Tag Archives: power

You’re killing America!

25 Nov

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

To seemingly prove it…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we all know that politicians NEVER lie. 😉

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

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


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

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

So why do reviewers say things like I just quoted?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Stay Tuned.

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

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

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

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

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? 🙂


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)


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost for shell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand total:

$6,199.00    OR   $19.99 per square foot.

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

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

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

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

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

Back to “spendy-spendy…”:

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

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

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

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

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

Now, you’re down to $7,200.00.

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

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

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

… and a decent bathroom runs right at $2000.00;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A WEEK. TWO weeks… TOPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Ronin… I have 8 kids…

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

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

POP QUIZ: Do the math.

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

Stay tuned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Nov

Ready… aim… fire!

Are DOE loan standard requirements actually shooting down good projects?

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

Well, good luck getting it!

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

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

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

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

But wait! There’s more…

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

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

Okay… here’s the meat of the issue;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Pass the hammer… and the oxygen, please.

24 Oct

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

What do you get?


NO! Not a nosebleed and bigger quads…

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

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

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

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

Guess I told YOU! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The first floor is at street level.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, back to what was REALLY there…


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

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

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

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

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

In the front of that level?

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

Who are these guys? Glass Factory Owners? 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One more floor up is the living room.

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

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


The projection screen is a real good idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, time for the top…

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

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

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

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

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

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


And on the roof…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait… um… never mind.

Stay tuned.

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

Commerce on the first floor, residential above.

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

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

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

“Net Zero” ain’t always about your Internet Connection…

19 Oct

You know me…

Coming to you… live from my little tiny workspace here in “OMG, Mississippi“…

I usually go on a “Corten Container” filled rant… And, today’s not gonna be any different! No Siree! Except…

This time, I’m gonna talk about how you actually get that Shipping Container home from “across the street”, to “off-grid, across the county and into the countryside…”

That way, you’ll be the ONLY nut in the neighborhood! 🙂

And, I’m not gonna go on a “You have to save the environment all by yourself!” sermon…

We’ve all had just about enough of this “green nonsense”, right?

I mean, if you watch cable TV, you see that it’s possible to go “green”, but it costs you a ton of money! In fact, most of the things you see on TV are just “glitz and glamor”. The “Average Joe” couldn’t possibly afford them, because the “pay-back” happens three years after you’re dead!

And, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of Al Gore…


Don’t get me started…. 😉

You too? Right?


I mean, come on… he used “bad science” to bamboozle his way into a Nobel Peace Prize. Then Obama evidently took lessons, and received a Nobel Peace Prize… for surviving 14 days of the US Presidency. Whaaaa? I used to aspire to winning a Nobel Prize… and now it’s just another sham. 😦

Okay, as most of you know… I’m still not fond of “Al buddy…” Ronin doesn’t like hypocrites. Nuh-uh!

But, you CAN “go green” without having to sell your soul to the devil.

It takes some planning, and a little bit of ingenuity, but it’s possible. In fact, people are doing it all around you! They are too!

Here’s the deal…

You just need to try and manage your assets, and your resources. Then, you design an environment where they work to your benefit. Sounds easy, right?

Well, it’s not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Right?

First, you start where every good idea starts…

NO! Not the bathroom. Well, okay, in my house, most good ideas start there, because it’s the only door that my little boy hasn’t figured out how to open yet. So, instead, he just sticks his fingers under the door, and yells at me;

“Daaaaaaaaa-dy! Daaaad? I bumped! Daaaaad? DAAAAAAADDDDY!”

Ever try to relax enough to come up with a… um… er… never mind.

Anyway, like I was saying, you start thinking about living off-grid, by thinking about what you use.

Sure, you can stock up on Toilet Paper at Walmart, but as far as I know, they don’t sell bottles full of electricity, yet…

So, you start at home. Let’s face it, most of the things that you do in your life, are to make sure that you have a home.  So, it makes sense that you try and make your home work with you, instead of against you.

Enter the “Zero Energy Home”.

Note: Some people refer to this as “Net Zero Living…

Imagine a home that is not only energy efficient, imagine a house that actually makes it’s own power.

Just like a typical home, a Zero Energy Home can be connected to, and use energy from, the local electric utility services. But unlike typical homes, at times that home can make enough power to send some back to the utility company.

“Oh sure…” you say.

Well, it might surprise you to find out that a Zero Energy Home produces enough energy annually to offset the amount purchased from the utility pimps, and that can result in “net-zero” annual energy bills.

But, how does it do it? Is it “Slight of hand?” Sheer Intimidation? Big ole’ “bite yer butt off” dogs out in the yard so that the meter reader can’t get in and do his/her job? Nope!

But… that could be fun… Hmmm…

A Zero Energy Home works FOR you (instead of against you) by combining state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction techniques and equipment with renewable energy systems to return as much energy as it takes on an annual basis.

Okay, so you might have to redesign your house, or even build yourself a new one, but…

Hey, I didn’t say this was going to be easy! In fact, I already told you that it wasn’t.

Weren’t you paying attention? Hmmm? 🙂

Okay, so when renewable resources (like the sun) cannot provide the entire home’s power (at night or on a cloudy winter day) the homeowner purchases energy from the utility provider.

Otherwise your wife, or your daughter will moan and groan about the end of the world, because their damned “hot curlers” won’t work right…” Oy! 🙂

Now, I don’t have that particular problem, although it’s from a pretty strange reason. My wife is going through Chemotherapy and Radiation treatments. So, no hair!

In fact, my two year old possesses the only head fulla hair in the whole house! Oy…

When renewable resources produce more than the house is using (during sunny days when no one is home) power is sent back into the utility grid.

Now, this can only happen if you don’t have a couch potato that has taken up residence in your living room, parked in front of the TV, playing on the Playstation. Now, there’s a fix for this too, but it involves a well-placed kick, and a butt…

Okay, where were we? Oh yeah… In some cases, the power source will actually spin  the home’s electric meter backwards (it spins in reverse when you’re making power you don’t use) essentially providing you, the  proud homeowner with something resembling full retail value for their energy.

But how is this accomplished?

Man, haven’t you been reading my posts? I’ve talked about Photovoltaics until I was blue in the face… In fact, truth be told, I’m starting to look like Papa Smurf! I’m telling you, I gotta get a better class of readers. I suspect that some of you are just looking at the pretty pictures! 🙂

In the very near future… we’re gonna talk about Photovoltaic Cells, Modules, Panels, and Arrays.

Why? Because the knee-bone is connected to the shin-bone… eventually… 🙂

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

3-2-1… GO! Instant Shipping Container House!

7 Oct


As I sit here, toiling over Shipping Container Home plans, I’m reminded that things are getting tough all over…

As you know, we’re having a really hard time getting past all the bureaucrats that decided to stick their noses into our little project. So, we’re stalled out and our patience is wearing thin. So, I’m helping some other families achieve their housing goals, by lending them my considerable insights and insanity…  🙂

A build I’m working on in the Carolina’s is going up and down so fast you’d think that it was a roller-coaster.

