Tag Archives: green building

Do Green Buildings really make a difference?

29 Nov

Creating ‘greener’ buildings will help address climate change… right?

Green buildings can make a difference, but only if we start asking the right questions. If we can start to see the whole story of how our buildings impact the climate then we can start to make strides toward real ‘net-positive’ change. The technology isn’t new, the strategies aren’t rocket science – the hard step is shifting our thinking about what it means to build ‘green’.

Bryn Davidson wears many hats. Sure, he’s a LEED-accredited building designer, sustainability consultant and small business owner with degrees in Architecture (UBC) and Mechanical Engineering (UC Berkeley).

But he doesn’t stop there. He’s also one of the co-founders of Lanefab Design / Build; a Vancouver-based design and construction company that built the city’s first laneway house in 2010. Since then, Lanefab has continued its specialization in energy efficient green homes and infill ‘laneway houses’ by completing over 40 of the small infill homes.

Bryn Davidson has been on the leading edge of the laneway house industry, and we don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.

 Thank you, TED. 🙂

 

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ISBU Homebuilding Part (mumble, grumble, snort): Waste not, want not!

3 May

I’m still surrounded by that accursed white stuff… so;

It’s time for some Green Building Recommendations

I’ll just pretend that it’s “Spring”. I’ve just returned from yet another road trip. During that trip (I’ve covered a few THOUSAND miles in the last few weeks), I had a lot of time to give thought to HOW I’m going to proceed in building my OWN project – a cluster of ISBU structures assembled to look remarkably like (gasp!) a Sustainable FARM operation. 🙂

20 horse Barn Elevation Concept

I’d call it a ranch, but with all the greenhouses, arboretums, conservatories and fields of hay, if does look more like a farm than a ranch.

We’re building (3) residences, a “guest” dorm, (2) cabins, several barns (beef, dairy, equine and hay storage), shops (both wood and machine), poultry houses (chickens, turkeys and ducks) and various other “dedicated purpose structures” – like aquaponics/hydroponic buildings, for instance.

Granted, a few of the ISBU buildings are just for “enjoyment”…

Can you say “sauna” and “smokehouse”? I knew you could. I may even build a small recording studio. It’d be cool to have my own “media center” to podcast and process Youtube video in! I might even pick up a guitar from time to time!

I just hope I don’t get the sauna and the smokehouse confused when I stumble out that direction in the dark. I don’t want to emerge smelling like hickory and apple chips! That’s a smell that you can’t wash off! 😉

Over the next several days, I’m going to share lists of things to consider with you, as you start planning your new ISBU home.

Many of these considerations can be further explored in my book;

Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings

You can find out more about that by looking to the right side of your monitor (in the sidebar) and clicking on the blue book.

Since all good things start with organization and a plan, let’s start making lists.Show me a man who failed and I’ll show you a man who didn’t have a good plan. And, plans start with (say it with me, campers…) lists.

You can use these lists when building a home, remodeling, or even considering a home for purchase. Yes, I’m a big list maker. Senility demands it! 🙂

Note that a few items will be repeated because they pertain to several aspects of “green” building.

I have to clear some old derelict structure off my site before I can build. And you all know how much I like to reuse or repurpose materials whenever possible. So instead of just pushing it all up into a pile and setting  fire to it, we’re gonna cull some cool stuff from it, if possible.

Reducing Wood Use

  1. Renovate or remodel existing buildings.
  2. Build small.
  3. Build simply.
  4. Design the home to be built in 2-foot increments.
  5. Build for durability.
  6. Build for adaptability.
  7. Design using optimum value engineering.
  8. Use engineered lumber and wood products.
  9. Use prefabricated trusses and other factory-assembled building components.
  10. Reduce wood waste by recycling and reusing scrap lumber.
  11. Use salvaged and/or reclaimed lumber.
  12. Use alternative materials such as steel, straw bales, and earthen materials.
  13. Use certified wood.

Stay Tuned!

RR Avatar

You’re killing America!

25 Nov

Obama keeps talking about “fixing what ails America,” by building alternative power projects.

To seemingly prove it…

On April 11, 2009 DOE announced a whopping $38.5 Billion dollars in loan guarantees to “encourages the development of new energy technologies and is an important step in paving the way for clean energy projects.” All a start-up company has to do is fill out reams of paperwork and submit it along with their justification of why they need the money and their $75,000 non-refundable application fee.

Benjamins-main_Full

Let me repeat that last part: “… and their $75,000 non-refundable application fee.”

These projects include solar, wind, hydro, ethanol, and even algae fueled remedies. And, there are a lot of them out there. Some of them even make sense, but…

At the NSF (National Science Foundation) bio-energy research projects are being declined and disqualified right and left,  by Government-backed reviewers who throw crap on the progress, by using “verbal vinegar”  like this:

“To base the proposal on the theory that there will be a variety of low-value feed stocks available is, in the opinion of this reviewer and many other industry observers, a faulty premise. Biomass is cheap right now because no one wants it.

However, as demand increases, it will become more expensive. Further the laws of supply and demand mean that replacing a significant amount of gasoline with biofuels would drastically lower the demand for gas. This would, in turn, cause the price of gas to plunge, making biofuels less competitive.”

Bull! I could use that very same argument to reject the use of margarine, or ammunition, or even car tires. The same argument could be made to reject solar and wind energy research — or any alternative energy, for that matter — by trying to make the case that an overwhelming  public adoption of solar power or wind energy products would cause the price of coal to plunge… well… because that might make solar and wind energy less competitive!

Would too! I know it’s true, because I’ve even heard politicians say it!

And we all know that politicians NEVER lie. 😉

“Margarine is baaaad! We Must Stop This!”… before it makes COWS obsolete.

And heaven knows, the increase in American Horse Breeding may adversely impact the price of cars! It must be stopped! I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna start shooting horses, before civilization as we know it comes to an end…

mustang

Oh wait, the American Government already does that. It’s cheaper to manage “wild horse assets roaming the plains” in America, if you kill them first…

You think I’m kidding? I’m not. Say goodbye to the Majestic Wild Mustang, kids… They only place you’re gonna see them regularly is on Disney Cartoons. BLM actually kills wild horses, rather than provide for them. Don’t even get me started…

So why do reviewers say things like I just quoted?

Because they are paid to DISQUALIFY projects. First, that $75,000 dollar application fee is non-refundable, remember? Second, that way, those jug-headed politicians in Washington DC can claim that they’ve put help in the pipe, even if NOBODY can possibly qualify for it.

Oh, I almost forgot; It takes 15 months to find out that you’ve been cheated out of your $75 grand…

… if the half-wits in the “processing department” at the DOE can get the process streamlined down to 15 months, as “promised”.

