Tag Archives: ISBU

Every Tree Needs Roots!

23 May

As we venture into Spring (we still haven’t gotten our 15 seconds of Spring in Montana yet…) LOL!

We’re getting questions from readers about “process”. Everyone is eager to start their building adventures, paving their roads toward their ISBU (Shipping Container Home) dreams and we couldn’t be more pleased and inspired.

Many families are beginning their paths by talking to local experts, trying to gauge the places they’ll put their trust, their dreams and their futures.

We received this email recently and thought it was relevant enough to share it with the rest of you. Building projects begin as hopes, dreams and aspirations. The holder of that dream then gifts it to someone else who will become responsible for turning that dream into a reality.

But along the way, that custodian of your creation will call on others to assist him/her in order to insure that your dream becomes a reality.

Let’s just jump in, shall we?

“Dear Alex,

Q. I just left an interview/consult session with a local Architect. When we were discussing fees, he included fees for several other engineers, including a structural engineer. WTH? If an Architect goes to school to learn to design a building or residence, why then does he/she even need a structural engineer?

Isn’t that the point of Architecture School in the first place?”
The short answer is this:

Successful Architectural projects are collaborations. The architect designs the building. The engineering team ensures the building meets local building codes and that it is physically possible to build. Most engineers have no idea whatsoever or little experience on how to maximize light exposure for certain facilities, including both natural and artificial light, but an architect does. Most engineers have little to no idea how play with materials and textures to maximize comfort, but an architect does. Most architects have little to no idea how to even measure a complex structure response to most accidental load scenarios like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding etc. But an engineer does. Most architects have little to no idea how to design infrastructure projects such as dams, bridges, highways, railroads, etc. But an engineer does.

Think of it like this:

An architect is like a big, beautiful tree…  and that engineering team is a vital part of it’s trunk and root system.

This engineering support system gives life to the tree. The input of the engineers provides the strength to the tree and makes it possible for that tree to live (and even bear fruit) for a long, long time.

Architects don’t know “everything” about construction.

Some like to think they do but the reality is actually much different.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Architects know a LOT, but an architect is still just a “generalist”. An architect actually needs all sorts of engineers to create and complete a project successfully.

In a nutshell, the architect is the conductor and the engineers (and other specialists) are the musicians. They have to work together to complete a project. It’s a orchestra of skills.

It is up to the conductor (architect) to take overall responsibility and coordinate the overall intention of the project. The conductor has to have some basic knowledge of the musicians’ (engineers) instruments. However, the overall success depends on the skill and experience of the individual musicians (engineers). You can’t do one without the other.

The architect creates, orchestrates and oversees the building project design and usually provides oversight during construction. However, the engineers are specialists and they play their parts in the orchestra by being tasked with the design and oversight of their specific trades and project aspects only:

  • The architect plans, organizes (orchestrates) and gives form and space to the building project.
  • The architect develops a design that finds solutions and fulfills the client’s requirements.
  • The architect presents this information to the planning boards, review committees and building authorities.
  • The architect obtains planning approvals, obtains permits and other required documents required for the construction of the project.
  • The architect is also responsible for special (particularly safety) aspects such as building code classifications, fire separations, exits, emergency exits, emergency systems, and egress stairs as well as insuring that all accessibility requirements are met.

In addition to this, the architect usually provides the “Architectural Artistry” the project brings to the community – this because the determination of whether it is a work of art or not depends on how it will later be judged by the clients and the public at large. You can bet that this judgement will be based in a large part on the actual design of the project.

As the design leader, the architect usually conceptualizes the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems – and coordinates all of it. Again, he/she is the conductor.

However, the architect relies on the various specialist engineers to assess and assist, to finalize and take responsibility with calculations, detailing and oversight. The “musicians”.

For most buildings constructed in most places, only qualified engineers can provide these specialized engineering services. The architect is – by law in most places – required by virtue of their generalist training and certification and is licensed to “practice architecture” and NOT engineering.

Structural engineers don’t go to traditional architectural schools or classes. They are required to study Civil Engineering courses designed to build the required skills allowing them to resolve structural and other engineering aspects of a project. Because of this education, they are licensed to ‘practice structural engineering’, and not architecture.

You don’t need an architect to design “everything”. Certain buildings that are not intended primarily for human occupancy may not be required to be designed by an architect.