In the beginning, we thought to build a rather contemporary home, that in my view was destined to come an ISBU landmark.

But “things happen” and budgets change, and rules have to be followed (damn those Planning and Zoning Nazi’s!) and at some point, it comes time to re-access, and try to figure how to get a house up, before the snow falls…

You start every build thinking about “Champagne and Bling…” but somewhere along the line, you’re reminded (usually by your significant other or your accountant) that you’d better aim for “Beer and Pretzels“.

So, I started thinking about how you could get a house up, in a time period of about 3 months, that had the potential to house a small family. Now, remember, according to “Ronin’s Rules“… that house has to be affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient.

It has to supply all of the primary needs;

  • Shelter from storms
  • Warmth and Cooling
  • Nice traffic flow
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Potential for Power Production
  • Low Maintenance
  • Provide ample storage, and
  • Provide the potential for expandability

Okay, we can do this…

Now, we need about 1,000 square feet, to start out. And, we’re not made of money, so let’s set the budget at around $50,000. That’s the price of a new car, if you can keep yourself from driving into the local Mercedes Benz Dealership.

According to a study I just read:

$50,000 is about a fourth of the cost of a new entry-level “starter home”, in today’s market, in most of America.

The goal here is to build a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home that will provide all of the goals we ‘ve noted, for under $300.00 a month.

Lemme see… $50,000.00 at 6%, over 30 years… is $299.78.

“But…” you say, you can’t get a loan. In fact, everyone in America seems to be in that boat.

You can if you have “equity.” Equity is the amount of money you already have invested in your property, based on it’s current appraisal. It’s the amount that you “don’t owe.”

And, we’re going to aim it so that this little beauty appraises out at about $109,000.00!

That’s about $115 a square foot, the national average for “appraisal footage”, in this category of homes.

So, the day you move in, you’ve made $59,000.00. Naturally, you’ll use that equity, to establish a $50,000 loan. Who’s laughing now? Huh?

Oh yeah, and we need a piece of ground to set it on.

Piece of ground acquired, and budget in mind, how can we do this? After all, what we’re building is a glorified “starter home.”

Here’s what I wanted:

I wanted the family to be able to build this home, out of pocket.  It’s a young married couple, with one child, a little girl.


No, they didn’t have a bake sale! Can you imagine how many cupcakes you’d have to sell, to pay for a home-building project? Oy! 😉

They have about $35,000 in savings (after they sold off one of their cars). A relative died, and they got the car. So, their bank account gets a “Detroit Infusion“.

They have “In-Laws” who generously agreed to donate $15,000 each, to help them get the house going. And, they had a piece of ground with a nasty trailer sitting on it, just begging for demolition.

The property already has a good well.

So, we have an acre and a half of land with good south exposure, all the water we need, and $65,000.00 to build with.

It’s time to buy some boxes…

We found a trio of boxes for $1,500 each, plus shipping. They are 40′ High Cube Shipping Containers, and they’ve only been used twice, as near as we can tell. They hauled a load of fabric from China to the Eastern Seaboard the last time out. They’re located in Savannah, GA.

Through a fleet transport broker, we found a guy who has cargo to move from Savannah to Columbia. It’s a huge load of furniture. It’s enough that he can fill several boxes with his gear. The furniture guy will load the containers onto flatbeds and haul his crap north!

This is better still! The building site is nearby. Actually, it’s just outside a small town…

So, we get this guy to use our boxes to haul his stuff to Columbia and then we truck the boxes from Columbia to the building site, a distance of about 80 miles. These are empty boxes and we can actually pull them behind a big Ford F350 Diesel Pickup… which the family just happens to have access to…

So, we have (3) 40′ ISBUs, and no shipping costs, except gas… um…er… diesel. Okay, we’re gonna use some fuel, but it’s a far better cry, than paying over  $700 each, to have them delivered to us, via tractor trailer.

But, can you actually build a home out of three ISBUs’ that will comfortably house a family?

We’ve all seen this Adam Kalkin – Quik House floorplan:

3-ISBU-FirstFloorPretty nice, huh? But wait a minute… where do you sleep?

3-ISBU-SecondFloorOh yeah… if you want to SLEEP in this house, you have to add a second floor!

Now, I’m not bashing this plan at ALL.

In fact, I’d live in it, myself (with a few “twists”). But THIS HOUSE will cost you a lot more than $65,000. In fact, this house, as cool as it is, will cost you almost $200,000 before you’re through, in most marketplaces.

If I had $200,000 to build with, I might consider it… But, I don’t. I have $65,000 bucks. Remember?

I need to build a house to shelter a small family, that may (and most probably will) grow larger.

Hey, I just had another child… and I’m 50 years old. It CAN happen! 🙂

No, smarty-pants, it didn’t involve a mailman, or an appliance repair guy…  At least I don’t think so… Hmmm… 🙂

Not only do we need to get this house up fast, we need to provide the owners with the potential for expansion.

I’m thinking something like this:


I know, it’s not as pretty as Adam’s plans… Sheesh, everybody’s a critic!

Here’s the deal;

We lay three 40′ ISBU’s side-by-side. We haven’t decided on a foundation yet, but I suspect it will simply be three “footed” walls 24′ wide, 1′ wide, and 5′ high, spaced 20′ apart, on center.

Now, those walls will start below grade, so we’re only lifting the boxes up a foot or two.

Oh yeah, by doing this, we don’t have to do a massive site prep plan. And, if we want a taller crawlspace underneath, we just pour the walls a foot or two higher.

Boxes in place, we have a 24′ x 40′ x 9.5 shelter. Almost 1,000 square feet. 960, to be exact. Now comes the fun part. We gut the interior walls out. Practically all of them will go. Depending on final design, the bathroom and the kitchen may still have a partial corrugated steel wall. But, you won’t see them.

The drawing is pretty self-explanatory. What it doesn’t show is the ability to add access to a second floor, if necessary. For instance, you could add a “loft ladder” to the bathroom hallway, opposite the bathroom door.

You see, later, I’m thinking that they’ll build UP, onto the “roof terrace”, and take that entire back section, to build a nice Master bedroom, right over the two lower bedrooms.

The lower bedroom closets will have to be reworked, but that’s not that hard to do.

“What? No tub in the only bathroom? Ronin, are you crazy?”

Relax… keep reading. 🙂

Our family got a Steam Shower as a gift from a relative who installed it, and then hated it.

Whaa? How in the world can you hate a steam shower? He must be nuts!:)

And, showers take less water than a tub bath, x the number of occupants. We’re fetching our own water via that well outside, so we’re going to conserve it.

Anyway, because the family stressed that they only take showers, we can put a hot tub up on the roof, for those times when Mom and Dad need to soak under the stars.

It’ll be “quality time”.

The roof (planned to be accessed by a “u-shaped” wooden staircase outside) will be large enough for our “solar farm” (solar and photovoltaic panels), a nice terraced space, plus a cool little landscaped area used to get away from the kid(s).

