Tag Archives: construction

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… 🙂

Put that “FAT” house on a DIET! :)

21 Oct

Welcome back!

Man, you must be a glutton for punishment! 😉

If you’ve been following along, you already know that my family is trying to solve a housing problem, by creating MORE problems…

Seems counter-productive, I know…

But, you see, if we create and then RESOLVE these problems now, the next poor bastard that comes along, trying to do what we’re doing, will have a much easier go of it.

Instead of; “You want to do WHAT?” it’ll be more like: “Ah, crap! It’s another one! Here we go, AGAIN!” 🙂

After a hurricane ate our house, we needed to replace it. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it didn’t to the insurance company, who values shareholder profits much higher than the families that actually contribute to shareholder values.

Can you say “class action lawsuit?” Can you say “When is the check gonna get here?” Can you say…

“Three years after you’re dead?” Oy.

This is complicated by life in general. Sometimes disasters come in three’s… We got a hurricane (Ivan), and then… another hurricane (Katrina), and then… the big “C”. That’s right… Cancer. “The mommy” discovered that she had cancer, the same day that she discovered we were having a child.

Now,  I can blame “the mailman” for the kid… but cancer? Nobody to blame, but fate and genes.

(Actually, I blame the kid on the doctor who told me not to worry about my “reversible vasectomy.” He told me that it’d take a surgeon to undo it. I have only this to say:

liar

So, we started looking for solutions.

First, we found a good ob/gyn. We talked to ’em all. And, we found one who went to the right school. After all, wouldn’t you want your OB/GYN to have graduated from a school named after prophylactics? For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about USC. You know… the “trojans.”

Now, even though the doc and I are cross-town rivals (I hung out at UCLA), he’s a smart kid. So, we had that dilemma covered.

I looked up an old pal at MD Andersen, one of the best Cancer Hospitals in the world. So, we had that covered as best we could.

Then, we started looking around for a building process that we could afford, that would allow us to have a safe, sustainable home, that would go up fast, fast, fast…

Can you say “ISBU?” I knew you could.

Needless to say, that’s where the REAL trouble started. Just mention Shipping Containers to a Planning and Zoning Nazi around here, and he’ll do everything but spit!

This is one of those “Not In My Backyard, You Don’t!” kinda towns…

Perhaps settling down in Mississippi was a bad idea, after all…

So, we started the fight. And, it continues to this day. In fact, it’s gotten so heated that I’m having to testify in Jackson, MS, in front of “political committees,” as “an esteemed advocate for affordable housing” (their term, not mine).

It seems that these yokels think I’m an expert. Me? Hey, any field of study that considers me an expert, already has serious flaws… 🙂

Seriously though, I have the right schooling. I have a ton of experience. And, I’ve built many, many homes for families just like mine, who want to live in a house, and not be chained to gigantic mortgages or terribly expensive upkeep costs.  And, I’ve been doing it for over three decades.

So, as we struggle to build our own home, I’m helping other people build theirs.

I’m acting as a technical advisor of sorts, helping people figure out layouts, and “how to put tab A into slot B”. Their donations to the blog for my help, have helped us pay for medications my wife needs and generally helped keep us afloat.

For that, I am eternally grateful. There aren’t words to describe it…

We built an ISBU Beach Cabin, that has a huge sleeping loft. It sits up on pilings to defy any floodwaters, and it’s steel shell will allow it to be there for a long, long time…

We’re building a home for an Indian family on a reservation.

No, it’s not shaped like a tepee, you smart @ss… 🙂

We’re building an elementary school on another reservation, so that Indian kids have a safe place to learn. It’s a project that is near and dear to my black little heart, and I’m looking forward to the day when it’ll be filled with laughing kids running and screaming and shooting spitwads at each other…

We’re building an Arrowhead-shaped home into a hillside in the Carolina’s where the budget is being based on whatever we can scrounge off of Craigslist, and FreeSource.

I know, I know… we shoulda built THIS one on the reservation. Not.

But… guess what? We’ve found some pretty cool stuff. You’re gonna be surprised at how this Carolina house turns out.