In those cases, a civil engineer usually takes the lead role – as in the case of the construction of bridges and roads.

Also, building projects such as small square footage houses often don’t need any professionals at the design level to be involved. These projects are often designed by technical / design drafting services or even design/build contractors.

While your architect will bring your dream to life, those engineers involved are vital to it’s creation. Put simply, engineers have to come up with solutions to complex problems and implement them; they literally shape the world that we live in.

For those of you out there considering a trade path, there are many different specialties within civil engineering. These include environmental, structural, electrical, municipal, transportation and geotechnical engineering services. Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in both the public and private sector. These projects include roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

If you really want to push the envelope, look for a University that has an Architectural Engineering program.  If you do this, send us your shipping address and we’ll start sending you as many Tylenol tablets as you can eat. You’re going to need them! This challenging path insures many, many long nights of bookwork and studying!  LOL!

To the Mountains! To the Sea! Wait! BOTH! :)

13 Sep

Dear Container Gurus,

My wife and I have been readers of your blogs for a long time. I bought your book. We loved it and it actually gave us hope. On television, all you see are the high dollar builds by people with huge wallets  and even bigger egos. Your ISBU homes are affordable and efficient, aimed at caring for growing families. It’s exactly what we crave!

(I even sent you fan mail hoping that someday my ship would come in and I’d be able  to build my own Corten Castle using shipping containers under your leadership!)

We’re sold on the ability to prefab the ISBUs in a garage and then haul them to the site. We love the idea that ISBUs are just modular building blocks. We love the idea that due to their nature (they’re just big blocks) you can make them look like anything you want.

We love the idea of a rustic ISBU cabin type weekend home clad in plank siding and shingles.

Well, my ship came in and this time, I wasn’t waiting for a plane at the airport. I’ve inherited a small parcel up in the mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s ours free and clear and it already has a well and a septic tank installed.

Sounds good, right? Well…

Every pearl has it’s price. This little hunk of heaven in Washington State is the site of a settlers cabin that burned down. After we cleared away all the debris and the garbage, we discovered that we only have about 480 usable square feet to actually build on.

What we’d like to build is a small/tiny ISBU weekend home that incorporates the following;

  • A single car garage – we drive a sports car and not a 4wd truck
  • Garage area needs the ability to convert into a make-shift art studio
  • A main floor for communal purposes with 1/2 bath – possible Murphy bed
  • Dishwasher – love to cook, hate  to do dishes
  • A computer desk instead of a dining table
  • A full bedroom with shower bath
  • A rooftop terrace so that we can take in the sunsets with PVs on the roof

We’d like to keep as much of the cabin’s structure as “non-organic” as possible. Living in the forest means fires. We’d like to avoid combustion as much as possible. 🙂

People will hang decks off ever side they can to capitalize on the view. If we build a  rooftop deck, we don’t NEED the eyesores that everyone else builds. Our ISBU home will be “monumental” and not “ornamental”, if that makes any sense.

The actual building  site is approximately 20′ x 24′. Is this  even possible  using ISBUs?

Dear Sunsetters,

Can you climb a loft ladder? LOL!

If so, I think I have an ISBU Tiny Home that you might find interesting.

For several years, I’ve been fascinated by the “Fire Tower” type structures scattered throughout the National Forests where I live in Montana.  I love the idea that you can actually live high enough in the treeline to be able to take in “the big view” every single day and night.

A while back, somebody sent me a rough line drawing of a single level “tiny house” that was laid out “studio style” above a natural stone first floor. It looked like it belonged in a Forest Ranger’s custody as he/she guarded our wilderness. And it made me start thinking about the possibilities.

Actually, it made me start thinking about how you could easily adapt that idea to use 20′ High Cube Containers stacked 2 wide and 2 high. Stacked 2 over 2 on a first floor constructed  of CMUs (concrete block), you could literally build a three story “tiny home” quickly and efficiently.

I’ve played with the original drawings myself, adapting them to ISBU construction and it’s actually much easier than it looks.

Build your first floor garage (16′ x 20′ approximately) out of cinderblocks. Obviously, this means that your garage door goes on the  “short wall”. I’d build a steel “cradle” into the top of that garage structure to receive the ISBUs. Clad your first floor in native stone for that rustic “cabin” vibe.

ISBU Micro-Condo - GarageNow, set (2) 20′ ISBUs onto the top of that cinderblock garage to fly your “main” floor.