We’re talking about a “parental oasis” possibly.

And Later… that new Master bedroom won’t interfere too much – they’ll just have a cool deck outside their bedroom, with a hot tub on it. The solar and photovoltaic panels will re-mount to the awning roof.

And here’s the cool part;

Remember, they started with $65,000.00. $35,000 was theirs… and $30,000 came from the “In-Laws”.

You build the house for $50,000.00.

Yes… $50 Grand. How? Well… we’re gonna use some volunteer labor. It’s nice to have relatives that are construction workers, plumbers, and electricians.

That means that you still have $15,000.000 left over.

Hey, as Billy Mays used to say… “But wait… there’s more!”

  • We’ll use government programs to help offset the cost of the solar and photovoltaic systems.
  • We’ll use that new Cash for Clunkers Appliance package, to help pay for appliances.
  • We’ll apply for a Government grant to actually help build the house.

That’ll bring in about $28,000.00 to go back in the bank.

We found a grant that will help families build a home, to the tune of about $15,000.00. It’s a grant. No pay back. ZERO! That, plus the existing energy and appliances packages available will yield at LEAST $28,000.00.

That means that you have $43,000.00 in your hot little hands. But, it’s a good idea to pay back “you know who” or you’ll never hear the end of it… trust me.

There goes $30,000.00!

You’re back to $13,000.00. So, you’re only out of pocket $22,000.00 so far… IF you stuck to the budget as closely as you could.

I’m betting that you only have about $5,000 left over. 🙂

After they get their appraisal and their certificate of occupancy, they can take a loan out on that house, that equals any equity they created. I’m betting it will be way over $50,000.00.  That means that they’ve immediately paid back the “In-Laws” and they still have money for decorating.

They have a brand new house, brand new appliances, enough power production to offset the majority of their power bills, and money in the bank.

They apply for, and get that $50,000 Home Equity loan. The payment is $299.78. Remember?

So, cash in hand, we pay some bills. In fact, we pay ALL of them. This way… “Nervous Nellie Nana” can just shut the heck up about carrying a bunch of debt… 🙂

This family is going to make a mortgage payment now, but it’s only $300.00. That’s far less than rent for a comparable space.

And, they can add on, later.

Is America great , or what?

After we ‘final’ the designs, I’ll talk about exactly how we’re going to accomplish this.

The Renaissance Ronin

If you’ve enjoyed the blog, learned from it, or just found yourself entertained, please consider contributing a few bucks to it, to help us keep it up and running. We started doing this, so that we could share information, as we tried to save our family. Every penny counts, and we really need the help.

And… Stay tuned for another exciting episode of:

“What’s that ‘Container idiot ‘ up to, NOW?”

“George, I can see it clearly now… there’s boxes up in them trees!”

24 Sep

Greetings, Campers!

Aren’t you sick of all this “Shipping Container Nonsense”… yet?

Nope? Me either!

As you probably already know, I’m the guy building shipping container homes, for sport and even profit!

Of course, in my case, the profit is the knowledge that another family has found a home! 🙂

And… I find it sporting to give the local Planning and Zoning guys aneurysms! Plus, my own family will profit by this as well, by getting a “Tonka Tough” house to live in, when it’s finally finished!

I’ve been telling you about a plot of land that we’re “experimenting” on…

It’s just outside Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for those of you who are interested in WHERE we’re building this little “science project.”

The idea is to take several damaged shipping containers rescued from “the place shipping containers go to die” and reuse them as shelter, by turning them into modules. These modules will be interconnected, to form an entire residence, by “compartmentalizing” each space.

shipping-container-treehouseNope. Not this. Can you imagine? I bet my local Planning and Zoning guys would have  strokes right and left! Hey… wait a sec… that could be… maybe… um… nah… never mind. 🙂

We’ve been debating, arguing, and just generally bullying each other for a few weeks, but here’s what we’ve decided.

The first experiment will be a “floating home” that is nothing more than a village of container segments all interconnected by walkways.

We were going to build a “galley” kitchen unit that will include a built in 6′ x 8′ “banquette seating arrangement.”

But… cooler heads prevailed, and now the kitchen, dining area, and family room will be housed in a central room, that serves as the nucleus for the whole demented collection of Corten molecules!

(2) Bedroom modules will be constructed, one for the “parents”, and one for any guests foolish enough to want to visit.


The bedroom modules will be entered thru double french pane doors that open OUT.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the code guy’s gonna have a fit…

In a space this ‘tight’, it’s the only way that makes any sense. This means that in spring and summer, the doors can be opened allowing the module to extend out onto the 8′ x ?’ deck.

(We’re still arguing about whether or not to just screen off the decks to begin with, to keep bugs out. I’m all in favor of starving the mosquitoes, so that they’ll go elsewhere. Those little lanai’s could be quite cool! )

You enter into an almost 8′ wide “seating area,” backed by a 4′  organizer closet that runs up 7′. A double row of  (5) stacked 1’x 1′ boxes forms a knee wall above the closet. The lower boxes will open into the sitting area, and a few of the upper boxes may open into the loft hidden behind that knee wall of boxes…

I haven’t decided yet which way the boxes will face. I suspect that they’ll open into the loft, to allow for more storage up there..

The sitting room is just a place to relax away from everyone else. We’re talking about (2) opposed chairs and a table between them, nothing fancy.

I know, you’re already complaining that the closet could be larger… But we’re building “small quarters”, here. Downsizing means getting rid of stuff you don’t need.

That 3′ opening on the left side of the closet leads to a full bath… behind the closet.   We’re thinking about a pocket door, here. And, for an added bonus… On the left side of that doorway is a 1′ deep storage cabinet, based on simple 1′ x 1′ x1′ stacked cubes. That storage cabinet is 3′ deep. We’ll just screw them all together, to make them all “connected and sturdy”.  Stacked 7 high, that’s almost 21 cubic feet of storage.


Because I have about (160) 1′ x 1′ x 1′ wooden boxes. Built out of 1″ MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), they were used to ship huge electrical relays, internationally. Who cares? The REAL cool thing about MDF is that it’s really stable, and those boxes will accept paint really easily!

Why do I have such a large stockpile of them?

Don’t ask me why! My wife says that it’s because I’m an idiot! I suspect it’s really because I can’t let anything go into the garbage… and…

… because they would fit into my storage unit. 🙂

A local manufacturing company went out of business and the new tenant found then in the building when he moved in. He didn’t want them… Guess who did?

So, I just got 21 cubic feet of storage space, for free! Who’s the idiot now…Char? Hmmm? 🙂

And, if it looks cool… I might just continue it into the bathroom, to kiss the sink! 🙂

The bath is virtually the same as any bath you’d find in a “normal” house.  A sink and cabinet with a toilet next to it. and the tub running across the end. We may angle the sink in the corner, to get a few more feet of “moving around” space. No composting toilet, sorry folks.