BTW:

Here’s what independent reviewers with credentials in their field, said about that bio-energy project request;

Reviewer #A: “This is a well thought out proposal supported by a well qualified team.”

Reviewer#B: “This is a well written proposal with good technical foundation to carry out the project. Project team collectively has good qualification and sound experience to advance the scientific work in a professional manner.”

Reviewer #C: “The proposed plan is sound and improved results are likely with further research.”

So…

Stop buying margarine! Stop riding horses!  Stop building windmills! Stop shooting your firearms! Stop buying car tires! You’re killing America! You whiny un-patriotic, self-serving, greedy, capitalistic bastards! 🙂

Stay Tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOkay, you all know what’s going on with my family, so I’m not going  to beat you up with that…

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to…  you can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right. Paypal is the BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours. This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

A Home without clothes…

22 Nov

Okay,

It’s time for some ISBU Inspiration!

Greeting, you “Minions of Metal!” I’ve gathered you all together today…

Wait… that’s not it…

Most of you know that I’m plotting and scheming… and even conspiring to build a house out of recycled and repurposed ISBU (Shipping Containers).

A lot of you know that we’re helping several other families do the same thing, in fact, as you’re reading this!

Most of you know that I’ve further complicated that build, by including components recycled from steel aircraft hangars that were torn down…

And, most of you know that it’s been a battle from day one…

So… as my family plots and schemes, quietly and cunningly crafting “our house that locals might loathe…”

I thought I’d show you some of the things that inspire me, as I craft our Corten Castle…

Ain’t it cool?

In the dead of Winter, you’re all ‘snuggly’ warm…

And in the Spring, Summer, and even the Fall (depending on your climate – your mileage may vary) … it’s like living in the outdoors! Talk about an inspiration! This would make me WANT to get up and greet the day!

Now, if that don’t make you wanna break out that treadmill, I don’t know what will…

I mean, you don’t want to scare the neighbors… or DO you? Hmmm?

If you built this out of SIPs, and then installed it on tracks, you could open and close it using an electric motor (powered by photovoltaic panels, naturally). It would be easy… using, say… something like a garage door opener motor, or even an old 4wd truck winch. Just apply a little bit of  “Grey matter” (but not as “track lubricant! OUCH!) and you’d have a push-button house to rival some of that stuff you see on MTV Cribs! 😉

Now where’d I put that “man-thong?” It’s time to play, “Mess with the neighbor’s minds…” Muuuwahahahah!

Hey! If they didn’t want nightmares… then they shouldn’t have looked!  😉

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

All About “B.O.B.”

18 Nov

Welcome back!

To another exciting episode of:

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

The other day a friend of mine (yeah… Ronin has a friend… didn’t think it was possible, did you? Huh?) and I were talking about the number of people who subscribed to our blogs using RSS and the like.

Now SHE has about eleventy-gillion subscribers, because her blog is;

  • (a) well written and readable,
  • (b) very informative and…
  • (c) even “catchy” and entertaining!

Plus, people actually “like” her. She teaches them really cool (and very affordable) “green stuff” to enhance their lives and brighten their day!

My blog, as we all know… is;

  • rambling to the point of documented psychosis,
  • incoherent to the point of wondering if I missed my med’s that day, and…
  • “Excedrin Headache #205”  waiting to happen to anyone foolish enough to try to digest it.

I suspect that people tune in here to watch “the train wreck” that occurs on each page… 😉

And I realized that (not unlike just about everything else on the planet) I had no clue as to how to figure out the answer. I mean, if I had all the answers, would I be living in a horrible hovel in Mississippi?

I think not. 🙂

So, I went to a forum filled with people whose brain cells actually touch each other… and asked about how one figures out these “complicated and mysterious things…”

I was recently contacted by a “programmer type” who was answering said inquiry about how I could determine the number of people whose minds I had bent… in my attempt at recruiting more “Corten Cronies…” 🙂

We traded some information, and he did a little bit of checking, and it turns out that I have over 20,000 subscribers to my RSS feed.

How he determined that, I have no idea. There’s gotta be some kind of mistake. That number CAN’T be right… It’s IMPOSSIBLE.

I PRAY that it’s wrong. Why? Because if it’s right (and it can’t be…), all I know is that I’m gonna be looking at  defending myself in a “class action lawsuit” when those 20,000+ people get together and decide to prosecute me for filling their head with “Corten Craziness.”

Now… as I’m a Jew (hey, you all know that… right?) I’m used to persecution… so… bring it on! 😉

As a “Container Cult Leader…” I can only say that I’m just trying to “spread the word among the pilgrims…”

And, after all, somebody has to lead us to the “promised land…” huh? Might as well be me.

I’m gonna have to do some more homework on this one, because if I have a bunch of RSS “follower’s…” the rubes…  🙂 …
… then my “view” count (not my “bodycount”) should jump quite a bit, with each published post. And by gauging that,  I can  start compiling data that I might be able to find useful. You know, stuff like which posts do well and point to stuff I can fill your minds with, to further cloud the issues with facts. Wait… you’ll get the posts whether you want them or not, in an RSS situation, right? Oy Vey…
I wonder… Is “RSS post retrieval” considered some “other” kind of server action, thus  it doesn’t actually get processed through a counter system I can see? Hell, I don’t know.  All this is giving ME a headache.

So… back to the show;

As you probably already know my family has decided to irritate just about everyone on the planet, for daring to stray outside the box… by wanting to live in one. At least, that’s the neighbor’s consensus…

While the idiots… um… er…  “authorities” in Mississippi continue to “debate” the merit of our home project, we’re helping other people (who fortunately live in areas where people are using theirs brains for something besides fertilizing their hair) build THEIR ISBU homes.

This is frustrating, but I’ll tell you, it definitely has moved us to looking beyond the borders of this backwater State, to find a suitable home, for our home. And that search continues, with vigor.

Why… just the other day I was talking about going out to the garage and loading up the car…

Corten_Car1Yep, ‘leftover’ Corten Steel makes great panels for auto body work too! 🙂

And heading for greener pastures. But then I remembered… we ain’t even GOT a car, much less a garage.

But, we’re working on it… 🙂

When I’m not researching… I’m packing stuff up, just so we have a little bit more room around here. You’d be surprised just how much space this little tiny kid takes up…

Ever step on a Hot Wheels car in bare feet at 3am in the dark… trying to get to the bathroom? I’ve actually learned to suppress a scream of pain!