ISBU Micro-Condo - 1st(2) Additional 20′ ISBUs get set on top of the Main Floor ISBUs to form your bedroom level.

ISBU Micro-Condo
The interior of the garage gets SPF or Rigid insulation and a covering of plywood. Yes. Plywood. Stringers set  before SPF (spray foam closed cell insulation) is applied will give you anchors for your interior (plywood) cladding and that plywood will allow you to hang whatever you want, wherever you want. The Olympic Peninsula is legendary for it’s rainfall. Why hang sheetrock that will get damaged by moisture? If you want to stabilize the temperatures to do artwork, you have to insulate.  If you’re  worried about the plywood interior combusting in a firestorm, fire retardant materials can be applied.

Insulate the exteriors of the ISBUs with SPF or rigid insulation and then apply your siding in the usual manner.  I’d suggest that you use something like Hardiplank. Hardiplank is a fiber-cement siding material that consists of a combination of cellulose fibers, along with cement-like materials.  It doesn’t expand. It doesn’t contract. It’s extremely stable. If you want strong, durable  concrete based siding that is good looking and guaranteed to last for decades, you want Hardiplank.

(NO! They don’t pay us to say that. It’s just pointless to reinvent a wheel that works so well. It’s a little harder to install. You need to wear eye protection and a mask to work with it – to keep the dust out of your lungs and eyes. But once it’s on, it’s on for decades without maintenance. )

Again, consider running the siding “the wrong way”. It will draw viewers eyes UP to the roof, increasing the stature of your structure.

IF you run the siding “up and down” with a gap between panels, you can actually catch rain to focus into a rain gutter located at the base of your wall. Use this “gutter” to not only collect rainwater for irrigation, but to actually plant herbs in. We fab a “channeled gutter” that actually has space in it specifically for planting. Weepholes in the channeled gutter allow water into the root area of your planters. Think of it as “drip irrigation” with an assist from Mother Nature. It sounds crazy but it works better than you can imagine. You get herbs and garden watering without lifting a finger. 🙂

A rainwater harvesting system built into your roof will provide a  LOT of water in your location. One of the really nice things about the  Olympic Peninsula is the regular rainfall the area is blessed with.  You can build 1300 gallon tanks out of galvanized pipe.

ferguson-residence- 2 - 1300 gallon -outdoor-rainwater-retention - tanks

Okay, forget the hokey chain link fence. Don’t blame ME. Blame Dwell Magazine. It’s where the illustration came from! 🙂

Clad the upper ISBU levels in dark earth tone Hardiplank. Again (can you tell I’m serious?), I’d run the plank siding vertically instead of horizontally to visually “pop” that structure straight up into the sky.

Think BIG glass. You don’t need to go get “custom windows” made. I’d use the large insulated panes we use on malls and skyscrapers to fill in “the big holes”. It’s important to draw nature in when you’re building confined spaces.  Use high quality, energy efficient windows everywhere that you need windows for ventilation. We often combine big panes with repurposed basement windows below them to allow for ventilation.

The “Main level” incorporates everything from your wish list and includes a custom “lift up” living room table that expands into a dining room table. It’s not really “customm”. It’s a catalog table easy to resource.

(2) Chairs could be exchanged for a “pull out” sofa bed system.

The bedroom is comfortable, cozy and spacious. Pedestal bed system for added storage. Glass Block shower to let in light so that you don’t feel “confined” while you shower. Full sized organizer closet. You get the drift.

Beyond the mini-split A/C Heat units on both levels, I really want you to consider using the flue from the woodstove to help heat the bedroom level.  We put diffusers on the flue pipe that not only protect you from the hot flue but add a cool artistic element to your room. It’s not Sci Fi, it’s just heat radiation. Hot air rises. Between the heat generated in the main floor area by that wood stove and the heat that radiates from the flue pipe, you’ll be cozy even in hard winters.

I can easily picture an alternating step staircase that could be set into the Bedroom staircase landing leading up to the terrace level. Or, you could  use a traditional ladder affixed to the bathroom wall. In either case, a hatch would allow easy access to the terrace. I’d op for a big alternating step staircase because of it’s added artistic element and ease of transit by everyone from children to adults. I know you want to keep the cabin “non-organic” but it’s hard to resist framing your rooftop terrace level with timber-framing and then topping it with shingles. Realistically, you could steel frame the terrace and then clad the structural members with siding, boxing them in so that they appear to be solid beams/timbers.