Plumbers cost a fortune! If I had my way, we’d just cut a big hole in a “butt shelf.” Look out belowwwwww!  🙂

I recently bartered for some glass block, so we may even do a “feature window” of glass block behind the tubs.

Back in the sitting room, a library ladder attaches to a brass rail that spans the room, above the closet.  That ladder leads up to a clerestory loft, and that’s where you’ll sleep.

Unless, of course… you’re in the doghouse, like I usually am. 😦

WHY “Library Ladders”??

Because we salvaged four of the units that needed some TLC, and we had some fun rehabbing them. Plus, now they’re just itching to have my fat butt fall off of them! 🙂

We’ll create the clerestory loft, by building a knee wall on one end, and a full 8′ wall on the other, that will receive glass. We’ll cap it with a SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) roof overhead, naturally.

Remember that SIPs will carry themselves in short spans. So, we don’t need any beams or trusses.

In the sleeping loft, you’ll find a built-in Queen sized bed running across the back.We’re doing two of these units, so in one, we’ll run one bed system length-wise, on a raised “storage pedestal.” A built in headboard and footboard will allow a small place for knick-knacks, and beverages.  We’ll slant the headboard and footboard and then upholster them, so that the bed can also be used as a reclining seat, to read in the window. This’ll leave a nice space in front of the bed, that faces into/over  the sitting area.

We’re still undecided about the second bedroom unit. I’m all for building in the furniture, but the vote is still out.

(1) Bunk House with bathroom will be built, to give the kids their own space (and you can bet it’ll be located way out on the edge, where they won’t disturb anyone else!).

This lil beauty is going to be a “side entry module.” Essentially, we’ll use a french door to open the module to the deck. Their lanai will be wider (the full 16′ width of the module) and have a built in bench and table on one end so that they can play, eat, or whatever, in peace. The clerestory play loft is accessed thru a hatch above the bunk beds, to prevent kids from falling out and maiming themselves. It’s created by building a 5′ tall knee wall in that bunkbed end, and then an 8′ window wall in the bathroom end. Obviously, you just frame in the sides.  A SIP roof covers it up, and keeps the critters out. Or, it keeps the critters IN, it depends on how you look at it. 🙂


(1) “Meditation Module” is being built. It’s an 8′ x 16′  library, really, with soft places to enjoy the scenery and read a good book, draw, or even hunker down behind a computer. A loft in the eaves will provide that CPU space, or maybe even another bed. A powder room will complete the unit.

All of these modules will orbit a large octagonal room (in the center of this mess) made out of  SIP panels and french doors, and like I said… each module connects to that, by it’s  own “deck”.

That center room is the only “module” that won’t be ISBU based. It’s essentially a big open space, with a pitched roof to match. We MAY build a loft into it. The idea is to construct it out of SIPs  (Structural Insulated Panels) and recycled french doors (from a huge hotel rebuild in Destin, FL), and then put a thick  octagonal SIP roof on it.


Well, because we got a hell of a deal on the SIPs. They are “left-overs” from a large construction job. Now, you don’t usually have anything left when building with SIPs,  as each panel is usually precut, at the factory. In this case, they decided NOT to build a certain segment of the building. Thus, “left-overs.” We’ll take ’em.

A wood stove in the center of the “gathering room” will provide heat for the space.

Again, I know, I know… Why?

Sheesh, you ask a lot of questions!

Well, if you must know, it’s because we already had the woodstove, and it needed a home. The lot that this whole Corten Community is going in is heavily wooded, and there are a lot of downed trees. So, firewood will NEVER be an issue.

So, as we toil away cutting Shipping Containers up into even smaller Shipping containers…

I started looking at the size of these “reduced” boxes, and I’ve been thinking about how you could actually use one to build a “Tiny House.” The primary difference is that you’d just start with a steel carcass, about 8′ wide, by 16′ deep, and you’d have a 9.5′ ceiling. Cut the top out and add a big pitched roof (say… 8/12 pitch), and you have a terrific loft area. You could get about 200 square feet out of one of these easily.

The first shipping container arrived today from the ISBU dump, and needless to say, we jumped on it with plasma cutters blazing.

It was like those Sci-Fi alien movies, where the mechanical arms come outta nowhere, and start cannibalizing anything with metal in it! 🙂

We’re cutting this first ISBU into three sections, and one section is pretty much garbage. From it we’re going to get (2) 16′ deep sections, and they’ll be turned into bedrooms with ensuite baths. I’ll post the drawings when we finalize the actual design, in the next few days.

I’m sure you’re asking why we’re cutting before we have solid plans. I know that I would be.

Well, here’s the deal… The Shipping Containers that we’re getting right now are damaged boxes, and we’re just cutting around “the damage.” Careful cutting will give us two usable “pieces,” and we already know that we can build a pretty nice little sleeping box in 16′ of running space.

To recap:

Each bedroom will have a sitting area, a closet, a full bath that measures approx. 6′ x 8′, and a sleeping loft, overhead. Each sleeping module will have it’s own solar hot water heating system, and have radiant in-floor heat.

Each module will have at least an  8′ x 8′ front deck that will connect each module to the center octagon, in a hodge-podge kinda Ewok village sorta thing…

Concrete pilings built using sonotubes and rebar will hoist the whole shooting match up off the ground.

Each module will provide most of it’s own power, using photovoltaic panels and inverters that will feed into a “common” battery bank. A “desulferator contraption” will refresh deep-cycle golf cart batteries that we “commandeered” from a local golf course, for free.

So, now you know. We’ve finally lost our minds… But somewhere in all those metal scraps, we may just find them, again…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Geothermal Energy: The Journey to the Center of the Girth… :)

4 Aug

Man, this building a home out of 40′ ISBUs (shipping containers) is getting harder and harder!

I crawled out of my cave today, and looked at the sky. For several days in a row, we’ve been plagued by lighting, thunder, and downpours that last just long enough to turn the place into a sauna, and make you want to crawl into your bed and pull the covers up over your head.

The power’s gone out several times, the cable is looking like those scrambled images you looked at, as a kid, fighting eyestrain while you stared into the tube trying to see anything that looked like “nakedness” (remember scrambled porn channels? Admit it! I’m not the only one who did that! Am I? Um… er…  oh, never mind!), and the big oak tree in the church parking lot lot next door got a kiss from Gawd’s fireworks, and it’s now looking like some kind of demented twisted twin Oak mutation.

Incredible. Speaking of stuff that ends with “credible”…

In order to host a “credible blog,” I’ve become aware that you have to actually possess credibility.


So, in keeping with the theme of the day (Credibility… aren’t you paying attention? Sheesh!) 🙂 I thought I’d list my title so that you can see how credible I is…

I’m currently deployed, um…er… employed, in a job that pays exactly what I’m worth.

