Tag Archives: modern life

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You…

30 Sep

Greetings, you “Corten Crazies,” you!

Joshua-23mosSeveral of you have emailed me lately, asking me what my son  Joshua wants for his Birthday.

We’re happy to report that on October the 12th, our son, and “Future Emperor of the Universe”… will turn two years old… and that both of his parents have survived it thus far!

As my family struggles to get Char through Chemotherapy and Radiation treatment, all the while trying to get a shipping container home built so that she and Joshua will be safe…

We’re stretched pretty thin and Joshua’s birthday isn’t going to all it could be.  In fact, we had to scramble to keep the power turned on this month, due to a conflict we’re having with the power company.

Last month, our power bill DOUBLED. (It was outrageous to begin with. I mean, we live in a tiny 2 room apartment.)  The billing period that I’m talking abut was the one where Char headed straight to Intensive Care, “Do Not Pass GO!”, after the Chemotherapy tried to kill her. In fact, she went back and forth a few times. As a result, we were out of house for quite a few days… And, as a result, we were gone for part of that time, while Char was in the hospital. And, everything was turned off, except the refrigerator. So, by using common sense, you’d think that the power bill would be less… and it should have DROPPED.  But, it zoomed up into “nosebleed” amounts.
I did what anyone would do. I had a coronary on the spot… Wait, that’s not it… I called up the power jerks, to try and figure out what the hell went wrong. I mean, it’s not possible for us to have used an extra $150 worth of juice, when we weren’t even home part of that time.
And while they were very polite, they informed me that they’d be happy to come out and run diagnostics on the meter, for $45, plus the service charge. So, they want ME to pay them to check a meter that THEY own, that is probably going nuts due to all the lightning and heavy weather we’ve been having lately. That, and just plain old age. This is by far the most miserly utility company I’ve ever seen…

This doesn’t make any sense to me, at all. It’s not even MY meter. Why should I have to pay to have them check their own property? Especially when the bills seem to confirm the reason that I’m contesting the bill in the first place?

In the meantime, I’m on the hook for the bill, and there’s a late fee if I don’t pay on time. Oh yeah, they finally told me all of this several “go-rounds”, and then after the bill I disputed had become “late and disconnectable.” I know $300 doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck and paying for medical treatment and medications out of that… it adds up quick.
Needless to say, the “Birthday Bucks” we were trying so desperately to save (literally saved… $10-20 a month) for Joshua’s birthday is mostly gone now, thanks to those Mississippi Power jerks.
So, Joshua’s not gonna get the birthday that we’d hoped for…

Back to the gist of the post…

While it’s hard to tell sometimes, he DOES like to read.

Rather, he get’s his hands on my “trades magazines” and then he flips through the pages… and then he turns them into confetti. It makes my wife crazy. It’s starting to look like we have a fifty pound hamster living with us! There’s paper shredded all over the house!

And he giggles like a demented mental patient while he does it. It’s really quite disturbing!

But, it does indicate that he likes books. But, we’re being rather selective in choosing his reading materials. For instance, have you ever really paid attention to the “goings on” in that age old classic; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”?

  • Kids getting baked in ovens by mean old ladies? I mean, all they did was EAT HER HOUSE!
  • Trolls under bridges trying to kill you, just for trying to walk home? I used to walk 20 miles uphill, to school, in the snow… both ways! A troll’s gotta make a living, too!
  • Girls kidnapped and hidden away in tall towers, who get their hair ripped out while trying to escape? Um… er… never mind.
  • Girls in red cloaks getting eaten by wolves? Hey, that red cloak was only supposed to protect her against hunters!

Man, that stuff will give a kid nightmares!

We’re opting for books a little less “trauma inducing”.

But, not these books;


book6Not this one either!

book13Definitely not!

book7Um… No.

And last, but not least…


Oh, man…

Wait…. Now that you mention it…

I’m thinking he doesn’t want books at all. Maybe a cool rocking horse, or some blocks, or even some Hot Wheels…

Stay tuned…

The Renaissance Ronin

“Bubba Boxes” for the masses!

4 Apr

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…

Our country imports more than it exports! “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!”