A nice gable pitch would give you more than enough room for a photovoltaic panel farm on  the roof with enough pitch to shed snow.

You might also consider building in glazed frames to make that three season rooftop a four season wonder to behold. Hinge them to swing down onto locking sashes and you’d be able to secure the entire terrace in minutes.

I can just imagine sitting in a soaking tub on that terrace, watching the sun set into the Pacific… while I think about buddies  of mine in Seattle, stuck in downtown traffic… LOL!

Until next time…

RR Avatar

I’m getting some Corten Chickens…

10 Dec

Mose people who read the blog or our Facebook page know that we’re caught in the cold grips of a pretty severe Arctic Storm. It’s been at or sub-zero for weeks.

As rural residents, this brings several issues to the forefront as you deal with the cold, blizzards, lack of mobility and safety.  In the woods, you’re on your own.

Many of you that are following our “farm exploits” know that as of Spring 2014 our poultry and rabbits will be housed in 20′ ISBUs (Shipping containers) that have been remodeled, insulated and heated. The reasons for this are numerous, but include defense against predation, Mother Nature and “two legged miscreants bent on getting free eggs and meat”. The fact that they are actually “movable” should mean the we’re gonna break the record for the World’s Largest Chicken Tractors… LOL!

We posted a short blurb on Facebook, to see if there was any interest in this.  Within about an hour, we received 17 PMs (private messages) asking for ISBU (Shipping Container) Chicken Coop images.

So, again for the record – In SPRING 2014… our poultry and small livestock (rabbits, etc…) will be housed in ISBU based Corten Steel outbuildings.

As we get these ISBU based “Chicken Castles” laid out and constructed, I’ll share them with you. Let me get them going in the right direction,  huh? : )

I posted this to “seed” interest as many of us are seeing our livestock and birds oppressed by predation and theft. We’re trying to figure out a cost effective, weatherized (self contained) way to accomplish it. ISBUs allow a ready made, transportable, weather-resistant container that is perfect for creating strong “livestock systems.” The nice thing about using 20′ ISBUs is that they are easily moved with a forklift. Couple that with some recycled rigid insulation, a small bank or Photovoltaic panels on the roof to make power for heat and operate fans for venting, etc… and you have something pretty impressive.

Stay tuned.

RR Avatar

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

I’m in the hole… and it’s wet in here…

20 Nov

NOTE: Apparently there are those among us that mistook this abbreviated response to a question for a COMPLETE BLUEPRINT on how to build a swimming pool out of a shipping container.

This is a Brief OVERVIEW to demonstrate that it can indeed be accomplished. There are several steps that are inferred or not described here that must be taken in order to make this work.

Anyone expecting a “one page do-it-yourself to completion” novel is naive and shouldn’t be around tools with an edge. Capish?

Now… back to our regularly scheduled program;

Daddy, I WANNA POOL! I want it NOW! Daddy? Are you listening, Daddy? Daaaaaaady!

Yes, young Jedi… It’s easy to build a lap pool from a 40′ High Cube ISBU shipping container… IF you start planning now.

Recently, I was lurking a friend’s blog, where there is a rampant discussion going on about using ISBUs (Shipping Containers) as housing.

And, one of the readers asked about whether or not you could actually use one of these big steel boxes, as a Swimming Pool.

The answer is: YES.

Note: Don’t do this if it’s already snowing outside. Playing in the snow is for kids and idiots. Remember, H1N1 is not your friend. Just tell your kids;

“Hey you should’a spoke up sooner. Maybe next year!” 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah…

We’ve used ISBU’s as the “mold” for lap pools a few times. I personally plan to do it again. It “mystifies” the neighbors.

Hurricane Katrina knocked the heck out of my photo collection, so you’re going to have to visualize this. You can do it… I’ll type slow. 😉

Now, before you think I’m completely nuts, here’s a guy who’s doing the same thing… albeit above ground, with trash dumpsters.

Yeah, I know “New Yorker’s” are crazy!  Have you seen what they pay for apartments in the city? Oy freakin’ Vey! I’d have a heart attack once a month, when the rent came due!  But… this guy… he gets paparazzi and media hype, and everything! 🙂

So… First thing you do, is grab a shovel.