I got me a title, I do…

I’m the “Involuntary Second Assistant to the Assistant Manager, in charge of the department of certain things that nobody else gives a great big “Gawd Dang It!” about…”

Remember that Paypal donation button way over there to the right? PULLLLELASE! We’re starving! 🙂

And, I’ll have you know that I didn’t “volunteer” for the job! Only suckers volunteer for anything! The last time I did that, I got married to a crazy Indian bent on scalping Jews… 🙂

Oy Freakin Vey! I miss my hair… 😉

So, obviously… one of the things I’m in charge of… is spouting off about hot air. After all, I got me a title, so that makes me an expert, right? 🙂

Last time we talked (um…er… chatted… um… okay, you CAN read, right?)… 🙂

We were talking about living in a steel box, and ways to control the temperature. And, I was going on and on about how I’m using Geothermal HVAC to heat and cool the “hot box” we’re building.

Geothermal Energy is simply heat or coolant (thermal) derived from the earth (geo). It is the thermal energy contained in the rock and fluid (that fills the fractures and pores within the rock) in the earth’s crust.

Guys like Burkland (a noted scientist from the 70’s) have been doing calculations that demonstrate that the earth, originating from a completely molten state, would have cooled and become completely solid many thousands of years ago without an energy input in addition to that of the sun. It is believed that the ultimate source of geothermal energy is radioactive decay occurring deep within the earth.

Wait a sec’, and let me grab my “professor hat…”

Time for the Science lesson; Run for your lives! 🙂

Some wise guy, paid to know better, with a bunch of alphabet soup after his name, said: “In most areas of the earth, this geothermal heat reaches the surface in a very diffused state. However, due to a variety of geological processes, some areas, including substantial portions of many western states in the United States are underlain by relatively shallow geothermal resources.”

Who said it? Hell, I don’t know,  I fell asleep after “In most areas of…”!! Your guess is as good as mine! 🙂

But, it’s true. For example, I used to live in the Pacific Northwest, on 15 glorious acres by a serene little river that sat in the middle of nowhere. All around us, there were Geothermal Hot Springs, and we exploited them to bathe in, provide heat and hot water for our houses, and we even built a cooker/poacher using them.

Why did I ever leave? Um… not many girls… When you’re a dork like moi, you need a much larger pond to fish in… 🙂

Anyway, most of these resources can be classified as low temperature (less than 90°C or 194°F), moderate temperature (90°C – 150°C or 194 – 302°F), and high temperature (greater than 150°C or 302°F). Why classify them at all? Well, the uses to which these resources are applied are also influenced by temperature.

The highest temperature resources are generally used only for electric power generation. Current U.S. geothermal electric power generation totals approximately 2200 MW or about the same as four large nuclear power plants.

Uses for low and moderate temperature resources can be divided into two categories: direct use and ground-source heat pumps.

Direct use, as the name implies, involves using the heat in the water directly (without a heat pump or power plant) for such things as heating of buildings, industrial processes, greenhouses, aquaculture (growing of fish) and resorts.

That’s what WE did. And, there were no moving parts! No maintenance, and lots of time to fish and garden… Yippee… But, not many girls… Argh!  Noticing a trend yet? 🙂

Direct use projects generally use resource temperatures between 38°C (100°F) to 149°C (300°F). According to statistics, current U.S. installed capacity of direct use systems totals 470 MW or enough to heat 40,000 average-sized houses.

Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Using resource temperatures of 4°C (40°F) to 38°C (100°F), the heat pump, a device which moves heat from one place to another, transfers heat from the soil to the house in winter and from the house to the soil in summer. Accurate data isn’t readily available on the current number of these systems; however, the rate of installation is thought to be between 10,000 and 40,000 per year. And that number is growing fast.

End of Science Lesson.

See, it didn’t hurt, much.

(Now… I took a couple of Advil’s while I typed it, but for you… just some minor eyestrain, so stop your complaining! Man, what a bunch of whiners!) 🙂

When you mention Geothermal anything, the very first thing that people ask, is:

“How in the heck can you afford it?”

I suspect that they envision something that resembles “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” with Brendan Fraser solving all your problems heroically, using “Hollywood tricks.”

(Frankly, I preferred the original version, but I’m not exactly a Spring Chicken. Actually, to be truthful, the heroine was much more attractive.)

Here’s some facts to dispel the myths, and help you convince your significant other that you haven’t lost your mind…. again!

How much can you save in energy costs with a geothermal system?

New York
Standard Geoexchange System $583 $797 $1,179 $1,062
Standard Air Source Heat Pump $826 $1,109 $2,059 $1,541
Standard Gas Furnace / Electric Air Conditioning $686 $860 $1,377 $1,138
Electric Resistance / Std Air Conditioning $1,196 $1,317 $2,945 $2,352

Who (besides ME) Says Geothermal Energy is the Best Choice?

Geothermal energy has already been recognized as the single most efficient and greenest heating/cooling method by people who are paid to know, in places like government and private sectors.

Now, I know that you’re suspicious of anything that comes from “Obamanation,” that tells you it’s the best way… but… Get used to it. It’s the same as when the intel came from Bushland, or the Clinton Conspiracy, or even the Nixon Nightmare… Just do your homework, and then decide for yourself.:)

Here’s what the U.S. Department of Energy says about Geothermal

Click here!

And here’s what the guys and gals at Energy Star are saying;

Click here!

EnergyStar has even compiled a listing of approved geothermal products, and you can get that PDF here:

Click Here!

The Department of Energy Consumer’s Energy Guide even has data on geothermal systems and ROI (return on investment);

Click here!

And if you want more stuff to talk about over the dinner table, instead of a heated discussion about your Mother-In-Law coming to visit for a “weekend” that actually lasts a week… again…;

You can talk about the EPA’s State and Local Climate Change program (PDF):

You know the drill… Click Here!

This handy-dandy info source is focused on helping you to take advantage of the high energy efficiency and low environmental impact of geothermal systems.

And there are many, many Consumer, industry, and scientific organizations jumping on the bandwagon;

The California-based Consumer Energy Center praises versatile geothermal energy.

I’d think any information based body from California would be falling on it’s own swords right about now, as Arnold tries to “Terminate” the naysayers to his “bailout budget” but try this link (if California can still afford bandwidth!)…

Click Here! You’ll be baaaaaack! 🙂

The copy writers and braggarts at the GeoThermal Energy Association discuss the benefits of renewable geothermal energy.

Why? Can you say “Buy My Products.” Oh wait, that’s the guy from those learn it on CD things… Anyway, try here:

Click Here!

And if all this information hasn’t got your head spinning, then you can find out what the Union of Concerned Scientists has to say. Even major energy producers (power plants) recognize geothermal energy advantages  as a renewable source of power.

Click here, but I warn you, it’s a big file.

Okay, so you’ll spend the next several hours reading up on Geothermal Science.

You will right? After all, remember, I trap your IP addresses. If you don’t… well, let’s just say that there’s a smoking pile of dog poop on your front porch, in your near future… 🙂

After doing your homework, and waving a fistful of data sheets in the air as you debate Geothermal with your “spouse…” You know what’s gonna happen, right?

They’ll just look at you, with a blank stare, and say; “So what? What do other people who actually USE Geothermal say?”