We’re gonna build a home in “the barren tundra of Texas.” I call this one “Drought Depot” as Texas hasn’t seen any real rain since Jesus walked on water, apparently. And we’re not talking about a “farm house,” we’re talking about a modern, contemporary steel house that looks like a million bucks, but is built on a “Walmart budget”. 🙂

And very recently, we decided to build a house for a family who lost their Daddy in Iraq. It’s a small house, built out of “leftovers”, but it’ll keep this family of four safe, dry, warm, and toasty, for a long time.

I’ve already told you a little bit about that one.

As you know… recently, we started projects that use “segments” of ISBUs that we’ve reclaimed, from a scrapyard. The boxes were “folded, spindled, and mutilated”, so much so, in fact that they were no longer usable for a life lived thumbing your nose at the high seas.

However, bring a plasma cutter into the mix, and you get “Corten Cubicles” that you can use, to build “off” of. We call it “Ewok Village on Acid“, and it’s being built as we speak.  We’re presently in Design Phase, with the only boundaries thus far being the actual dimensions of the boxes we’ve hacked off.

As that project continues, I’ll bring you more intel, so that you can see just how versatile these steel shelters can be.

This time, however, I’m gonna show you something different…

Ever see a Japanese house?

japan_apartments

Yeah, they’re the ones built on impossibly small lots, sandwiched together like those “school cafeteria shingles” you used to get when you were a kid. You remember…

… the sandwiches that had just enough peanut butter and jelly on them to allow the bread to discolor, but they were still tasteless…?

I have a guy who spent many years in Japan, just like Ronin did.

(See, there I go, talking about myself in the third person again… Man, I gotta see a shrink!) 🙂

And like me, he marveled at how they pack the houses together, in such small packages. They use economy, and an incredible sense of scale and space, in order to build homes that entire families can live in, for decades. And, he wondered if WE could duplicate that.

Say, by stacking three or four ISBUs up, in one stack, to make a tall, 8′ wide building?

Okay, sounds crazy at first, but if you went split level, and then floated an 8′ deck off of each level, you’d get a pretty impressive house, with a lot of room, and a ton of light.  Plus, no stair flight would ever exceed about 5 feet.

So, here’s what I’m proposing;

Build a partial basement that measures 24′ x 8′ x 6′ high.

This is gonna be most of your foundation, AND the utility/laundry room, and the “store all your crap” room. I say “partial”, because we’re only gonna dig a 4′ deep hole… The actual depth will depend on whether you decide to build on grade, or set the containers up on pilings.

BTW: Pilings are much cheaper than a foundation.

And yes… the footings will extend a little bit deeper. Stop “nit-picking,” huh? 🙂

I want that ‘partial basement’ to stick up out of the ground, so I can put some strip windows along the top of it, for illumination. I’ve lived in caves before, and I didn’t like it much. I doubt that anyone else would like it either, if they had a choice.

Now, like I said… you could also go with a shallower basement excavation, and then just shoot in a couple of pilings at the front of that “basement”, out at the 40′ mark. Figure that they’ll be about 2 feet higher than grade…

I’m just trying to bring the roof down a few feet…

When you’re thru playing with your cinder blocks… your first container will land here. It’s as good a place as any, huh?

Now, start stacking up containers, one on top of the other. Use a crane, or you’ll get a hernia! 🙂

I figure that you go up three boxes, and then… you add a 24′ long “segment” from our “scrap pile”, to the top of it. I’ll explain why, later.

Shipping Container Skyscraper-r1c

NO! This isn’t to scale. Thanks for asking! 🙂 Note that in the drawing on the right hand side, only the center section is ISBUs. The left and right stack of “rooms” are just wooden decks. When you save more cash – close them in with screens, or even glass! You’ll more than double the size of this house!

The first container will be your entry/living room as you enter the house.

Then, in the middle of the box, a split level staircase with open treads. I want the light to filter thru it, and I want you to be able to see into each level, from the other. It’ll be less claustrophobic that way. The staircase  design isn’t final’d yet, but figure on 4′ -5′ and something simple. It’ll probably be a simple pair of almost 4′ wide staircases, one up, one down.

If you go down, you go into that utility room in the basement.

If you go up, you go into a galley kitchen with a banquette style seating area in the rear. The kitchen has a deck attached. There’s also a built-in outdoor eating area located here.

From the kitchen, you go up to the first bedroom.

Build in (2) bunks across the almost 8′ back wall. Now, build in a 6′ closet off of that, on the right. You get a big “L-Shape.” The closet will face the deck, outside sliding glass doors. Put a firm top on that closet. You’re gonna store stuff up there, too.

Finish the closet off by adding some triangular shelves to the end of it, to give more storage, and enhance the rotation off the staircase. One kids bedroom, made to order.

Or… if this is “too tight”, build a full closet across the back (just a tad deeper than normal), and then put a bunk loft on top of it. It’ll be flush with the closet, okay? Sure, your closet is only gonna be 6′ high, but unless your kid is Wilt Chamberlain, you’ll be okay for many years! And, more importantly, they’ll love it!

A ladder up to the twin bedded loft will give him/her a place to rest or bomb you with their stuff while you’re navigating that staircase…

Taking the stairs up, you’re on the bathroom level, right above the kitchen.

Below the kitchen is the utility room. See? All your utilities and water and stuff are in one place.   You have a huge space to build a bathroom, with some more storage. I’ll let you decide what kind of bathroom you want. But, I’m still putting a deck outside it.

It’ll give you a place to pretend to exercise… 🙂

Okay, up the stairs again…

What? Yep, more stairs. If nothing else, you’ll be fit. That way, you can hide on the bathroom deck, and eat those delicious “Twinkies” without having to share any with the kids…

Back to the staircase. I know.. enough with the damned stairs! Hey, it was your idea to build a “Shipping Container Skyscraper House”, remember? Suck it up, buddy!

Now, you’re in a little library/sitting room.

It’s the place where you hide from your kids. Put in some books, and maybe a computer desk, and you have a little sanctuary away from the noise. Yes, yet another deck looms outside it.

Final staircase… almost! 🙂

Now, you’re in the Master bedroom.

As you enter, you see a full length closet across the back of the room, complete with mirrored doors. Why? Because I like looking at myself!

Actually, it’s to “double the space, visually.” And… because I like looking at myself… “Me so handsome!” As if… 🙂

Add a few comfortable chairs, and a table or two, and you have a nice, quiet place to relax before bedtime. And yes, you get your own deck.

You also see a loft up there.

Yep, ladder time. Climb the ladder and you’ll find a cozy little nest for sleeping, way up in the “nosebleed section” of the house. This is a good place for a cool “suncatcher roof.” Think something like a Clerestory or a snazzy Reverse Shed. Figure on about 200 square feet.

One more flight of stairs… Have you ever seen so many stair treads? What was I thinking? 🙂

Now, you’re on the roof deck.

If it’s me, I’m either gonna put a garden up here, or…

… maybe a cool spa tub, far off and away from those little two legged critters, so you can soak, relax, and remember back to the days when you were young…

For the statisticians among you, you get (7) rooms that measure at least 7’6″ x 16′, all with almost 9′ ceilings.

That’s 840 square feet.

You get a bed loft in two rooms; kids room loft is 7’6″ x 4′ and change. The Master bed loft is 7’6″ x 8′.

That’s another 100 square feet.

You’re up to 940 square feet so far.

And, all your plumbing and most of your major electrical is in the same place. You get a nice roof  surface for your solar and photovoltaic panels. You get lots of separation. You get lots of deck for “outdoor living.”

(Remember, you can screen those decks in, pretty easily.)

And, this house goes up F-A-S-T! And… high. Don’t forget “high.”

You end up with a house built from a core of steel containers. It’s a house designed to inspire you to go outside. But, when the outside isn’t “playing nice,” you can go in, and you’ll be just fine. It’s a house that urges you to look out the windows, because it’s as tall as some of the trees! And, because it’s mostly wood (remember all those decks?) it’ll blend into the woods, too!

Is it buildable?

Yes. The cost of the multiple decks would surpass the cost of house construction, if you figure in the supports, and the screen panels to keep the critters out. However, being scroungers, we’ll used recycled lumber for most of those decks.

Can we build the house, for $50,000.00? We’ll see. That’s the budget.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOver the next few days, I’ll draw you a diagram, to depict this “Jenny Craig” house. I’m still playing with the idea of “offsetting” each container slightly, to add “feature space” to the “ends.” I can see it in my head, but YOU wouldn’t want to go there… Trust me! 🙂