It’s called a “trade deficit.” But one byproduct of this development is the metal mountains of empty shipping containers piling up at  shipping ports and transport centers. And it’s not just here, either! These containers are becoming a blight on the landscape, blocking out the sun, and ruining the “environment” of the locals!

What to do with them all?

Fear not! There are groups of innovative architects, engineers, and alternative housing visionaries who have THE answer!

How about an inexpensive home? Or maybe an Art studio in your backyard? Or how about a self-contained weekend get-away? Do you need a medical clinic in a remote area? And I bet somebody could use some FEMA type relief-housing after a natural disaster that actually makes sense!

Hey, howabouts a cozy “Corten cabin” in the backyard for when the “In-Laws” come to visit? I mean, that way… they’d have their own space and they wouldn’t feel like they were intruding on you… Yeah, right!

And you could slip out in the middle of the night, all “ninja-like…” slap a padlock on those wonderfully sturdy doors, and ship that puppy off to China! I’d tell ya the rest of the “plan,” but my wife is watching me type… 🙂

Lots of people all around the planet are building prefab, ecologically intelligent structures from empty cargo containers. And this may come as a shock to some of you… but they’ve been doing it for decades.


A 40 foot container can cost you anywhere from $800 to $2000, plus a shipping fee to your building sight. That’s kind of crazy sounding, huh? You have to pay a shipping fee, to get a shipping container. Well, just like you learned in high school Science class; “There ain’t no free lunch!” 🙂

There are several companies and organizations  in America now, like [ISBU2YOU] that will actually outfit the container with doors, windows, insulation, HVAC, and all the amenities your little heart desires, from utilitarian (like building in composting toilets), to upscale (like installing solar and PV arrays).

Let’s face it, you either like ISBUs, or you hate them. I personally think that they get a bad rap, but that’s just me. Using the containers as housing is a  fascinating concept to some, and an  “industrial waste – eye sore” to others…


But whatever your view, you have to admit that our concept of the world is changing fast. “McMansions” are out, and “Microhouses” are “IN!” And, GREEN is all the rage! It’s time to re-utilize the junk we’ve spent decades creating, and reconfigure the way we think, so we can reevaluate “our right to the disposable lifestyles” that we’ve been living, before it’s too late!

Now may be the perfect time. For the first time in “real” history, the Government is actually looking for alternatives to housing. It’s quite possible that there are “Stimulus Bill” dollars available to build a home out of recycled shipping containers. We’re going through the bill line by line, looking for places where we might find some assistance.  The way I see it, if we can bail out AIG, it’s time we bailed out families. American Families. You know, the people who actually built America in the first place!

Look, houses aren’t the only things you can build out of these wonderful boxes. Containers make perfect low cost structures for clinics in remote or impoverished areas. A building such as this might mean the difference in a non-profit having the money to start medical services or letting people suffer and die. Facility expenses can be a huge burden when calculating the money needed to get a project off the ground.


A pal of mine, Paul Stankey has built a terrific “Holyoke Cabin” in Minnesota. It’s a “small scale beauty,” a masterpiece full of natural light and industrial-urban attitude out in the woods. It just takes creativity to create a sense of intrigue by capitalizing on the aspects of building with metal containers! Plus, it’s cheap, and the materials are readily available!


Although Paul used “little boxes,” all the structural load in an 8-by-40-by-9 1/2-foot container is carried by the corner castings, steel columns at each of the four corners. This means that doors and windows can occur anywhere else in  the structure. Whole walls can be cut out and replaced with glass, and interior walls can be anywhere or nowhere.

You can build in walls that slide out (just like in an RV) to make your ISBU cabin even bigger! And when it’s time to go home, you just push the sliders in, lock the container doors, and off you trot! And, Your cabin is secure!

Plus, as an added bonus… The boxes can be stacked like giant Lego blocks, cantilevered into space to create intriguing overhangs and practical decks, or cut apart and reassembled into new configurations. Talk about versatile!


So why aren’t you building one? Hmmm?

container-cabinEven a “modest” box makes a splendid cabin!

Help is available. There’s a new group setting up shop in late April, called “ISBU2YOU” that’s going to start turning out cabins you can truck anywhere, set down, and then, pick up and move to greener pastures, if you decide to! Think of it as an “Armor Plated RV.”