And you can scream; “AH- HA! Here’s the answer right here!” as you fling printouts up in the air gleefully!

(Hey, works for ME!) 🙂

It appears that over 90% of people and corporations using geothermal systems would recommend installing one in your home. That’s reflected in a number of online users’ and owners’ forums, including GeoExchange, which you can find…

Yeah, yeah… just shaddup and click here! Sheesh… you’re a bunch of sissies! 🙂

It’s a great place to find no-nonsense answers and information about Geothermal, from people actually using it.

But I’m guessing that you think installing a Geothermal system is like building a Nuclear Powerplant, right? Nope. Here’s a look at how one of them did it;

Next time, (now that you’re armed with enough facts to completely cloud the issue) we’ll tackle the specifics of Geothermal, and start laying out a “real” system. 🙂

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Google the Grid!

20 Jul

Here’s some news on the Alternative Energy Front!

Google and Microsoft Are Building Smart Power Grids!

Yep, those titans of power (in the form of INFORMATION) have combined to try and gain a stranglehold on your house! OMG! 🙂

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside…

Two High-Technology giants Google and Microsoft find themselves competing again, and this time it’s not about “cloud computing,” or even “Search Engine Technology!” The “guru’s of geekdom” are developing “bi-directional power grids” that will not only bring electricity to your house, but will also help you optimize usage and consequently, save money. Uh huh… and if you believe that one… 🙂

They might be on to something here, folks. The problem with the current power distribution is that it is like a one-way traffic. While the power is constantly being transmitted to your homes, nothing is transmitted from your homes to the power stations.

What? Those greedy power bastards want my juice? No Way, I tell you! Nuh-uh! Where’s My Gun??… Wait… Take a breath… Count to three…

(Take off your shoes and count your little piggies if you have to… We’ll wait!) Now… exhale.

Do the power moguls want to steal your precious power from your homes?

Do they want to limit your ability to make toast, or boil the oatmeal for the monsters that live in your house? Nope.

What they do want, is to snoop. That’s right, they want to peek through your windows, and see what color skivvies you’re wearin.

(Boy are they gonna be shocked at my house! Cuz’ I ain’t wearin’ any… At least not at the moment…)

Oh stop rollin your eyes! I’m wearin running shorts. You guys are pervs… Sheesh… I gotta start writin to a better class of people… 🙂

The power peeps want to see what you’re doing, so that they use the user trends information and make power available accordingly. It’s practically impossible to make informed choices if you don’t have the right information. And we all know that’s true. Information is at the heart of all good decision making!

“Lemme see… Do I want sugar-free strawberry glaze, with this pretty picture of Catherine Zeta Jones on the label, or do I want that “all in the box” generic stuff? No pretty pictures. No idea of what’s inside… But, it’s cheaper… CZJ is cheap (C’mon, she married that Douglas knucklehead, remember?), but… plain-wrap is cheaper… Guess we’re eatin “Gawd Only Knows Strawberry Pie tonight!”

Google has an application now, called PowerMeter and Microsoft’s bringin up the rear with it’s own version, called “Hohm” achieve exactly that. The goal is to provide you with information that can help you optimize your energy usage. For instance, do you know how much energy you exactly consume when you wash one day’s laundry…

(You’re supposed to do laundry a day at a time? Whaaa? That’s news to me! I’ve been wearin these running shorts for a week now!…)

Or when you’re watching your favorite soap opera? (Heaven forbid you should miss “General Hospital”…),

Or… How much cash could you save by pumping up your insulation, replacing that old refrigerator (the noise level around your house will drop too, if your house is like mine. My wife has been nagging me for two years to throw that piece of junk away!), or by turning off the tube to avoid watching that TV show you hate??

Whaaaa? Hey, somebody better tell those guys that the REASON Cable TV got invented, was to avoid that! Turning off the TV? Those guys are crazy?

But, What amount of energy is burned if you forget to switch off a light bulb or a fan?

Yeah, I know you can get a “Kill-a- somethin or other- watts” meter (I even wrote a post about it!), but you can’t use it to monitor yourself 24/7. So, it’s very hard to figure out which of your bad habits waste energy more… in order for your wife to nag you about… cutting down on them. 🙂

Wait, maybe I better rethink this!

I guess it makes sense. It explains why I have to call the damned power company when MY power goes out! Like they don’t already know…

Sometimes, I think they turn it off and on, just to piss me off!

“Ronin’s just about to turn his computer back on again.. Wait for it… wait for it… okaaaaaaay… Quick! Turn it off! Hee -hee!” Bastards. 🙂

Power rates are usually based on something called a “uniform rate.”

Now, that’s not to describe how the power company won’t send anyone to your house, without having a police escort… or is it? Hell, every time those guys show up here, they eat all of Joshua’s donuts… Bastards!

Whaa? Your power guys don’t show up with bodyguards? Well, here’s how to make that happen… Wait until they get up on the pole by your house, to check the transformer. Then,,, when they’re not lookin… turn the hose on ’em!

Instant COPS. Just like on TV.. “Bad Jew, bad jew, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when the Ronin gets you?”

Hmmmm? Okay, supposedly, there’s a uniform rate that dictates how much you pay for your kilowatt hours of power.

But that doesn’t make any sense to me.

I mean… Sure, jack up my rate when it’s 104 outside, and it’s not even noon yet. But… if it’s 3am, and I wanna blow dry my hair, I’m pretty sure not many other people are pretending they still have hair to blow dry… Or are they? Hmmmmm… again.

Shouldn’t power used when everyone else is asleep, cost less? Hmmm? Just a thought…

So, if I use this software to see what I’m doing on the power grid, I should get smarter about how I use power, I could save a few dollars, AND I’ll be saving the environment, too? Right?

Here’s what the guys in charge say:


Some public relations lackey said;

“With the help of Google’s PowerMeter your appliances will be able to decide when to use more power and when to use less. Once the grid is installed, using iGoogle you’ll be able to monitor your power usage minute-by-minute, for individual appliances. On your Google home page you will be able to add the tracker the way you add any other gadget there. The PowerMeter is designed to show a granular, real-time view of electricity-consuming devices.”

According to Google labs: “Google PowerMeter receives information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provides customers with access to their home electricity consumption right on their personal iGoogle homepage. We are currently testing Google PowerMeter with a number of utilities and plan to expand our roll out later this year.”

And those guys up in Redmond are trying to squeeze their way onto the boat too…

(May they fall off, and right into the water while holding onto power lines… those “Vista-birthing” bastards… Don’t get me started…) 🙂

Microsoft’s done what Microsoft is good at. They threw cash at a license for advanced analytics from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide consumers with personalized energy-saving recommendations.

Of course it’ll happen on-line, so that they can secretly chart your power usage, and further garner a foothold into your life, so that they can go sneaky-sneakin into places where no big business should ever go, like my living room… and then sell that “insight” to someone who is trying to tell me how I should live my life… those rat-bastards… Um… er… where in the hell did that come from? Oy. I gotta go take my medicine.