Now that’s a handy survival skill!  Ole’ Freddie Kruger and his hatchet won’t know I’m hiding in the closet! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah…

Right now, I’m boxing up old DVD movies that we haven’t watched in a while… And…

I have a DVD of a cartoon movie called Titan AE…

… in that movie, “no-good rotten S.O.B.’s” blow up the earth, and the heroes (who barely escape the disaster as children) grow up to fight like dogs against the high-tech bad guys… until they finally overcome insurmountable odds, danger, death threats, and airline food…  and create a new planet.

titan_ae

And, they named that planet… “Bob.”

A while back, I told you about an affordable “alternative housing”  solution I’d come up with… instead of those plastic domes you see bandied around everywhere…

And, I called it… you guessed it… “BOB.”

That’s short for “Bug Out Box” to those of you who aren’t savvy in “b@stardized survivalist lingo…”

Actually, a BOB is really a designation for a “bug out bag”, but we thought BOL (Bug Out Location) sounded stupid… 🙂

If we’d have titled this post “All About BOL” you wouldn’t have gotten it and we couldn’t have included both a reference to TITAN AE and a chance to further immortalize “the BOB” – Bob Vila…

And, I got a lot of heat for it. Surprisingly, I got even more heat than I anticipated. But, most of it wasn’t from people claiming I’d ambushed Intershelter’s polycarbonate dome project…

And, it wasn’t from people who were mad because I took the “name of Bob in vain…” 🙂

All Hail “THE Bob.”

It was from people who thought that an Emergency Shelter that only enclosed 300 square feet was a dead end!

Now, I’m betting these same people pack up the SUV and go camping in the summertime, in a tent or even an RV that is MUCH smaller than the octagonal shelter that I suggested could be built… for pennies on the dollar, compared to “off-the-shelf” housing solutions.

Lemme see… the average 9’x10′ is only 90 square feet, with no room to go UP. Even if it’s something cool like this:

custom_camping_tentIt’s not gonna be more than about 120 square feet…

But wait! There’s MORE!

f “your tent has wheels…” the national average for RV’s is right at about 20′ (according to national auto insurance surveys I read) and we all know that the maximum width for an RV is right at about 8′.

Ya like that curly-cue “I” thingy? I just wanted to demonstrate how much style and sophistication I possess…  I just usually don’t waste it on “the likes of you!”  😉

So, there’s 160 square feet, plus a loft or two, maybe. 200 square feet, tops.  And, I guarantee you that RV or trailer is gonna cost you way more than $6200, if you bought anything with any quality built into it.

So, from where I’m standing, 310 square feet sounds pretty luxurious. But just for the sake of argument, let’s see where this “dead-end” octagon get’s you.

If you build it the way I described it, you have this:

Octagon BOBIt’s  310 “clear-spanned”  square feet, to cut up any way you please. I could easily sleep 12 men in there, if I had to. And, I’d have room for all of their gear.

But, if you delete just one wall, and “you did the math….” (remember the “pop quiz?”) you’ll install a 20′ shipping container into that pre-engineered 8′ x9.6″ opening, and you have this:

Octagon BOB-r2Now, if you were to put your kitchen, a storage pantry, and a bathroom into that 20′ “add-on,” all your plumbing would essentially be in the same place.  There IS space for all three, you just have to get creative.

Build a galley kitchen and you’ll get about 16′ of countertop out of that kitchen (8′ on each side), and a huge pantry right behind it. Your kitchen at home may not even be that large. Build that pantry “galley style” too (gaining yourself several deep shelves on each side), and you’ll have a passageway back to a big over-sized bathroom in the rear. Yes, a washing machine will fit in there, too. It’s not gonna be a cave, either. We’ll plug in some strip windows over the top of the kitchen and pantry to add some daylight.

The bathroom will get windows of it’s own, so it will be “bright and airy.” I guar-unnnn-tee!

NOTE: NO Dryer. It takes too much energy to dry clothes that way… especially when you’re making your own power or trying to make ends meet during hard times. Hang your clothes outside and let the sun work on ’em. They’ll smell better, too!

If you have to have a dryer, then just reduce the size of the pantry and put the washer and dryer across from each other, ya big wuss! 🙂

addendum: If you’re MADRIGORNE… I guess that you can have a dryer. Nobody likes doing “frozen clothing” aerobics. But no one, else… the rest of you are all “wussies…” 😉

Okay, back to the basics;

Now, you have a big open “gathering/sleeping room,” and a “kitchen wing.” And that ISBU connection was pretty easy, even for you! 😉

But wait! There’s MORE…

I bet you could do it a few more times. After all, an octagon has (8) sides, right?

So, instead of buying (1) 20′ container, and just hacking the doors off of it…

Buy (3) more 20′ High Cube containers. Don’t buy 40′ boxes and cut them up like we did the first time. You CAN do it, but it’s hard work. And, the building inspector will drive you crazy with requests for engineering formulas and “proof.” So let’s just spend a few more dollars, and get rid of a bunch of headaches. Okay? Okay? Hey! I’m talking to YOU. 😉

Now, you WILL have to modify your roof  slightly, to allow for that new section of roof (over the new ISBU) to kiss it,  but it will be well worth it. (I suggest putting a Hip Roof over the 20′ box sections. A Hip Roof is strong, durable,  really weather resistant. I’d top it all off with Standing Seam Metal Roofing.)

And, hey… while you’re at it… weld the angled corner braces from the old wall sections to each side of the container openings, and you’ll get an incredibly (and I mean INCREDIBLY) strong box.  After you do that, it’ll look like this:


Now, I went ahead and drew in some interior walls for you, but it’s just to demonstrate just how much room you end up with. Plugging those (4) sections of ISBU into the Octagon grants you the ability to house a pretty good sized family, and guarantee that everyone has their own space.

In the Master bedroom, note that there is a built-in shelving system (right across from the closet) that will hold pull-out baskets for clothes. It’ll hold 24 (1 cubic foot+) baskets – 2 for you, and 22 for her… After all, a man’s gotta have a place to put his socks and skivvies, right?

You’ll also get a coat closet (so that all your “survivalist friends” will think you’re “royalty”…) and an “office” right behind that, so you can jump on the computer and play games, to wile away the hours out of sight of your better half.  After all, if she can see you, you’re not out doing chores, huh? 🙂

The configuration I’ve shown you would allow a family of 6 to live “out and away” for quite a while, in relative comfort. And, they could do it pretty affordably.

container-bedroomA nice place for Mom and Dad to bed down…

Just add a well, a septic tank, a solar panel or two for hot water production, and an array of photovoltaic panels, or even a wind turbine for power (electricity) and you’d be “totally off-grid and definitely in style.”

If you want to go a step further, add a greenhouse and a water tank/cistern.

As you can see, it’s very “doable” by anyone that can use basic hand tools.

IBH-BEDROOMYou could do this in your kid’s room REALLY easy.