Not that namby-pamby “use your hands and get some blisters” kinda shovel… THIS kind of shovel;

Once you get that… find a sunny spot, dig your hole, and then shore up the insides, to prevent a cave-in, later.

Dig your hole several feet longer than the container, on the “door” end. You’ll see why later.

Remember, the skin on a container is just that. SKIN. It’s not designed to take a load – soil OR water. If you don’t believe me, read THIS.

Now, to build a retaining wall to PROTECT the ISBU that will be the pool…

You can use cinder blocks, a thin steel-reinforced (rebar) concrete wall, even railroad ties… But use SOMETHING, or you’ll be either sorry, or a guest star on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

(BTW: If you win the $10 grand, remember your ‘friends,’ huh?) 😉

First, lay the ISBU on it’s SIDE.

Now, cut out the NEW top. Grind the “cut” lip smooth. Guess what? Wider pool.

And that pool’s gonna hold about 11,000 – 12,000 gallons of water.

Added for clarification: (Dec 2010)

NOTE: OBVIOUSLY that means reinforcing the ISBU.

Hint: 2″x2″ steel tubing. LOTS of it.

Cut out your drains in the bottom. Install your water returns in the sides. Do your plumbing.

Remember, don’t sniff the glue, and rightie tightie… LOL!

Now, install your drain lines in your hole, and then build a one course outline of your container bottom so that the container will sit above your plumbing. Now fill in ‘that’ inside hole until it’s level… with gravel.

Now, drag the ISBU into your hole.

Okay… don’t drag it, drop it in there carefully, after lining everything up. Be careful of the returns if you’ve placed them outside the container, in the gap between the retaining wall system.

Some people actually prefer the “outside plumbing” method. I’m not one of them.

But if YOU are… Now, you can backfill into the gap between the container and the retaining wall, if you want. Some people use gravel, some use dirt.

Hey, use old socks if you want to, but just make sure that you fill up the gaps. You don’t want the container to “bow out” after you’ve filled it with water.

I prefer gravel. It’s easy to place, strong, and easy to get back out if I have to… Click heels three times… I hope I don’t. I hope I don’t…

On the inside, most people line the container to get smooth sides. It’s easier to clean. Plus, it gives you a place to run your water return lines INSIDE the container.

Just some inspiration!

This is the best way. It’s the “Ronin Way.” Several sheets of plywood. Sand it smooth, or get the good stuff.

If your kid keeps missing his curfew, it’s a weekend of “Wax on, Wax off” with an orbital sander…

Who says you have to beat them? 😉

Now, here’s where it gets tricky…

You need a place to put the pump and filters, right? Well, that container has doors on it.

Remember?

At the door end… (remember the container is on it’s side now, so the doors will be hinged at the top and bottom) build a wall out of concrete, masonry, or whatever you can handle about 4 feet or so into the box. Make it “strong and thick” and insure that it’s firmly attached to the container because it’s going to have water pressing against it. Use tapcons or something similar to attach your new wall to the container sides.

This is going to form the ROOM for your pool apparatus, and supply storage.

Now, it’s below grade, so you’ll have to build steps down to it. But that will be cool, literally. Use cinder blocks to build retaining walls on either side, to keep the dirt from falling in Again with the cinder clocks… I know, I know… But, you’ll look like you did in high school, when you’re finished!

Think of this as Corten Calisthenics.

Build some cool steps down into the hole. Don’t bump your head on the “door/cover.”

Now, go get some sand. A LOT of sand… A truckload of sand. Builders sand.

Don’t steal it from the beach! The Green-Peacer’s will beat you to death with a biodegradable bucket and shovel!

Relax, I know what you’re thinking… All that sand… Oy Vey! Use a backhoe or a Bobcat, or a bunch of unruly kids that you are currently punishing for setting the house on fire or wrecking the car.

Even MORE inspiration!

Dump it into the big empty end of the container, and then sculpt it to form your slope for the bottom. Nobody wants a pool without a shallow end. Not all of us are Michael Phelps!

Build some steps down into the shallow end. You can use lumber, if you’re careful. Otherwise, consider forming and using concrete.

Okay, if you did it right, you now have a pool that’s about 34+’ long, and over 7 feet deep now, at the deepest point. You also have a built in pool room that is almost 8′ high, about 4 ‘ deep, and almost 9’ wide.