I call ’em “Bubba Boxes.”

They’ve promised me that they’re going to get a detail package ready, so that you can learn how to live in the woods (or anywhere else for that matter) in style, while your friends and neighbors go broke spending a lifetime paying for mortgages, second homes, and hotel bills! ! They’ll give you all the details on how they’ll fab a container cabin for you, and ship it out to your site!

Now I actually know these guys, and I’ve seen the stuff that they’ve built, “far afield” in disaster relief efforts. It’s amazing what you can do, with a little bit of creative energy, and a plasma cutter!

For the price of a new full-sized car, you could be in a nice warm container-cabin, without a huge mortgage! Think of the possibilities! Add a water line, and an electrical cord, and voila!

You’re in heaven!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd please remember that we’re trying desperately to save this blog. As my wife’s illness worsens, the budget gets tighter and tighter. If you like what you read, and it helps you find your path, please consider hitting the Paypal button, and donatining a few bucks to the cause, okay? We really want to keep this blog going!

You really never get a chance to say “Thanks…”

25 Oct

Usually, I’m talking about the goings-on, here on planet “Container Casa.”

Most of you know that my family is hip-deep in the middle of a project to turn several Shipping Containers and a few old aircraft hangars, into a home for our family in South Mississippi. It involves federal grants, State grants, a “re-urbanization parcel allocation,” and a lot of sweat equity. Why are we doing this? Because we’re masochists, that’s why… LOL!

But today, I’m gonna talk about something different, something that all of you have experienced at one time or another as well, if you rely on cable to juice up your big screen TV, or allow you the surf the Internet at lightning speed…

I bet you thought I was gonna talk about “Politics,” huh? I am so sick and tired of “politics, politicians, and all the hollow promises the media is broadcasting, like rice at a wedding!” I figure if you haven’t figured out who you’re going to trust to run the country yet, it’s on you…

Besides, I suspect that no matter who we pick, we’re in trouble deep… I know, I know… “Pappa don’t preach…” LOL!

Yesterday, after weeks of trouble-shooting, complaining and “experimenting,” the cable TV and Internet at my hovel finally got repaired. My connection was so bad, the TV signal looked like a snowstorm in the Himalaya’s, and my Internet connection was so bad, I thought for a while there that someone had stolen my computer, and replaced it with an abacus. Needless to say, my web-surfing and researching days slowed to a crawl. But that wasn’t the real problem…

I know that bad cable signal doesn’t sound like much, but when your wife is ill, and she’s hooked to a transponder that runs diagnostics on her vital signs every half hour, and then uses the Internet to relay them to doctors and specialists, in two different states, for observation, it’s a big deal. It’s a HUGE deal. Her health and safety depend on that Internet connection.

After a while, I suspect that we take the utility and cable companies for granted, I think.

I mean, I never catch myself saying; “Gee, those Cable geeks are swell…” Or: “Man I miss that Mississippi Power guy who screws with my electricity!!” In fact, when I do think about the “cable guys” lately, the mental picture I get comes from a really, really bad movie I had the misfortune to watch… In my defense, I only agreed to watch it because I like Jenny McCarthy… LOL!

Try getting THAT picture outta your head. I think I’m gonna need therapy…

Brrrrrr! Where was I? Oh yeah…

Anyway, if everything is working, they’re not even a second thought. But, when things go south, we get concerned, and some of us get cranky and frustrated. As I suppose that we take it out on whoever answers the phone at the help desk, or is unfortunate enough to show up on the porch, trying and find a remedy to our problem.

But today, my family got a solution, not because it was easy, but because ONE  team, and ONE GUY in the field really took a hard look at what was happening, documented it, and then… replaced everything from the wall, to the pole.

Now, it turns out that it wasn’t even “technically” the cable companies fault. The owner of the hovel I rent is responsible for upkeep and maintenance, when dealing with the actual wires and cables mounted to the building.