And it’d happen fast, fast, fast…

It just might have to, ‘cuz my wife gets pretty P.O.’d with me sometimes… 😉

I gotta go now. I’m working on a project in a “borrowed” garage… And man, these plywood 4×8’s are heavy!  🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

“Ronin’s Reconstruction” Tips

16 Nov

Welcome to the fray!

I get email. Hoo boy, do I get email…

And although a lot of it is just character assassination and accusations about the alleged depth (of lack thereof) of my gene pool…

Mother(Thanks… MOM.)  This coming from a woman who turned “40” about 12 freakin’ times… OY!

Anyway… I get email from “readers”… “demanding” answers!

Like I “owe” them answers for some strange reason… It’s not like I’m doing this for a living… As if… 😉

So, I’m gonna take one  email question a week, and answer that question here.

We’re gonna call it; “Ronin’s Reconstruction And Recycling Rodeo…”

Or… “RRRR” for short. It’ll be easy to remember. It’s that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, every time you tune in here…  🙂

So, let’s just jump right in there, shall we?

After all, the water can’t be that deep…

Q. “Ronin, you’re a moron! The walls of a Shipping Container are M-E-T-A-L. If I put the insulation on the OUTSIDE, like you suggest… How in the hell am I supposed to run power lines in the rooms? I mean… where do you put electrical outlets on that kinda stuff? This is just Corten Craziness!”

A. Ronin’s Electricity 101;

Here’s how to do Corten Castle Electrical… Guerrilla style.

You’re building a container home and you can’t figure out how to install electrical outlets for all your crap… after all, that lava lamp has to plug into something, huh? So, what better way to vent your frustration, than to whine at ME… Oy, you have  a lot of nerve…  🙂

Well, you trouble-making, demanding, cry-baby… I’d like to take about three paragraphs, and just … um… er… never mind.  I got blood pressure problems enough already, thaaaaaank you very much…  😉

But… in keeping with my “kinder, gentler philosophy on life in general…” the solution to your power problem is really quite simple.

Run your flooring to within 5″- 6″ of the walls.

Now… run your electrical and your outlets down in that created “gap.” Why? Because now you have a trough between your flooring, and the wall, right? Just make sure that it’s deep enough for your box, and the plug sticking into it.

Drop some recycled rain gutter material into it if you want. You can find it salvage for almost nothing.

Now… Cover the area over the top of it with some metal grating.

iron-age-design-cast-metal-grates

You can find it on-line, or in a catalog. If you do this, you have an affordable (and attractive) application that;

  • (a) saves you money…  (from all the flooring you “didn’t” install…)
  • (b) versatility in your use of outlets and location, and…
  • (c) gives your room a really cool contemporary look…

All “without violating the sanctity of the wall surfaces.”

You’ll easily save a few hundred bucks on flooring this way, and you gain the ability to change things whenever you want. There are literally hundreds of styles to choose from.

Just make sure that your plugs will fit through the grating cut-outs.

The idea is to run your cord straight down, and into the outlet, through the grating. That trough is even gonna be large enough to allow you to tuck a power strip or surge protector into it.

And, when you decide to completely rearrange your room, it’s pretty easy to move the outlets around, if you need to.

And, the by-product is that NOW you can push stuff up against the walls without having to allow those extra inches for the freakin’ power cords and those plugs… Man, that drives me crazy! 🙂

FYI: You can frequently find this “grate stuff” in recycling bins, or even salvage yards. If you’re up to doing a little bit of “clean up and restore” elbow grease, you can achieve something really spectacular,  for a little bit of change.

It’s a great way to add some character to a project.

See, that wasn’t so hard.

Okay… next chump… er… um… question?

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninNo innocent drywall was harmed in the production of this blog post. However, that last house “I” did? Hoo Boy, that drywall was screamin! Your mileage may vary. Why? Because some of us drive V10s, and some of us ride bicycles… Your Momma tells you not to run with scissors.  Know why? She wants to be the one to make you suffer… Wait… that’s just Jewish moms… Never mind… Milk does a body good… unless somebody is drowning you in it, or they hit you on the head with the bottle… Ain’t you got anything better to do? Go on! Git!

Building on the Frontier – ISBU style!

13 Nov

Greetings, Campers!

Today, we’re going to answer that age old question…

How do you “guerrilla” around a 9,000 pound ISBU, when you don’t have a crane??

I’m about to show you how they do it in Nicaragua. It may be ugly… it may be risky… but it works.

Now, this isn’t the first ISBU (shipping container) house to be built in Nicaragua (like the builder claims)… far from it.  That part is an outright lie. They could be found there in the 80’s, when a lot of us were down there “playing peek-a-boo in very ballistic Banana Republics.”

Back in the heyday… United Foods used to bring them down, to load them up with produce headed for America. And, they used to just get up and walk away, in the middle of the night.

Now, the Russians used to bring them in too, in order to stuff them to the walls until they were bulging, and then send them back to Moscow laden with produce, after Chernobyl sterilized most of the Ukraine in the late 80’s.

I know that’s true, too, because we turned a lot of those containers (and the ships they were “attached” to) into “artificial reefs.”

So, they were plentiful.

I’ve actually been to places in Nicaragua that were constructed of ISBUs, whole villages wrapped in Corten Steel. In fact, we used to joke that we’d accidentally eaten something toxic and (upon awakening, after the fever finally broke) found ourselves in the middle of a bad Hollywood Sci Fi Movie set. We’re talk “Mad Max” here…”

You could find these places from San Juan Del Norte, north to Punta Gorda, and even further north to the Rio Escondido, for sure. We were never quite sure how they GOT there, as the nearest shipping port was quite a distance away.

You can also find them on the “good side” where all the surf camps are.

In remote locations such as these, we used tractor buckets, backhoes, and even Lulls, with straps thru shackles at the corner “points” to haul them around. It just takes a steady crew, and some guts.

And Nicaragua is trying to become the “Riviera of Central America.” These “fast-built” ISBU homes may just make some of that “aspiration” possible.

American dollars, fleeing a rapidly failing economy will do the rest… Hey, it ain’t Rio, but it’ll do… and it’s ten times better than Panama!

See more about this project, here: Tech-Nica

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

To Dome, or not to Dome…

11 Nov

It’s me again…

I’m like that unruly relative who keeps showing up at the front door because: “My wife threw me out again, because I didn’t do nothing wrong, except get really hammered… again… and then wreck the car… again…” 🙂

WAIT! That’s not it! Nuh-uh! I’d shoot that guy in the head. Twice!

I’M the guy building a home for his family, out of shipping containers and aircraft hangar parts. And, I’m teaching other people how to do it, too! And… some of them are actually listening to me… the rubes! 🙂

Seriously, we’re trying to demonstrate by example that you can build your own affordable, sustainable, energy efficient home without being a NASA scientist or tying yourself to a huge mortgage, or living a life fueled by “keeping up with the Joneses.”