According to Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, “Microsoft Hohm demonstrates how a combination of advanced software and Internet-based services can help people track, understand and manage their personal energy usage.”

And we can sell that data to your neighbors! MICROSOFT Strikes Again! Muuuuuawhaaa-haa!

Okay, so he didn’t actually SAY that last part… But, he was thinking it! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

It ain’t heavy… It’s “the other…”

13 Jul

Projects currently in the works;

Over the last few months, I’ve dropped hints about projects that I’m involved in, while we iron out all the bumps in our own ISBU build.

Hell, we talked about one, just the other day. Aren’t you paying attention? Huh? I don’t write these posts for my health. I write them to toot my own horn! 🙂

So, anyway… now that those projects have progressed past “the design phase” and are currently undergoing “permitting,” or have gone past “permitting” and are actually in construction, I thought I’d give you an idea what we’re doing.

I’m not much for demonstrating or revealing stuff that “can’t get built.” I’ve seen too many “pie in the sky” plans that will never come to fruition, to frustrate you with them. I’ll show you stuff that we’re actually BUILDING. I promise.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll “expose” you to what’s we’re doing. Here’s the first one;

Look, Ma!  It’s a 16’x40′ cabin on the beach…

It’s not “Grandma’s House in the woods…” It’s a “De-Luxe Shed!”

A while back, when I started the blog, I was contacted by a pair of “miscreants” from Georgia, who wanted a place by the beach, within driving distance of the Gulf Coast Gambling Casinos. It seems this pair had recently sold a rather high-brow Mercedes (after it had been vandalized for the third time) and decided to spend the money on a weekend retreat. I figured that it must have been a pretty good car, because they told me that their budget was between $66,000 – $75,000 dollars.

So… MY newest ISBU based structure is…

(okay, so it’s actually “the owner’s…” but that won’t stop me from taking all the credit!) 🙂

… A modest new structure in Mississippi the blends a down-home agricultural feel (hey, the cabin is surrounded by Rednecks! What did you think it was gonna look like? Manhattan?) with calm and relaxing craftsmanship.

I had a “loft” plan for a pair of containers beating around in the inside of my (hollow) head for a while now. I’d thought it was a pretty good scenario for a “bug-out cabin.” A “Bug-Out Cabin” is a place you run to when things “get stupid” and you need to get away from the neighbors for a while. Any survivalists (or neighborhood troublemakers, for that matter) out there will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Then, mid-design, I saw this really cool “barn cabin” in an overseas architectural publication a while back. Bingo-bango-bongo! Smash the two best ideas from both designs together, throw in a few decades experience building shelter with these steel boxes… and you get… Instant “Redneck Rendezvouz.”

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Designed to look like an old barn… and I did quite nicely, I’ll have you know! Take a 16′ x 40″ box, add a knee wall to the top (we went up 5′ approx.) to get some attic space, a steeply pitched metal over SIPs roof, and there you have it! A “Bubba Box!” The rough wooden-board sided container house creates a familiar silhouette. It looks just like an outhouse, from the front! Nah… not really… 🙂

Inside, however, it’s a far cry from the “rough and ready” cabins that you see on Cable TV.

Like I said… This ISBU-based weekend retreat has a “down-home feeling…” Why else would we use board-and-batten siding and a (recycled) antique wood-burning stove? And just like the cabins you see in the movies, it is quite cozy (1,088 square feet), really casual (a lot of wood) and secluded (almost no neighbors). But that’s where the similarity ends…

Designed to resemble a farm outbuilding (and not “an outhouse,” so just stop it!) , the “anything but low-slung” structure is nestled into the shoals of Coastal Mississippi as if it had been planted there a hundred years ago. In fact, if you don’t mow the lawn for a really, really long time… 🙂

A color scheme of maize, sage and red clay inside complements the grasses, trees and earth outside. The metal roof (overlaid on state-of-the-art SIPs) soars to over 18 feet, supported by thick pine beams and trusses studded with steel bolts. An almost continuous wall of windows and glass doors runs the cabin’s entire south facing 40-foot length, allowing light to flood the whole space, on both levels.

The cabin sits 8′ feet up off the meadow, held securely in place by (2) 10′ diameter sections of culvert pipe that we salvaged from a D.O.T. highway job. I’ve talked about those pipe sections earlier, so I won’t repeat myself, as much as I like to hear myself preach… 🙂

We built a nifty little “frame system” that fit over the top of each section of pipe, that was in turned welded to the container frames. Voila! Instant foundation!

(Okay, it was a LITTLE bit more complicated than that. But it was CHEAP! The most expensive part was trucking the sections to the site!)

This “altitude boost” was mandated by the elevation of the property, and the 100 year flood-plain mark. It actually worked to our advantage, it sits up in the air just high enough to tuck watercraft under, a cord or two of seasoned wood for the wood stove, as well as providing us with great access when we apply the closed cell foam insulation to the “undercarriage.”

The pipe does double-duty. (Or “triple-duty” if you count how damned cool it looks…) One of them is going to be used as a water tank. That’s right… A water tank for the well. that means that at any given time, there will be almost 5,000 gallons of water available, in case anybody wants to take a long shower. The other one is going to be used as a shed to store stuff in. I mean, would you really try to hack your way through a foot of concrete pipe, to steal some tools or some beach stuff? Me neither…

Framing a “wood deck” into the pipe about 7′ up allows a place to stack firewood, so that you can access it thru a trapdoor in the floor of the cabin. Sounds complicated, but it ain’t. We just built a “partial shelf” that covers about 1/3rd of the top of the pipe interior, to hold about a quarter cord of dry wood. Sure, you have to climb a ladder to “prime” the shelf. You’ll get over it!  It just means that the owner doesn’t have to go outside in bad weather to fetch more firewood, should the mood hit him.

But just because it’s a weekend retreat doesn’t mean that anybody has to “rough it.” One of the owners is a chef, and she has a 36″ Viking Restaurant grade range to prove it. In fact, it was out in her garage, looking for a good home, when we started drawing this baby up!  That monster of a gas stove will be set in front of  large sliding glass doors, opening out onto a wooden deck for al fresco dining. The kitchen comes fully equipped, the amenities include a dishwasher and plenty of counterspace to make a mess of!.  All appliances are required to be (you guessed it) “energy-efficient.”

There’s a washing machine (front loading ) tucked under the stairs, behind the refrigerator. (It’s a steep staircase, more like the evil spawn of a ladder and a staircase. But, the customer is always right… ) 🙂

And, drying the laundry is done in a “green mode,” too! It’s solar! Can you say clothesline? However, a dryer could have been installed between the two closets in the hall, instead of that desk. The owners opted not to, to lower power requirements. They don’t like gas dryers, either.

And the owners wanted something that they could show off to the “neighbors…” so we used recycled slate in the bathroom to surround that big tub/shower combo that looks off into the meadow through a huge “garden window.” Oh yeah, did I mention that the bathroom has a solar-heated floor?

Don’t go looking for a stuffed Marlin, “singing trout” hanging on the walls, or any deer heads, either. This cabin is all about “sustainable and stylish.”

There isn’t anything within that will remind you of those musty, dusty, creaky places that you’d imagine you’d find “out in the woods.”  This place is all about style, an escape designed to allow the owners to commune with the natural world, in comfort.

Described as a ‘deluxe shed’ by the designer (ME! Aren’t you paying attention? Jeeezo!), this modest lil project is a veritable masterpiece of detailing, if I do say so myself. In fact, I shall…

The marine plywood-clad interior is warm and inviting (I know what you’re thinking… Nope, we didn’t recycle THAT. We like to barter around here, so we traded some of our “new lumber” for it), while each window wall is painted a nice charcoal color to create a stark contrast with the luxurious exterior views.

Hey, the damned thing hangs 8′ up in the air, You’d hope that there were some decent views! Right?

To use the owners words;

“We lead busy, almost frantic, technology-laden lives. We eat, breathe, and sleep stress, and we need a place to slip away to that will allow us to rejuvenate and recharge our batteries. We want a simple, beautiful, indoor-outdoor cabin space that’s designed to be low maintenance, and requiring little upkeep. Oh yeah, and put a damper on intricate details, huh? Remember that “less is more,” okay?”

To look at this “new” glass-and-wood cabin in Mississippi, you’d never guess that it had started out it’s life as a pair of boxes used to haul products to America, from China. In fact, unless somebody told you that this little cabin started out it’s life as Corten Steel shipping containers, you’d never be able to tell.

And about that maintenance… Maintenance? There’s very little of that. The concrete floors are virtually indestructible and stand up to whatever trials the owners and their guests can carry in through those huge sliding glass doors.

And this little cabin will support a LOT of overnight guests. A sleeping loft, accessed by an “alternating stairstep staircase,”  was created that would remind anyone who’s ever hung out around yachts of “mini-staterooms.”  (2) separate “queen” staterooms are provided for the parents, and (4) “twin” bunks are built-in, for “the crew.” An intricate teak lattice gridwork (supplied by th owners) separates the loft from the main space, and keeps kids from using the loft as a diving board onto the sectional. It also allows airflow. That’s vitally inportant in a sleeping loft, after a night of chili and hot dogs… 🙂

The sleeping “attic” has rubber mats, similar to those found in gyms or martial arts dojo’s, to help keep the “sleeping loft” noise down. (I wonder how it’ll fair, against snoring?) 🙂

For you “tree-huggers,” “carbon trader’s,” and “dreaded disciples of Gore…”:

The deliberately unkempt exterior landscape and high insulation values of the cabin’s exterior will keep the cabin’s environmental footprint to a bare minimum. We did design in a system that allows for remotely operated fan heaters to be set via cellular telephone to warm the space up as the owners approach.

Hot water is provided via solar panels and an attic storage tank, which also supplies the heated water for the radiant “in-floor” heating system. Electricity for the cabin is provided by an array of photovoltaic panels and an auxiliary generator, if necessary.

That staircase also provides the privacy for the full bath (complete with garden tub), and the home for the kitchen’s stainless steel refrigerator. And I might add that despite its simplicity, that decadent tub-with-a-view ensures the owners always know they’re far from Atlanta crowds.

And this house is no slouch, when it comes to being “green.” The designer (ME! Hello? Are you still there?) is a big believer in using local materials.

Why? Because, folks, the less you ship, the more you save. We built almost the entire contents of this cabin out of recycled materials (including the biggest, roundest cypress table you ever saw!), and salvaged lumber we either found, or produced (more on that later), found after Hurricane Katrina chewed it’s way through Mississippi. That table because the anchor for the kitchen/dining room/living room. “Pickle barrel chairs” surround that table, and will seat about… um… okay, I’m not sure. I haven’t seen the chairs yet!  So far, all the chairs are different!  Figure that it will seat seven or eight. 🙂

One of the biggest trends we’re seeing in “environmental friendliness” is the use of local materials. It’s not “friendly” to ship things over long distances, despite those ads on TV that spout rhetoric about how many millions of miles a train will move a zillion containers, on one gallon of fuel. It’s “crap,” folks. There’s a lot they didn’t factor into that ad math…

Wood for the interior and the decks that surround the owners “cabin” was recycled from downed trees, and a nearby train trestle that had been blown down and scattered for miles. The required elements were found, right on the property. Instant salvage. The property had sported several very old oak and magnolia trees, as well as many, many pines, and more than a few cedars. Katrina evldently didn’t like them, so she knocked them down.

A local with a “truck-pulled” sawmill offered to remove most of the fallen trees, if we’d let him process the lumber on the property. We held out for some of the lumber. Voila, instant siding and cabinetry lumber. We also held out for some cash. We got that, too. (It was a lot of trees.)

We put an ad in the local paper for corrugated steel for the roof, and a guy called and said he was tearing up several metal roofs, and we could come and take what we needed. “It’s less for me to haul off!” he told us.

We spent $1,700 for a “slightly damaged” photovoltaic (PV) system on Craigslist. Photovoltaics, for those of you new to this game, are panels that convert solar energy to electricity. As it turns out, the “slight damage” was to the packaging. The warehouse that the PV’s were stored in was knocked flat by Katrina, and the inventory was sold off for pennies on the dollar. That little gem of an array will supply all the electricity required to run the appliances and the media center. But NO hairdryers! Capish? 🙂

Okay, we DID have to pony up for some really good Deep-Cycle batteries, to store the produced power in. When we bought the PV’s, the guy threw in a pretty decent inverter.

An additional PV panel will power the well, and it’s electric pump.

We’ll install a septic tank (above ground), and a “newfangled” leach field. We’ll also utilize reclaimed water through a water retention system (to a cistern), and greywater recycling (to the yard). The owners are big on “biodegradable.” and thus, the greywater can be used to irrigate the garden, and help the lawn out…

So, the water bill will be… almost zero. (Hey, they DID have to dig the well…)  The power bill will be… zero. (Again, they had to provide the PV system, but with the price they paid, and the tax credits, it’s pretty close to nothing.) And the Direct TV bill will be… um… who cares!

The biggest payment will be… the property tax. And, that’s worked out to what we expect will be a bite in the butt, because the county that this cabin resides in is surprisingly… um… er… high. We estimate that “the cabin” will “tax” appraise out at about $230,000.00, including the 2 acres of ground that it sits on.

Not bad for an investment of about $100,000.00

As cabins go, this one is anything but “plain.” In fact, despite all the transformations cabins have undergone in the last several years, they remain, deeply personal places shaped by their owners as “hallowed and almost sacred retreats.”  With luck, some things will never change. At least, we hope not.

Project completion is scheduled for September 11th, 2009. Why? The owners wanna throw a birthday bash there. Or else…

I’ll show you photographs of the project as work progresses, so that you can see how it all goes together.

YOU could do this, too!

In fact, I’d be willing to live in this little gem, full time. Now, if only the owners would give me a key, and the security code…

The Renaissance Ronin