But, knowing that would go nowhere, I talked to the cable company (thank you Kristen!) and then waited for the team of cable geeks to arrive, like the cavalry riding in to save the day. It didn’t matter that it was raining “cats and dogs,” it didn’t matter that the problem turned out to be one they weren’t even responsible for…

What mattered to the cable company was that the connection I paid for every month, gave me everything I expected, no matter what effort it took, on their behalf…

So, a few days ago, a CableOne Cowboy showed up and made some changes. He crawled up the pole, in the pouring rain, and started switching things around until it looked like he had a good fix. This guy was really polite, attentive, efficient, and did everything he could to try and solve our problem. And, for a few hours, everything looked good. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and within a few hours, things got pretty muddy again.

Picture Ronin on the phone to the cable company, again, trying to make sense of a bad situation. It’s not a pretty sight. Every time the connection went south, the hospital called, thinking that my wife was in trouble. So, I’d have to rush into the room, wake her up, and see if she was still alive. Talk about stress…

I’m sure that Kristen got tired of hearing my voice on the line, day after day, whining about the cable and my wife’s dilemma. (For some reason, I kept getting Kristen over and over again. What are the odds of that happening?) But, Kristen jumped in again, and got more tech guys headed my way, to see if they could find a solution.

And, the guy they sent jumped in with both feet. Sure, first he blamed the VCR, and then, he blamed the TV itself, and I started thinking that my TV days were gonna be over for a while. Ronin can’t rush out and buy new TV components right now, medication is too expensive. But I pointed out that the computer was not working either, so it had to be “signal.” Process of elimination. And, by then, he already knew that on his own. He started doing diagnostics, and determined that the problem wasn’t inside the house, it was somewhere “outside” the house.

Uh oh… Landlords are responsible for the cable actually coming into their apartments, and my landlord… well… let’s just say that I saw a brick wall coming. Cable guys aren’t supposed to do anything with the cable attached to the building. It’s outside their domain. So we’re screwed, and my wife is gonna pay for it…

But, the cable tech (Ken Broy) had spent some time in my living room, being pestered by my inquisitive one year old son, and talking to my wife, while I was trying to put out a fire next door. Between my wife, and my son’s ability to “Jew-Fu” almost anybody breathing, old Kenny was putty in their hands… LOL!

So by the time I walked back in the door, he was determined to solve the problem, despite the rain, and the “responsibility,” no matter what.

So, outside we go, fording locked gates, and crawling over enough garbage to make a US Marines obstacle course look like a warm up, and then… we start looking at the cable… The problem becomes obvious. It looks like a “Cable Pirate’s” Wet Dream…

The Cable guy just starts laughing, and then… he decides to rerun the entire system, to make absolutely sure we never have a problem again. Did I mention that it was raining? Pouring. And this poor guy is outside my building, clinging to a ladder, getting drenched, fixing something that isn’t even his responsibility, to make sure we’re okay.

And now, a few hours later, with new cable carrying the signal from outside in, everything is working like it’s supposed to. After he’d replaced everything but the sink… he checked out every single component, and even spent time monitoring the signal to make sure that the hospital could connect to my wife’s monitors. Since he fixed everything else, I tried to get him to look at my refrigerator, but he said it was “outside his pay grade…” Damn. LOL!

He didn’t leave until he was absolutely certain that we had good signal. In fact, we have more signal than we can use. So, it’s fixed, probably forever!

Now, if I could get this damned remote control programmed! I asked him for help with it, but when I pointed it at him, he just turned white, and ran for his truck? They must be difficult, I guess… LOL!

And why am I writing this?

Don’t tell me “It’s his job.” In this case, it clearly wasn’t HIS job to resolve my “cable conflict.” I’m writing this because it seems like whenever something bad happens, everybody tends to blame someone else. It’s become human nature do do as little actual work as possible, and then move on to the next “problem.” We live in a society where we’re overworked, underpaid, and unhappy about everything including last night’s dinner. So, we tend to do less, when it comes to applying effort to solve a tough problem.

But, evidently, CableOne doesn’t suffer from that. In fact, where I live, nothing works like it’s supposed to. Except… the cable. And that didn’t happen by accident, it happened because a company did what it did, because they actually cared about their customers.

And how often does that happen? Hmmm?

Thank you CableOne, and especially Kristen, Ken, and that poor soaked cowboy whose name I never got.

Thanks for caring enough to follow-up, follow-through, and then… make certain we were okay, “no matter what.” It means a lot to us, and we won’t forget it…

So, I have one less thing to complain about. I have to take CableOne off my “bitch list,” I suspect permanently.