And we’re doing just that. 7 of my families are building their own homes, as  I type this. You could be  too…

NO! Not “7 of my families” in the biblical sense! What are you, nuts? 🙂

Anyway…

In between fighting with Planning and Zoning Nazis and the State of Mississippi, and helping other families get their projects moving, I check my email. I don’t know WHY?  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

Every time I open my email… I get accused of being (a) stupid, (b) crazy, or (c) both.

But… you know what they say… “sticks and stones…”

I’m just going to have to change my email address so that my Mom doesn’t know what it is! 🙂

Lately, I’ve been getting a ton of flack over this whole “ISBU” thing…

Okay, so it’s not just “lately,” it’s been since Day ONE…

And, I get all kinds of people who send me stuff that starts out with:

“Forget that ISBU nonsense! I’ve read all about these polycarbonate domes on the market now, that are touted as being ‘the next big thing’…”

camo_domeI keep having people ask me about the “domed shelter” idea… you know the ones I mean… that come in a 20′ diameter (314 square feet) configuration.

Of course, they’re talking about Intershelter’s Polycarbonate Dome system. And, I’ve gotta say that at first glance, they’re pretty enticing.

And okay, I’m warning you up front, that I’m going to have some fun, at Intershelter’s expense. And, I hope that they have a sense of humor.

Look, I’m well known because I say exactly what’s on my tiny little mind.

You don’t like it? Well… Tough Noogies…

I’m not a politician or a diplomat. If you have any doubts about what I’m talking about, read the disclaimer  over there on the right side of your page. Capish?

In advance: I don’t hate their product at all. In fact, it’s kinda cool. But like every “shelter solution,” it has it’s potentials, and it’s pitfalls.

You want something that you can deliver by C-130 aircraft or military helicopter and slap up in a hurry, when you’re on an expedition into the Great White North, to document Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, or even a bevy of attractive Eskimo girls in seal fur… this may be the solution.

Wanna explore the Sahara looking for buried African treasure troves? Well, give a bunch of camel’s a humongous hernia… or parachute a bunch of these puppies into your base camp. Hey, all those Nigerian Internet scam artists had to hide the loot somewhere, right?

Wanna start a cult out in the middle of nowhere (that you can pack up and move at a moments notice)?  You know… like when the trigger-happy guys from ATF  (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) show up dressed in bulletproofs… after they figure out your “current” address? Okay, here ya go!

001_ADozenDomesv02And, they can even interlock, to form big old “chemistry class bubbles!” Yahoo!  🙂

Wanna have a “Jewish Jamboree” in the land that Moses spent 40 years exploring? I bet you could even find a Kosher bunch of “half shells…” Um… maybe not.  Shellfish ain’t never kosher!  And… Probably not even plastic “half-shell – Jonah eating”  shellfish. We’ll have to  ask a Rabbi… Oy Vey! 🙂

Looking for a cool camping “tent” that ain’t a tent? One that’ll make your kids really mad at you, when you make them haul it out of the truck, piece by piece, to erect in the clearing of your choice? Okay! This will do the trick!

(And, it’ll keep the little buggers out of your hair all weekend, because they’ll be so mad at you for making them do chores! And, they can’t kill you by sneaking up and burning it down… that burning insulation will make a terrific popping sound as it combusts! )  😉

Hey all this talk about “popping sounds” is making me hungry… Time out while I make a batch of popcorn!  🙂

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah…

Does the dome system have some really cool “Military Applications?” Probably, if you can find a way to insure that it’s capable of being transformed into something “anti-ballistic.”

Nothing screws up “a nice dream about home…” like getting shot in the butt… while it’s still in your rack.

But is it really an affordable housing solution? I’m not so sure…

Let’s run it up the flagpole, and see who salutes… okay?  😉

The domes we’re talking about are made of a very cool polycarbonate panel system (that you can insulate for $2,500 extra) that costs about US$12,000+  for the base structure. (This figure is based on the  most recent pricing data I’ve seen – as of November 10th, 2009)

artic_domes

So… that’s $14,500.00 plus crating and shipping, for an empty, non-floored, non-foundationed, insulated 20′ beer cooler/dome. And that shipping and handling is going to add at least another $500 bucks…

(I’m being generous here, it will probably cost substantially more.)

But hey… they gotta be cool, because they (somebody overheard one of the manufacturers reps say it, repeatedly…) claim that Brad Pitt bought some of them, right?

So what? That’s almost $48 per square foot! WTF? Are you absolutely freakin’ nuts?

Sorry… lost it there for a moment… Let me just take several deep cleansing breaths… ah… that’s much better! 🙂

Evidently… my suspicions have been confirmed. Even if Brad was “mondo cool enough” to get Angelina… (sigh! excuse me a moment while I pleasure myself with a little daydream about “Angie baby“)…

angelina-jolie-pregnantHow can you not love this face? (sigh!)

… if Mr. Pitt thinks that these domes will work as “affordable permanent housing,” well… Brad Pitt is a complete whacko! He’s “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” crazy… His “bats” have bats… in his belfrey.

But; “wait a minute…” you say… “domes have some good things going for them!”

They look really cool!

Yeah, I agree. They DO look cool. IF… you’re an Eskimo! Otherwise, you live in a house that looks like it fell out of a seagull’s butt…

And hey! I mean… NO corners – So… No place for the wind to grab, during a “big storm event.” No wind shearing!

Okay, I’ll give you that one…

“They’ll withstand a Category 5 hurricane direct hit! I know it’s true ‘cuz they said it on their website! I think… “

Uh huh… Sure it will. Prove it. THEY haven’t. Give me the address of the house. I’m POSITIVE that they didn’t say that. That would be incredibly stupid. Not even an idiot would say that.

And… because it has NO corners… floodwater goes around them  without knocking them down… right? Well Ronin? What you gotta say now, Mr Smarty Pants? Huh?

Um… Jeez, you are one gullible sap, aren’t you? You honestly believe that a wall of hurricane driven water won’t knock down a plastic dome that weighs nearly nothing, in comparison… Uh huh… again… PROVE IT!!

Well, okay… you gotta admit that they’re easy to wash… Just start hosing off the top, and it’ll all come running down, and wash the sides.

Seriously, when’s the last time you washed the outside of your house? Me? Like NEVER. That’s what G-D made “rain” for… duh! 🙂

And when they’re all shiny clean? Those domes will still look like great big bird droppings.  🙂

So, when the poop hits the fan… there’s gonna be a line for them at Walmart, huh? Just whip out that GoldCard, and “Kerblammo!”