Now… Open that top door UP, and put a post under each end. Now, you have a covered porch on your pool room.  Open the bottom one, and either remove it, or even use it as a deck.

You can easily enclose this space using a small insulated wall and a door, to cut down on pump noise.

That done, get some liner track from the pool supply store, and install it around the top edge of the container. Once you’ve finished doing that, install the plastic pool liner that you can buy from any pool supply company or store. It will fit into the liner track.

WHAT? A Vinyl pool? Ronin… Are you freakin’ nuts?

Nope. You wanna do this “yourself” or not?

The idea here is to take an ISBU container and turn it into an affordable pool, for less than half the cost of going to a turnkey pool company.

You can go fiberglass… But not in a ISBU shell. It’s a shame too, because frankly, fiberglass is the way to go. Easy maintenance, lower chemical usage, and long life that is relatively hassle-free.

But you had to go and use an ISBU… 😉

I’ve never seen a fiberglass shell that would drop into an ISBU cavity.

You can go “Gunite,” but you better have an extra $10,000 – $15,000 laying around, because you’re going to need it. Oh yeah, you’ll need a couple of contractors too. And laborers. Lot’s of laborers…

And Gunite (or concrete) pools require more chemicals, have a rougher surface (thus they are harder to clean) and they usually need replastering at about year 8-10.

Now… IF you go VINYL, you’ll be able to install most everything all by your “onesies.” As in, you and the family. And they’re easy to maintain, and fairly easy on chemicals.

There are drawbacks. People will tell you that the liner will wear out in 3-5 years. Bull. Liners last 10 years, easy. Some last longer. And, the current crop are starting to approach that 25 year “degrade and decay” mark, IF the pool is properly maintained and taken care of.

Realtors will tell you that a homebuyer won’t like your “plastic pool.” So what? You’ll have gotten years of pleasure out of it.

And you didn’t have to drive all the way to the beach, lake, or river…   waste relaxation time stuck in traffic, fight for a parking space, fight for some sand to stake out, buy “overpriced and under-quality” concession stuff that they try to pass of as “food and drinks,” or dirty up your car with sand and debris on the way back.  You’ll have saved enough to pay for this pool, and then some.

Just look at the Realtor and laugh. Screw them. They don’t like it, THEY can haul it out to the curb!

Yes, you’ll probably have to buy the pool liner material (which isn’t exactly cheap), and you might even have to make your own, depending on the length you go with. Or you might find a custom house that will do all the work for you. If you do this in the off-season (when work is slow), you’ll get a terrific bargain. You’ll figure this out with a few phone calls.  And, if you’re really worried about that alleged pool liner “imminent failure”… this is a perfect opportunity to DOUBLE the thickness of that lining, to help prevent any tears or leaks. This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Ask your local pool guy.

We did. Our last lap pool liner was a  “thick” vinyl custom, and it cost $2800, straight from the liner company. (It cost more than a normal “custom” liner because we used a much heavier vinyl that was harder to work with. If we’d used regular pool liner, it would’ve come in about $1500 or so.) We sent them detailed dimensions, they did all the work, and we got a really high quality product. If we’d “done it ourselves,” or waited until Spring…  it would’ve cost about $4000.00 or more. Your mileage may vary.

Put it in the hole. Make sure the shallow end of the liner is in the shallow end of the pool. You’d be surprised how many people make this mistake and waste time and effort. Install your drains.

Here’s a good “blow by blow” of installing a pool liner.

It includes how you attach the liner to each pool step. It’s not as colorful as it would have been if I’d written it, but hey… that just guarantees that you’ll understand it! 🙂

Now you have a plastic lined rectangular custom pool in a steel reinforced shell.

After you’ve installed your pool liner you can secure it using decking, tiles, or whatever suits your fancy, No one is going to know that you used a shipping container.

Now, install your pool water returns, traps, etc… and the pool pump/filtration system.

Now’s also a perfect time to add that solar pool water heating panel into the loop…

And maybe a few photovoltaic panels to run the pump and filter…

Can’t you just picture yourself lounging out here?

Now… about the top of that “pool room…”

Frame in a wood deck the same size as your “pool room” roof. Make sure that there are spaces between the wood decking slats. Now your pool room is basically weathered in, and it can breathe. If you’re a pool pump or filtration system, you need to breathe, trust me.

Add water, jello, or even chocolate milk. I don’t care.

Well… I do care. Chocolate milk is gonna get pretty stinky in about six hours… If you plan on doing this, make sure that you’re downwind of me, huh?

Here’s a tip for you;

SALT Chlorination.  It’s much cheaper, and a lot safer.

Did you know that seawater is used to make laundry bleach? Yep. That’s right. And if it works in the laundry, it’ll work in the pool.

All you have to do is use a Salt Chlorine Generator. But why would you do this?

Ever get out of a pool with red, burning eyes? Well, it was a chemical burn from the chlorine.

Using SALT is WAY better than using chlorine chemicals. Initially, a certain amount of salt is added to the water. As water passes over the chlorinator’s specially coated plates, an electric current breaks down the salt and water into their basic elements to form sodium hypochlorite, which is the active sanitizer in all forms of chlorine. The chlorine kills algae and bacteria in the water and oxidizes the waste. Thereafter, the chlorine regenerates itself back to salt and begins the process over again in a virtually unending cycle. Since salt does not evaporate, an occasional addition of salt is needed only to replace what is lost due to the splash out, pumping out, draining or backwashing.

The obvious advantage is the cost effectiveness of the salt-water chlorination system. Imagine you spend $15 per day currently on chlorine, over a period of five years you will spend in excess of $25000. An equivalent salt water chlorination system will cost around 1/10th of that amount, with running costs being equal to 1/5th. The system would pay for itself in less than one year.

Plus, SALT IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

(Sorry, didn’t mean to yell…)

Stay tuned…

And send me a picture. All I have left now are these “inspirations.”

Stinkin’ Hurricanes, anyway… mumble, grumble, snort!

And since you’re still here;

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…

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!

Sailing the Prairie and planking the palace…

15 Nov

Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed…

Lately, I’ve been writing about a village that’s being created out of separate ISBU segments, transformed into modules specific to fulfilling a defined task.

Apparently, it boggles the minds of some of my readers, that anyone would address the concept of actually having to walk from one space to another, to accomplish a task.

Where in the world would we get such a crazy idea?

Are we nuts?

Did we grow up raised by wolves?

Are we (gasp!) Democrats?

(Sorry, just threw that last one in for “sport…”) 🙂

You’d think we were hankering for a return to the Stone Age, but we’re not. Okay, maybe just a little bit… “Bubba’s hunting Brontosauruses…” Can you imagine what a funny reality TV show THAT would be?  Makes me laugh just thinkin’ about it! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah…

Remember…  not all that far back in our Nations great history, brave families braved the planet, by doing exactly what we’re suggesting.

They sailed the plains and prairies in Conestoga Wagons, and then got out their handy dandy “Ronco Chop-a-matics“…

By the way… they even had “bio-fuel” back then… ‘cept… they actually ATE the corn… 🙂

And they built log homes out of sweat, blood, and a lot of profanity, let me tell you!

Bales1

How do I know this? Well, I’ve actually participated in the building of a log home or two, and lemme tell you… the language around those sites can make a sailor blush!

“Puritans” my butt! I bet that they swore like “Bikers at a buttkicking contest!” They did too! YOU try living like they did… 🙂

Where I live… If you get on Highway 49 headed North, from Gulfport, Mississippi and head toward Hattiesburg and Jackson (the State Capital), you can still see some of these “homespun” structures housing families, to this very day. Keep driving up into the heart of Tennessee, and you’ll find them used as “monuments.”

And… a large majority of those cabins turned out to be “two-roomers.”

Take this plan, for instance;

2roomerSome of them still have old highway billboards being used as roofing material. I kid you not!

And hey! If you look closely… you can even see the origins of “housing terminology” that we still use today…

Words like “breezeway” for instance… It came from the term “dog trot.” It was the place where the DOG trotted between the houses two structures. In the Deep South,  the term “dog trot” is still used, to this very day.

When those “Son and Daughters of the South…  and all parts in between” needed more space, they just built another “pen.”

Hey, don’t blame me… that’s what they called them!

Separate buildings were necessary… It’s because you can’t really expand an “interlocking log” cabin, because you need the corners to hold it up.

So, we’re changing the name of our project, from “the Ewok Village on Acid” to “The Demented Dog Trots of Dixie.”

Just thought that you should know…

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…

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…

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