But don’t worry… I’ll find something else to complain about, I promise. After all, it’s kinda entertaining, huh?

Stay tuned…

Paris Hilton hates my house…

20 Jul

I have a buddy in Southern California, who works for a well-known architectural team.

I’ve been running my progress and “processes” past him, picking his brain, looking for anything I might have missed, while I try to power my housing project past the local politicians. So, he’s my “unofficial advisor.” Hey, he’s got all the right “alphabet soup” after his name, and he’s with a big LA architectural firm. I’ll use every  weapon I can bring to bear, to get my family back into a home.

Wouldn’t you?

And, his daddy used to be a rock star. When I was younger, and I still had hair, I used to play guitar with his daddy. (Growing up in LA had it’s advantages, way back then…)

Of course, I did it in the recording studio, because that’s how I worked my way through school for a while… Man, I miss the Seventies…

I’m not gonna name any names, but when his daddy shows up at Guitar Center, people line up to get his autograph and a photo op.

So, my buddy moves in the “in crowd.” You know the one, the one where idiots with cameras follow your every move, and try to get photographs of you peeing in public… LOL!

Well, he was out on recently, just generally looking for trouble, and ended up in one of those trendy clubs that LA is so famous for. It was one of those places where you actually stand in line to get in, while a pair of big steroidal monsters guard the door, like all of Fort Knox’s gold was housed on the other side…

Now, my friend doesn’t “cue up” like the rest of us, he just sails right in, like he owns the joint. And he gets to sit in the VIP area, where the “big stars” get pampered and treated like little demi-gods…

Now, eventually, after the alcohol fueled jabbering gets past “what Britney’s almost wearing!” somebody asks him what he’s working on, and because he’s a big Al Gore fan (it’s not my fault! He won’t listen to me!) he starts talking about building “green buildings.” This causes quite a commotion, because “green” is in.

So the conversation comes around to “how the little guy benefits by all this green tech,” and he starts talking about “recycled residences.” And, like the knucklehead he is, he starts talking about my family’s project, building a home in Katrina-land, out of Shipping Containers and old aircraft hangars.

And Paris HIlton chimes in;

“Somebody wants to live in a shipping container? How common! Why didn’t they just get a big refrigerator box?”

So, it’s official, Paris Hilton hates my house. I must be doing something right…


Idiot builds home out of garbage!

13 Jul

I was going to “spend” this post, talking about the “actual” Shipping Container house I’m building.

But, recent email has made me think that I need to explain the motives (beyond the “My slumlord is an absolute jerk!!” theme) behind this construction “mechanism.” Read my previous posts, if you need “further enlightenment.” That’s them sitting right over there, on your right. We’ll just sit right here, twiddling our thumbs, while we wait for you… At least they’ll make you laugh…

Anyway, today I’m gonna let you look into my hollow little head, and see how I think. Now, I know that you’re gonna need therapy afterward, but that’s the risk you take when you go out on the internet.

I wrote a disclaimer and everything, so if you feel ill effects after you’ve absorbed this into your synapses, well… it’s on you.

I’m a lazy bastard. There, I’ve said it. I’m getting old, and I’m starting to hurt when I get up in the mornings. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So, in keeping with that stream of consciousness, think “low-energy” construction.

And since construction is fueled by “energy,” let’s start with some basics;

In an area of economic depression, it’s the little things that kill you. Like power bills, and mortgage payments. This isn’t the “West Coast,” it’s the Gulf Coast, and payrolls reflect that. Salaries are lower here in the South than in any other part of the country, and you have to get creative to make your dollars stretch, if you want to keep your family in Oreo’s and “Death by Chocolate” Ice Cream.

So, my family started looking at ways to build a home, taking this into consideration.

Let’s face it, folks. I’m not 30 years old any more. I’m almost 50, and frankly, if I had known that I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself. A look into my past reveals a lot of “beyond the ordinary” physical activity and risks. I suppose I thought I was immortal. I was strong, I was tough, and I was “smart.”  And what did I gain from all that genetic heritage? Hmmm? Well, I have more scars than everybody on my block put together. The reality is that I was burning the candle at both ends, and they seem to be racing towards the middle. In my case, it’s “middle-age.” Oy Vay!

So, my “earning years” aren’t going to be fueled by the strength of my back. I’m going to have to use my “brain,” to support my family, and that means a lot of macaroni-and-cheese is in our future…

Because, dear readers… If you’ve been following along, I’m sure that you’ve already figured out  I’m not exactly a “rocket scientist.” LOL!

So, beginning the journey down “Shipping Container Home Road” made us consider things you wouldn’t normally consider, here.

We needed, efficient, economic, and “easy over the years.”

Taking all of this into consideration, (to use “techno-speak” I shamelessly “lifted” from another website – http://www.passivehouse.us) we wanted a home that went up fast, fast fast… And, we wanted it to be “a superinsulated envelope with superior airtightness, with an efficient wholehouse heat-recovery ventilation system,” and capable of benefiting from any passive solar gains that we could harness.

Now,  I could have used my own words to describe it, but they just said it better. And since I didn’t have to re-write it over and over again, it goes along with my theme of “saving energy.” See? You can incorporate this mode of thought into almost everything you do!

Now where was I? Oh yeah…

That’s right folks, when it comes to heating and cooling this beast, good ole’ Mother Earth was gonna have to lend a hand.

Actually achieving this means that we won’t need a conventional heating system. The object is to build a box so well insulated, that it requires a minimal amount of heat and a/c to make habitable, in relative comfort. I want to use something called a “fresh-air furnace.”

(Yeah, yeah… I know… What about mold, mildew, and “stinky stuff…?” I’m worried about humidity, too.)

Speaking of “relative comfort,” I’m saying it right here, for the record (because we all know that once it hits the Internet, it never goes away)…

We don’t, however, want the “relatives” to get too comfortable. They can come visit for a weekend on their way to the casinos, but on Monday Morning, they’re on their way to the airport, capish?

(Sorry, I don’t know where that came from…)

Anyway, in the “energy” department, we’re aiming for about 7000 BTUs/hour.

I figure I’ll just get me a bevy of long-haired young beauties, and let them have at it, with their hair dryers! After all, girls are nice, “squishy,” and fun to have around! Oops, where did THAT come from? I gotta stop thinking out loud! LOL!

I know… I’m a pig. But, I’m a “smart” pig.

From everything I’m reading, a typical home requires about six times as much energy.

The neat thing about using containers as a starting point, is that you can insulate both sides, quite effectively. We’re trying to get into the R50 – R60 range, using rigid insulation, blown-in fiberglass,  and insulative foam. The insulation gets “skinned” using OSB (oriented strand board)  and then, we figure out who wins the “I wanna make it look like this…” battle.

(Most of the insulation goes on the outside of the container, so that the “box” doesn’t shrink.”)

Now, I know that some of you are screaming; “Just use “refer containers,” you idiot!”

I know that I could start out with “insulated containers.” The shipping industry does use refrigerated containers that have a real good insulative value, and you can buy them as “scrap,” but they just aren’t available to me. I’m using what I could get.

In the “My house looks like” department, I’m currently winning, but the tide turns quickly! My wife is devious, and I’m sure that one morning, if I wake up at all, I’ll come to the grim realization that my “castle” has turned into a “casa,” or even worse a (gasp!) “colonial.”

So regardless of the “dress” we put on this “pig,” I want it’s roots to be firmly planted in the “I’m not so hard to handle” theme. Handling my family is hard enough, if I have to handle the house too, you might as well just go ahead and bury me in the backyard, now…

We’re doing a lot of this using “common sense.” I suppose it’s because we’re on “new” ground, in the “practical deployment” arena. Not many people have done what we’re trying to do, because it’s so “seemingly bizarre.”

In fact, I have an email folder full of “How could you do that to your own family, you bastard?!” messages.

People are so used to (I call it “indoctrinated“) stick or masonry homes, that the very idea of using something else makes me a “Communist sympathizer.” LOL!

Those who know me, know that I live my life by my middle finger. If you’re not caring for my family, or paying my bills, your input is limited. Extremely limited. And if you don’t like it… well, “sticks and stones!” bucko! LOL!

FYI: I possess some architectural education. And it’s from schools that are known for being pretty impressive. But, I gotta tell you, it was a long time ago (and I spent most of my time there looking at girls).

Like a “computer” education (they called them “Business Information Systems” way back when…) obsolescence has made most of what I was taught in those classrooms, useless trivia.

However, I possess a LOT of practical experience. Remember that “past” I referred to earlier? Well, I’ve lived all over the rock in some pretty hostile climes, and I’ve managed to test several of my “theories,” first hand.

So, this old dog knows a few tricks.

I’ve made the rounds, speaking to colleagues, architects, engineers, and guys (and gals) who are supposed to know better. They just don’t seem to possess the mindset I’m looking for, in the “compatibility” department. I suppose it’s my “location,” but here in the South, if you’re not doing it like Grandpa did, you’re just not right.

In fact, in that sector of commerce, I’m known as “the whack-job…”

To these people, I say only this;

“Invest in CABLE! It’s not just HBO, or Showtime! It’s the 21st Century now… Hello?”

So, I’m not making many friends, and that’s depressing. Because this “technology” (if you want to call recycling garbage “technology”) could change the way we live, and save us money at the same time. And it’s money that matters, around here.

You can talk all you want about “GREEN,” but the reality is that the only “GREEN” that gets any attention in a depressed geographic location, is cold, hard, cash.

Next post, we’ll talk about the house, I promise…

Stay tuned!

Building Houses from “Garbage” – Part III(ish)

10 Jul


I’m building a house out of “shipping containers.” Yes, you heard right. I am, too!

In previous posts, I’ve discussed “why” I’m doing something that sounds so crazy. I’m not going to recap, because frankly, the reasons I decided to do this aren’t “heroic,” or even “visionary,” they’re just really, really depressing.

As much as I love some of the praise that’s been so generously heaped on me lately, I didn’t earn it. I just need to save my family. So, let’s just move on, shall we?

This time, I’ll discuss the merit of “container” construction, in general. A lot of people who are reading this, just don’t get it. They’re stuck in the “b-b-b-but it wasn’t “made” for that… mode.”

I have an email folder full of mail from irate people screaming; “How could you do that to your own family, you bastard?”

Here’s a fact for you; These “shipping container” houses are already all over the world, and they have been, for years.

Want proof?

The Chinese build them for University housing, by the thousands.

In Europe, they build hotels out of them.

In South America, they build container cities, quickly and efficiently, housing hundreds of people.

We (a “group” I played in the bushes with,  a long time ago, back when I still had hair) built them in Central America, and the “natives” love them!

In the Middle East, we built them for protection from the elements, and even the Palestinians. And, the Palestinians built them, for about the same reasons.

In Africa, we built them as “missions,” and “research labs,” and they worked  great!

As you can see, you can build them ANYWHERE. They go up fast, tight, and ready to protect you from the elements. All you need is a way to get them there, and some creative energy to make them cozy inside.

But here in the USA, people just don’t seem to get it! They’re more focused on “fancy,” than “efficient and affordable.” But a corporate somebody figured it out. There’s a bunch of “container” buildings going up, in New York City as we speak… um… er… type…

I can’t even imagine how hard those “first” Planning and Zoning hearings were… Oy Vay!

The houses we built in Central America (Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua) took direct hits from hurricanes and massive tropical storms several times, and didn’t budge.

(We’ve lost a few windows to debris, and some roof tiles have flown away, but the houses themselves held up great and nobody’s ever been injured due to a structural failure.)

And, they’re all over 15 years old. Most of them are even older, going back almost 30 years.

The houses we built in Northern California are subject to monsoon rains and snow every year and haven’t leaked a bit, or shown any sign of failure. And they’ve been standing for over two decades now.

Now that saddens all the neighbors who think that “alternative  =  ugly.”  However, in our case, you can’t actually “see” them from any public road, so I don’t know what the locals are complaining about.

We don’t think they are ugly, and we don’t care what the neighbors think. We’re just like that! LOL!

(Secretly, we think that they’re just mad because they didn’t think of it, themselves.)

Folks, there are literally thousands of containers sitting around, waiting to be used for this purpose. A call placed to any container yard will reveal that they have a bunch of them to sell off, to make way for new ones.