Instant shelter…

Well, “bull-hoo-hoo-hoo-freakin-hooey!”

First, who is their right mind would live in a plastic dome, without any insulation? And, what Planning and Zoning Nazi would let them, even if they wanted to?

That said, why does the insulation cost extra? Hmmm? Why didn’t they just include it in the first place?

That’s just kinda STUPID, with a “capital” STUPE! But, I could be wrong. It could happen… some day. 😉

And, I could go on about the polycarbonate shell, but I’m trying not to make you feel like a complete imbecile… sort of…

I mean, it IS kinda fun… ya big dope!  🙂

Here’s the one big problem with a dome…

Ever tried to live in a round room?

Ever tried to lay one out so that you could use decent “off the shelf” materials to finish it out?

Ever tried to do it without being a Master Carpenter? Ever tried to cut exactly correct complex curves, into every single piece of wood in the freakin’ place? Huh? Well?

Ever tried to squeeze every wasted part of a circle into something usable?

clint-eastwood-dirty-harryWell, have ya, punk? 🙂

There’s a better way… if you’re not stupid.

You’re not, right? Cuz’… I mean.. If ya are, you better stop reading now… and head on over to “Google Games” or something… 🙂

Now where was I? Oh yeah… and pay attention, because there’s a “pop quiz” at the end….

I need an insulated shell with an area of approximately 310 square feet, right? One that I can haul in by myself, without any heavy equipment…

Here’s how I’D do it;

(Now remember, Ronin don’t have a team of NASA engineers, or a plastics lab, or a manufacturing facility, or a million dollars in start-up money. He’s flyin’ solo…)

Start with 1″x 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood. Exterior grade, about (16) of them will do. Match that with (12) 4′ x 12′ x 1/2″ sheetrock panels. Get the mold resistant ones, huh? Condensation is a real pain in the butt…

Put that all together with some spray-on closed-cell foam insulation, and you’ll get pre-Insulated and Interlocking 4′ x 8′ “sandwich” panels, that paired up… will form (8) 8′ x 8′ Wall assembly sections of your octagon.

octomom
NO! Not “Octomom…” If  she’s gonna live there, you’re gonna need a LOT more room… and medication. A truckload of med’s….

2″ of sprayed on closed-cell foam would provide approximately r14 walls. You’ll need that much insulation at LEAST.

But, just for the sake of holding you up to public ridicule, we’re just gonna go “cheap…” 😉

Precast steel corner pieces will adjust each wall assembly to the “right” angle, and that will allow assembly of  the “octagon.” These pieces already exist, off-the-shelf, so why make them, when you can buy ’em already? Look ’em up in a catalog on-line… that’s what I did.

Buy em LONG. At least 10′. We want at least 18″ up over the top of that wall. Why? Well, if we extend the supports up past the top of the insulated panels we just made, we can put thick clear plastic sheeting in there to “daylight” the center of that octagon.

And, if you keep following this post series, you’ll see what else you can do with an 8’x9’6″ opening.

But for now;

Several different “panel component” assemblies will allow for window insertion or door insertion, etc…

(16) panels would create an (8) sided, 310 square foot housing unit, with (2) 36″ entry doors and (4) 32″ windows.

Of course, you could always install a set of 8′ sliding glass doors, too. Just replace one wall assembly with the door set. That’d bring in a ton of light, and even help you heat the home, if you used a thermal mass floor… like maybe concrete. And you could do it for the price as one of the wall assemblies,  if you used a “salvaged set” from a scrapyard or salvage supplier.

The octagonal roof would simply be (8) interlocking SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) approximately 10″ thick. Each panel would be light enough to be handled by (2) men. The assembled roof would require no “support.”

In the center of the roof would be a “draft inducer assembly” built into an 8 sided SIPs “receiver” to complete the roof.

This inducer would allow a wood stove or other heating device to be placed in the center of the housing module, to heat the unit. Or… forget the draft inducer, and install a skylight.

This entire housing module would “flat-pack…”  enabling it to be transported by a pickup truck or small flatbed trailer..

Assembly onto a pre-built wooden “foundation” platform would take approximately 3-4 hours, with 2 able-bodied men.

Yield: (1) Small (approx 310 square foot) family unit with a 12′ roof, includes sleeping loft, kitchen, bathroom, living area, and additional sleeping quarters for Ma and Pa Kettle.

Cost for shell:

Note: I’m just talking about the empty structure (just like the dome shell quote), the foundation is extra.

$108.00     (12) 4′ x 12′ x 1/2″ Sheetrock  @ $9.00 each

$  40.00     (16) 104″ 2x4s – for bottom and top plates  at   $ 2.50  each

$850.00    (10) Blank 4′ x 8′ x 3.5″ Insulated Panel at approximately $85.00 per to fabricate

$770.00   (4) Window 4′ x 8′ x 3.5″ Insulated Panel at $192.50  each

We used “good” Dual Pane insulated glass 32″ x 60″ windows.

$390.00    (2) Door 4′ x 8′ x 3/5″ Insulated Panel at $195.00 each

We used decent – contractor grade 6-panel 36″ steel – (foam insulated) doors.

$ 80.00     (8) Panel Interlocks – Straight at $10.00 each

$ 96.00     (8) Panel Interlocks – Angled at  $12.00 each

$680.00   (8) SIP Interlocking 10″ Roof Segments  at approximately $85.00 each to fabricate

$ 85.00     (1) Draft Inducer Roof Crown at $85.00 to fabricate

$100.00   (1) Hardware/Sealer Kit full of nuts, bolts, screws, silicone caulking, flashing, and other stuff…

Grand total:

$6,199.00    OR   $19.99 per square foot.

Now… you have a complete shell with r15 (actual) walls that perform like r19, and r41 (actual) roof that performs like r62.

What? What’s this “actual/perform” crap?

Because air-tightness, moisture resistance, and thermal mass are properties that are inherent with closed-cell foam and SIPS, so they will out-perform their given R-Values in comparison to fiberglass batts. That’s why! Don’t you READ the blog? Well? Huh?  🙂

Not feeling silly enough yet? Okay, let’s pave the road to “Dufasberg” further… 🙂

Now… just add (on your own dime, because we’re just trying to compare “likey-likey”) a concrete foundation or an elevated wood deck platform, maybe a solar panel to help with domestic hot water production, and even a photovoltaic panel or two, to bump that utility meter backwards a little bit… plus the necessary electrical and plumbing.

Back to “spendy-spendy…”:

Waterproof it (just in case, even though that closed-cell insulation forms both a water AND a vapor barrier), side it, and slap some felt and shingles on the roof.

Roofing material for that 325+ square foot roof is going to cost you about $600.00

After all that, you still have about $8,200.00 to play with.

