home builder!

Yep, if you can swing a hammer, you can get a check!

But wait… there’s more!

We offer Ma and Pa Public and every other owner of an existing “older” home a bundle of Benjamins ($10,000) in cash to demolish that energy guzzling monster and replace it with a more energy miserly new home. And wait, if you act now…

We could give them a mortgage with zero percent down and zero percent interest…

… until they reach 65 years of age.

Why only 65, you ask? Well, because after they turn 65… we don’t care about them any longer! After all, if we DID, wouldn’t we have taken better case of Social Security and Medicare?  And, wouldn’t we have provided adequate cost of living raises?

Mr. Obama… What cost of living raise? …

What’s the end result? Um… Trillions more dollars of debt for our children to pay, a bunch of jobs, and a fuel efficient America…

… except for the emissions from those “gas-bags” in Washington…

But, it won’t happen. Why not? Well, Virginia…

The US Government does NOT want a larger supply of homes. The banks (that we propped up in the first place) already have a huge inventory to sell. What the government actually wants… is  higher housing prices to justify much larger mortgages!

Why? Um… well it’s because the government wants people to borrow huge amounts of money, so that banks create more money through lending! That is how they inflate the money supply.

I already explained that… right? Weren’t you paying attention? ARGH! I’m NOT writing these for my own health, you know! 🙂

Look here, if you don’t believe me…

camperbikeride2Well, there’s always my bike…

And they wonder why I’m trying to build a house out of recycled stuff and anything else I can find, without taking out a loan (that I probably couldn’t get anyway!!)…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninWait a minute… lots of unemployed construction workers. Lots of empty and  discarded ISBUs. Lot’s of vacant manufacturing buildings due to plant closures. Lots of material because nobody is building… Hmmm.. Maybe there is a way… Hey… a fella could build “Corten Cargo Container Condomimiums!”

Cheap, strong, durable, energy efficient and almost recession proof housing!

Now then, if someone was just smart enough to possess enough vision to actually  see the “merit” in it… 🙂