Now, you need to be close enough to a Shipping Port or Rail Yard to make moving them affordable, but if you can smell the ocean (that’s your socks you’re probably smelling. I suggest you open a window, and try it again…), or stinky train smells,  you’re close enough to try this, on the cheap…

Here’s why using containers to build houses is so cool;

The “building blocks” are cheap.

For starters, containers are assets, just like any other business equipment.

So the accountants depreciate them, just like a computer, or an office chair. And when they hit “zero,” they get rid of them, and build new ones. And they don’t haul them all back and forth like you’d think. It’s cheaper just to build new ones.

A “shipping” buddy of mine tells me that a container pays for itself the FIRST time they deploy it. After that, it’s all gravy. (I’m over-simplifying, here.)

Containers are made to load onto tractor trailers, so moving them is simple, and it doesn’t demand any special permits. As long as you can get them down the road to your building site, I assure you, you can do this.

A 40’ container weighs in at about 4,000 pounds each, so you can use a pretty small crane to “lift and stack” them up. This means that you can pile them all up in one day, easy. Easy. Even making all the “interconnections,“ it takes about an hour to set each unit. And that’s good, because that damned crane is expensive.

I’m serious, though. I’ve stacked 14 of them together in a week-end, with time for a BBQ at the end… No! I didn’t do it by myself! Who do you think I am? Batman?

And that house was “huge!” It was almost 6,800 square feet!

And remember, since the shipping containers are made of steel, they don’t just fall apart. They actually have  a frame inside of them, that isn’t dependent on any of the “walls,“ for strength. The internal bracing is incredibly strong, so stacking them, even in different sizes, is a breeze. You can easily stack 40’ and 20’ units together in several combinations, because the internal frame is made specifically for this!

Think of the versatility here!  I guarantee you’ll go crazy, trying to figure out “which stacking pattern” you’re going to call home.

So, you end up with a steel box, that needs a little sandblasting, a little welding, and a coat of anti-rust primer, to start stacking your way to a house! And that labor doesn’t take very long, or demand any special skill. If I can do it… believe me, anybody can do it.

And, you hit the “Bureaucratic Bonanza” again! Using “recycled shipping containers” entitles you to yet another special federal grant, because you’re “recycling!” And, you’ll qualify for a tax credit! I’m sure, because I checked!

When I started exploring this housing dialog with the grant guys, I thought about building a “container house” without any other “components.” I started recruiting guys to help, and bounced the idea off of some architects and engineers I know. I have some architectural education, and a lot of “hands on” experience. I just wanted some reassurance, and some assistance dealing with “the local government.”

(I didn’t really “need” architects and engineers, but this is Mississippi. Unless you have a tribe devoted to your cause, they just don’t take you seriously, here.)

As you can probably guess, it went nowhere, because people had FEMA and insurance money to spend on new housing.

And, this is Mississippi. Everything is harder in Mississippi, for exactly the reasons you’re probably imagining. Yeah Buddy!

Let’s be real, here. This kind of architecture just doesn’t interest the “trades guys.” Architects and Engineers usually charge by percentages of construction budget, or by hefty “hourly“ fee schedules. And “container houses” are usually built on a tight, and even miserly budget.

It just doesn’t make money for a “trades guy (or gal)” to get involved. There isn’t any real profit in it for them.

But, the FEMA train has rolled out of Dodge, and most of the insurance construction money has dwindled out, so now these same people are looking for a new money stream.

And because of this, a few of these “trades lackeys” (and I use the term “lovingly”) are starting to take me seriously, finally.

After several meetings, and a lot of research on my part, this can happen. I’d better be sure, because I’m betting my family’s life on it. The technology is simple. The “recycling and energy efficiency” enables the home-owner to get grants from the feds, and you get a home that will withstand a big wind, and some water.

Enough already, I’m starting to sound like a salesman. I hate salesmen! You get the point. I’m gonna build one. I’m gonna do it in my county (not the city, because there are too many obstacles!).

I’m doing it, right now.

I’m looking for a small piece of property as we speak.

I’m not greedy, a half acre should just about do it, out in the country, so I can make noise, raise some cane, and a few kids.

Next time, we’ll talk more about how I’m going to start building this beast…

Stay tuned!