Put some kind of siding on the outside of the house.

I’ll give you a grand to do that with…

Now, you’re down to $7,200.00.

Figure a kitchen at  (let’s be generous, okay?) about $3,000.00;

$500    36″ Stove
$500    Refrigerator
$250    Sink (double) and fixtures
$200    Microwave (?)  Or your wife will kill you…
$900    Cabinets – Home Depot or Lowe’s – El Cheapo’s
$165    Countertops (I’ll make them outta stained concrete)

That’s $2,515 bucks… So, you can afford a new set of pots and pans…

… and a decent bathroom runs right at $2000.00;

$725    60″ x 42″ Tub/Tub Surround/Shower Access
$250    Toilet
$150    Sink and fixtures
$250    Lavatory Cabinet
$250    Tile for flooring

$500   Hot Water Heater  (40 gallon at least…)

$2,125.00 IF you bought everything at retail.  Oops… My bad…

But, we did have a few bucks left over from the kitchen, so we’re okay…

And you’ll need a heat source…I’d buy a wood stove, if I wanted to stay in budget. Can you say “Craigslist?”

But… Here’s what I’d actually do… even if I had to cut out my kid’s allowance to pay for it;

I’d go out and get  a 1.5 ton Heat-A/C unit like this one…

m_s_splitAnd, yes… even the “Dome nuts” agree with me that it uses 50% less energy than other existing HVAC units.

If you’re “careful shoppers,” and you “google” your brains out… that HVAC system is gonna cost you about $3,000.00 to $3,500.00. I know it sounds steep, but you’ll thank me later…

Now, you have a home that can be heated to 72 degrees year round – summer heat or winter snow… for just pennies a day. Plus, it has a built in battery back up system that will operate it for up to 12 hours, if the power fails.

It runs on DC voltage, too. Couple that baby with a dedicated photovoltaic panel array, and you’d have a killer heat/cooling system, that didn’t cost you a dime to operate. Ever.

Okay… ‘cept maintenance. Sheesh… everybody’s a critic! 🙂

It’s not like I’ve actually thought this out or anything, but…

Do all that, and then throw in some nice patio furniture (because it’s cheap, durable, washable, easy to haul up there in your pick-up, and it’s probably on sale right now, at a Walmart near you!) and voila!

Instant “BOB” (“Bug-Out-Box”) easily assembled in a week.

A WEEK. TWO weeks… TOPS.

And, if you’re careful, you’ll probably have spent that $15,000+ that those dome guys were trying to “bamboozle” you out of… but you’ll have AN ENTIRE HOUSE, filled with BRAND SPANKING NEW appliances and fixtures.

Okay, they’re not really trying to bamboozle you!!  Those domes cost money! They put some serious work into producing them. They’re worth every penny that you spend for them, in the right conditions and circumstances.

If  I was faced with ANY of the scenario’s that I described up at the top of this post… (especially that “cult one…”) I’d buy one, myself… or maybe 12!  😉

But, for that kinda money, or maybe a little bit more (if you buy the “super deluxe” HVAC unit I showed you) you can have an entire house that will last for years… that any idiot can build… all by themselves in just a few weekends….

AFTER they built the foundation, and installed the septic tank. Duh!   😉

So what if it’s not an ISBU! I don’t care, as long as your family is safe. That’s the ONLY thing I care about…

And… it’ll be complete and ready to move into at a moment’s notice.

For a few bucks more, you can turn that same box into an eco-friendly completely off-grid home (simply by adding some more photovoltaic panels to your array), perfect for weekends in the mountains, or even as an emergency shelter, when things go nuts.

brad_pittBrad Pitt… what a moron… lucky… but a moron if he thinks these domes are the answer to “permanent housing”… IMHO.

I hope he doesn’t.  Angelina deserves better…  😉

(Picture Ronin rolling his eyes, and waving his finger in a circle around his ear…)

Now, if I build one of these little houses… (again… Shhhh!)… I’m gonna come in WAY under that…

… because I’m going to use salvaged cabinets from a “Habitat for Humanity” store, recycled “appliances and fixtures,” and anything else I can get “recycled,” like doors and windows.

And, I’ll do almost ALL of the labor myself.

I’ll spend about $10-12,000 to do it, all the way through. And, you’ll never be able to tell the difference.

Wait… yes you will… Mine will be the one surrounded with barbed wire…  and “Border Buddy” landmines. 😉

YOU could do it too. This ain’t rocket science…

In conclusion (I bet you thought that this would never end, huh?);

Those polycarbonate domes would be terrific as “fast-set” Emergency Housing, or a FEMA alternative. Any idiot (myself included) can see that! And, they’d also be great for temporary quarters for a homeless population while permanent structures were being prepared.

But as a “permanent” solution? No, I’m not convinced.

But wouldn’t they make a cool “camping” alternative?

“I’m sleeping in that camo speedbump, right over yonder…”

(I know… I’m gonna get “hate mail,” and probably even a letter from Intershelter’s lawyers…)

But Ronin… I have 8 kids…

I bet you’re wondering WHY I chose to build 8′ x 8′ wall segments, right?

How big is the business end of a shipping container? Hmmm?

POP QUIZ: Do the math.

C’mon… you knew I was gonna slip a container or two in there somewhere, now didn’t you?  😉

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOkay, you all know what’s going on with my family, so I’m not going to beat you up with that…

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to… You can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right.

Paypal is the VERY BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours.

This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water…

9 Nov

Greetings…

Grab your swim fins and masks, because we’re gonna get wet today.

No! We’re not “free-diving” looking for lost shipping containers to salvage in our quest to build a home! There are enough of them parked on our shores already! Mountains of them!

pirate-snorkeling

You see, we should at least get as wet as the knuckleheads in Congress, who see nothing wrong with piling so much debt onto our already aching backs, that we can’t labor under the load.

Wait… that’s not it…

But, the water IS getting deeper.

There’s talk of postponing the actual release of hundreds of thousands of tax credit claims, due to fraud.

The guys hiding behind those steel desks at the Internal Revenue Service are examining more than 200,000 suspicious claims for the first-time home-buyer tax break.

I just wrote a post about this credit. You did read it, right?

Well, it’s just another sign of trouble for the soon-to-expire “give-away” program.

Now, I recently told you about this bill, so that you wouldn’t get scared when you heard all that howling outside, as builders try to pry more money out of Congress, in the form of an extension to the “first-time home buyer” tax credit.

In February, those wizards in Congress adopted a measure as part of the economic-stimulus bill, that gives first-time buyers an $8,000 tax credit. This was done in an effort to boost sales and stimulate the hemorrhaging housing market.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so the program is set to end Nov. 30, 2009.

But… builders, housing-industry leaders, and lobbyists by the busload are lobbying those poltroons in Congress to extend it.

In fact, lobby money is flying around Washington DC right now, like hornets after that naughty rock-wielding kid who challenged their nest! 🙂

According to records, over one million claims for the credit have been received so far, and experts have estimated that the credit has helped generate over a quarter of a million home sales (conservatively) that wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t have) otherwise occurred.

But there’s trouble brewing… Some lawmakers and tax experts now say there is evidence that a significant number of the claims might prove to be unjustified, or even fraudulent.

Why? Because Congress knows the smell of crime when they smell it. They’re used to it. You can’t go to Capitol Hill without having to hold your nose…

“I am concerned about recent reports that there have been fraudulent schemes involving the credit,” Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), chairman of a House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said in a statement. The subcommittee is planning a hearing on the problems on Thursday.

Why? Because there will be cameras there! It’s better than a CSPAN BBQ!

The IRS says that it is currently investigating several hundred “criminal schemes” involving the credit, but because of  “legal requirements,” IRS officials declined to describe the suspected schemes or provide any additional details.

The National Director of AARP Tax-Aide, Bonnie Speedy, which is a volunteer service for low-income people, suggested that criminal abuse of the home-purchase credit appeared to be running rampant, in part because of relatively loose standards for claiming the credit in the first place.

The credit “has some fraud issues because it’s not being done at the time of the sale,” said Ms. Speedy. “People are filing for the home credit who don’t have a right to file for it.”

You see… the taxpayers don’t have to file their claims as part of any on-going real-estate transaction. All you have to do is file or amend their income-tax returns to claim the $8,000 bucks in the form of a credit.

I “googled” her, so I could include a photo, but all I found was a girl on MySpace, and a porn star… Oh well…

An IRS spokesman said the agency “will vigorously pursue those who filed fraudulent claims” for the credit.

And we know what that means… Bite marks in your butt, for sure. The IRS pursues money, like bears pursue campers in the possession of honey.

You in a heap O’ trouble now, boy… 😉

“The IRS recognizes that there is a potential for fraud whenever a new refundable tax credit … is put in place,” agency spokesman Frank Keith said. “As we began implementing this credit in the days after the Recovery Act legislation was passed, we also identified the different  types of potential fraud, and matched our compliance program to those abuses.”

A spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, Lucien Salvant, said, “Any time there is a lot of money around, there is going to be people attracted to it with evil intent.”

Like, for instance… Realtors trying to close a deal… 🙂

Okay, that was uncalled for… I apologize…

I left out Real Estate Lawyers… 🙂

(Ain’t I a stinker?” 🙂

Housing-industry officials recently have stepped up their lobbying for an extension of the credit.

But, I already told you that. You WERE paying attention, right? 🙂

The builders want an extension… say… like about 12 months. And let’s just forget about this “first – time buyer” nonsense, huh? How about you guys make it apply to EVERYBODY? Hmmm?

“Our fragile economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery,” the letter says. “We should not jeopardize that recovery by letting this tax credit expire.”

That Realtor guy I quoted earlier? Well… Mr. Salvant said the industry groups weren’t suggesting any changes to the credit policy aimed at diminishing possible fraud.

Why not? Well, according to a Realtor I spoke with this morning…  that would make people leery of using that credit, and those deals wouldn’t get past the shadow of the front porches of all those empty houses.

Get this:

One proposal by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) and others to extend the credit and make it available to all home buyers through June 2010 carries a price tag of about $16.7 billion.

That proposal would raise the income ceiling for eligible home buyers to $150,000 per year for an individual and $300,000 for a couple. Currently the credit phases out for individuals earning more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000.

What do my favorite “think tank guru’s” say about all of this?

Ted Gayer, an economist at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank based in Washington, estimated that the current credit costs the government about $43,000 for each additional home sale it generates, because most of the two million or so home buyers expected to claim the credit would have bought a house anyway. Expanding the credit to all home buyers would raise the government’s cost per additional home sale to more than $250,000, he said.

Yikes… That mountain of debt is getting higher. I hope our children and grandchildren can find enough oxygen masks…

Oy.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninLook, I’m a “housing advocate.” Of course I want you to have a house! It’s my GOAL.
But, I don’t want to force everybody else to pay for it, for decades.
I want my kids to at least have a chance for success, without having to operate under a monumental mountain of debt created by idiots… that will enslave them and destroy their chance for a bright future, before they even reach puberty! Capish?

We’re here to help you… by killing your chances of success!

4 Nov

Ready… aim… fire!

Are DOE loan standard requirements actually shooting down good projects?

We’re a country in search of affordable, sustainable, and “environmentally friendly” fuel. Right?

Well, good luck getting it!

You see… once again, Big Government is there to jump in and lend a hand.

How? Well… apparently by making it nearly impossible to get it.

I’ve told you about “government analysts” that are basically “hired guns,” whose job it is… to shoot down viable energy projects. Seriously.

“We have money and you can’t get it… Na-na-na-na-na-nahhhhhh!”

But wait! There’s more…

In Washington, the US Department of Energy is requiring that renewable energy projects meet a debt rating standard higher than 63 percent of all US corporate first-time debt issuers since 2007, in order to qualify for DOE loan guarantees. The loan guarantees were originally designed “to encourage early commercial use in the United States of new or significantly improved technologies in energy projects.”

A ‘BB or higher’ rating requirement chokes bioenergy development, say bankers, attorneys, and project developers.

Okay… here’s the meat of the issue;

Congressional legislation for DOE loan guarantees typically require “a reasonable prospect of repayment of the principal and interest on the obligation by the borrower.”

The Department of Energy is generally left with the responsibility of interpreting “reasonable”.

In this case, the DOE, as advised by investment banks, has developed minimum threshold for loan guarantees of a “BB” or higher rating (prior to the guarantee).

According to Standard & Poor’s, 333 of all US corporate first-time debt issues since 2007 – out of a total of 528, failed to meet that standard.

In many cases, these issuers would not have been attempting to bring transformative technologies to market in support of  national policy – based on what EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said was designed to produce “green jobs, innovation and technology, and action on global climate change.”

Once again, it’s apparent that money has been placed into a non-existent pipe by Congress, so that they can make claims that they’re actually doing their jobs.

Is it any wonder that all the jobs are going to Malaysia?

According to David Jacob, Executive Managing Director and Head of Structures Finance Ratings for Standard & Poor, ratings for renewable energy projects range from BBB- to CCC, with a preponderance of ratings weighted towards CCC, or two ratings below the threshold set by the DOE. Jacob was speaking at a recent meeting on energy finance in New Jersey.

My personal thanks to the fine folks at  BioFuels Digest for bringing this to my attention, and for ruining my day…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin