Tag Archives: Survival

All About “B.O.B.”

18 Nov

Welcome back!

To another exciting episode of:

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

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

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

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

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

My blog, as we all know… is;

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

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

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

I think not. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So… back to the show;

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, we’re working on it… 🙂

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

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

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

Where was I? Oh yeah…

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

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

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

titan_ae

And, they named that planet… “Bob.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Hail “THE Bob.”

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

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

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

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

But wait! There’s MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, back to the basics;

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

But wait! There’s MORE…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’d happen fast, fast, fast…

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

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

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

To Dome, or not to Dome…

11 Nov

It’s me again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah…

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

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

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

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

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

artic_domes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They look really cool!

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

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

Okay, I’ll give you that one…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant shelter…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the one big problem with a dome…

Ever tried to live in a round room?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how I’D do it;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost for shell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand total:

$6,199.00    OR   $19.99 per square foot.

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

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

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

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

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

Back to “spendy-spendy…”:

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

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

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

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

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

Now, you’re down to $7,200.00.

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

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

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

… and a decent bathroom runs right at $2000.00;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A WEEK. TWO weeks… TOPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Ronin… I have 8 kids…

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

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

POP QUIZ: Do the math.

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

Stay tuned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

5 Nov

Greetings, Campers!

Okay, so I took a break from that plasma cutter.

A guy has to eat, you know! 🙂

My family needs a house. My family has no cash. My family has a plan… and it involves Shipping Containers, recycled steel, and a lot of hard work. Hey, that’s why they call it “sweat equity”!

Most readers of this blog know that after a hurricane and an insurance company wiped out our dreams of  “a life lived like regular people”, we started rebuilding.

Katrina Bites

And, our faithful readers know that our build is harder than most, because we have “complications.” My wife is seriously ill with cancer, and my son (who is 2 years old) isn’t big enough to swing a hammer yet.

I’m not going to bore you with all those details, because I’ve talked about them before. Suffice to say, we have our hands really full.

As we speak, I’m cutting “containers into boxes.” I’m helping a guy build a small “demented village”, out of damaged container segments. And, that’s work that will make a fella mighty hungry…

So, as I sit here watching the sweat rain down, for the 37th day in a row (or so it seems) …

I’m gathering my thoughts, while I gather up this sandwich, and stuff it into my face.

sandwichNote: Not the REAL sandwich. You think I’m crazy? This one’ll kill you!  😉

So… you read, while I eat, ‘kay? Try to ignore the chomping and slurping… my wife does… barely… 🙂

I was out reading on the ‘net a few days ago, and something I read made me think about a guy I’ve been corresponding with for a while.

A reader recently contacted me (we’ll call him “J”), and told me about a “Corten Cabin” he has… stashed up in the woods. It’s what some of us would call a “Bug – Out Box”.

Now, “J” contacted me, because his box looks just like my old blog header, except for his box is twice as long.

cropped-rr-banner-0509cYou remember… this one.

“J” has a 40′ High Cube Shipping Container sitting on cinder blocks, out in the middle of nowhere, that he uses for weekend fishing trips.

There’s a logging road for access, unmaintained for years… that’s passable when it’s not under mud, or frozen under snow drifts.

The story he told me of them towing that container into the woods was hilarious.

His father-in-law wasn’t laughing, however… It was HIS truck they blew up moving that box.

Know how much it costs to get a tow-truck back into 4wd country, to haul out a dodge pick-up? Go on, guess!

More than the truck is worth. Oy.

It reminded me of a box we moved years ago, that kept trying to drag us back down the hill, before we got to the top of it…

You know how people say that when they’re facing their death, their life flashes before their eyes? Well, on THAT day, it kept happening to us over and over again…

After a while, all we could do was hang on, and scream “Deja VU!” at the top of our lungs…

Sure, we sounded like frightened little girls! We were scared “you-know-what!”  🙂

Wait… this post is supposed to be about “J”.

While he goes up there on weekends in the summer, he’s thinking that “with the economy trying to kill itself”, his family may be forced to head there someday, to ride out whatever “chaos and storm” the “hard times to come” might bring…

Now, we’re all nervous. You can’t watch cable TV without some “expert” saying that it’s time America either “checked up, or packed it in.”

We’ve all heard “it.” You know, the “experts” touting their “fearmongering” crap… “All nations eventually fail. Yada, yada, yada…”

I suspect that this is in part due to Cable TV shows like “The Colony” that advocate forward thinking rolled into a nice tight ball, to form a dysfunctional view of what survival in our times may end up being like, if you’re a complete idiot…

colony

I’ve watched a few of these “disaster simulators”. You know, “here’s a look at what happens, when the “you-know-what” finally hits the fan”.

Everybody has a scenario. Everybody is sensationalizing our plummet to a grim capitalistic  death. Everybody is speculating… Everybody is plotting…

But  you know… we may not all get stranded with a rocket scientist, an electrical engineer, a mechanic, a nurse, a martial arts expert, and a doctor, yada… yada… yada…

We might get stranded by our “onesies.” So, we should understand what we’re doing, in case the cavalry doesn’t show up in time to make any repairs.

Or worse, we’ll inherit that drunk jerk up the street. You know the one…

… he’s always passed out on the lawn, none of his cars run (and he’s got eight of ’em), and he’s always getting his lights turned off. The cops are always at his house… and his wife is always at YOUR house, “borrowing” groceries. Yeah, they’re gonna be a lot of help… Oy.

It’s why I also advocate knowing how to safely use and maintain personal firearms. And tasers… lets not forget tasers…

Like  I was saying…  before I so rudely interrupted myself… “J” thinks that if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, he and his family (he’s married with 4 children aged from 3-9) might have to be up there in his “bass box” the winter time, and he reminds me that it’s REMOTE.

There are no neighbors. There is no store. Walmart ain’t got there yet…

There’s just your wife yelling at you because you forgot the big Sam’s Club carton of toilet paper!  “Ya Dumb Moron!!” 🙂

He’ll have whatever he hauls in with his small SUV, and that’s it. He doesn’t want to rely on propane, or any other type of “store-bought” fuel, simply because it might not be available.

There’s a neat little bass lake about 200 feet from his front porch.

basslake

He says you can spit into the pond, and catch a big, fat bass. (So, they won’t lack for protein.) Hence the name “Bass Box.” Paying attention? Huh?

The box isn’t anything to write home about, it’s just a big shipping container. Except for insulation and siding on the outside, it’s a regular box.

The box sits with the front face (40′) facing a few degrees of due south. It wasn’t “a solar plan”, it’s just the way the site worked out.

Actually, the “real” story goes like this:

They argued for three hours about where “the perfect spot” for the box was. Finally, his big brother said:

“@%$^#&#*!!! IT GOES RIGHT DAMN HERE!”

And then he punched “J” right in the eye. Voila! Problem solved. 🙂

He (and his brother – who is no longer available for “cabin help,” by the way…) applied a waterproof membrane on the exterior of the box. They used a rubberized roofing membrane that you spray on. ‘Cept, they used paint rollers, so it’s REALLY thick…

Why?  Well, because they found 2 barrels of it… “just laying around, that nobody wanted”.

I know, I know… Don’t ask, don’t tell…

After they’d added more “water seal” to the box, they firred it out with 2×6’s.  This created cavities, and those cavities received about 4″ of PolyIso foam into the cavities.

When I asked him where he got the PolyIso foam boards, he told me that they’d;

“… found/commandeered/discovered the material from a vacant industrial real estate listing they had. It was just laying there collecting dust”.

“Real Estate Plunder”. Okay, works for me…

Don’t worry “J”… we won’t hold “logistical left-turns” against you. We might, however, hold it against you that you’re a (gasp!) realtor!

Say… do you know a guy named “Clark?” Hmmm? 🙂

He put some siding scraps over the insulation that they found on “a dead building project”…

Hmmmm… I’m not sure if “J” is a recycler, or a felon. Note to self: “If getting stuff from “J”… always get a signed receipt.” 🙂

Anyway, as near as I can figure, he’s got about an r20-r30 wall system (depending on which PolyIso rigid foam product it is, it ranges from about r5 to r8 per inch). So, he can “almost” hold heat in, once he gets it there.

I say “almost” because he ran out of insulation at the top of the box, so the roof is uninsulated.

But, he’d been thinking about some kind of clerestory roof anyway to bring in more summer sun. Right now, “J” has a flat roof with a pair of vents on top, that are identical to the one depicted in my old blog header image.

Steel ShedObviously, we’re going to pay some attention to this.

First, I’ll sue him for patent infringement… 🙂

You know what? I miss that old blog header. I think I’ll do my “Lazarus act” and resurrect it.

Seriously, a cool SHED roof would add headroom, a cool space for a few sleeping lofts, some additional storage, and a good opportunity for vents and windows to help with air movement and heat gain.

Plus we can use that roof pitch to catch water, and get rid of snow.

“J’s” back is gonna hurt for a week or two, by the time we’re done. Boy, I bet “J” wished he’d never heard of me, NOW…

Picture “J” sad. Poor “J.”

That just leaves the floor.

Shipping container floors are treated with serious insecticides and fungicides to keep alien bugs out of foreign ports.

Wood preservatives containing a number of organochlorine insecticides, including aldrin (no, not BUZZ Aldrin!), dieldrin, chlordane and lindane, are just the beginnings of the treatment that floors receive.

Although I know people who’d like to stuff Buzz Aldrin into a container… Oy!

I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, rip these floors out.

You can’t EVER trust the shipper you got the container from. The labels denoting the presence of that toxin are often worn off, or even just missing. Because the containers are moved so often and with so many variables…  you can’t tell which ones got the toxic sprays just by looking.

Some containers escape without being sprayed or treated, but the only way to know for sure, is to take a sample of the floor out, and get it tested at a lab.

There’s are products that you can put on the floor to encapsulate them. That’ll seal the toxins in there, but they’ll still BE there. And, those products are expensive. We’ll go a different route.

Okay, all that accomplished, you’d have a “shelter”.

Inside, it’s spartan. It’s so bad that his wife won’t even go up there! Once you get through those big steel doors, you’re greeted by a few wooden shelves, a tiny wood stove, hammocks, and a blow-up mattress for a bed.

Did I forget to mention that they have a “shanty with a hole in the butt seat” kind of outhouse.

Oh yeah, they have an outhouse.

I bet he found THAT at a construction site, too… 🙂

He has a composting toilet, but it’s still in the box, in the garage. That’s kinda dumb… Lotta good it’s doing him, there! 🙂

Okay, he needs a bathroom, too.

And, he reminded me about 11 times that the box gets cold. So, we turn up the heat a bit.

He doesn’t want to try any “geothermal nonsense” (his words) because the container is already in place, and he couldn’t move it if he wanted to.

Actually, his exact words were;

“Ronin, don’t be giving me none of your Geothermal nonsense, I don’t like shovels, my friend…” 🙂

He doesn’t want to rely on solar panels, because he’s not a guy with a lot of money to set up a complete “off-grid” situation. The closest he’s come to that is a Harbor Freight photovoltaic set-up with a pair of small panels.

So, he has enough power for a laptop computer, a TV, and maybe a radio.

(I’m going to try and talk him into replacing that crap inverter, and adding a panel or two so that he can establish some kind of “real” electricity, for refrigeration and other necessities.)

With the world going digital, I wonder what TV signal he’d get? I’m thinking he uses a VCR or a DVD player… Remind me to check, okay?

He has a good water supply.

It’s a hand-pumped well that draws water from about 175 feet. If he wants a shower, he pumps water up into a black painted 55 gallon barrel on the roof of his container, and then gravity-feeds it to a showerhead.

This is great for one guy on a weekend, but it’s not gonna work for a “family in residence”. Nuh uh!

We need a solar powered pump, too.

BTW: The gray water from the shower, and doing the dishes goes out into the garden, that for now, only feeds the wild animals that live around his box.

That’s good, but we’ll do better.

They have a small swedish fireplace/stove combination installed, but they only use it for heat at night. It’s sitting on patio tiles as a hearth. So, it’s not exactly ideal. We’re gonna move the stove, and build it “into a better box”.

Again, it’s about managing resources. “J” says that he doesn’t want to use it during the day, if he doesn’t have to. Why? He hates chopping wood. HATES it! 🙂

The stove vents out the side of the box. Sort of… It’s a rather shaky connection.

So, we do some chimney repair, and then we use what I call “idiot solar” to help bump up the heat. But, we’ll use solar in a different way than “normal people” are used to.

Okay, I can see that there is a lot to do, but he needs to do it one weekend at a time.

And, he needs to do it in a way that maintains the security of the structure, so that he doesn’t end up with visitors he doesn’t want, or need, while he’s away…

So, over the next few posts in this series, we’re going to take that empty 40′ High Cube Shipping Container, and we’re going to turn it into a full blown cabin, complete with sleeping lofts, and enough interior to let it be used comfortably, for a long vacation in the woods.

It’s all about his family’s survival, if times get hard. And, it’s all about HIS survival, if his wife gets mad.

After all, out in the woods… nobody can hear you scream… Muuuuwahhahah!

We’re not just going to insulate that container top. We’re going to “weatherize” the box.

Weatherizing isn’t “turning off the heat and freezing in the dark”.

Try that with your wife sleeping next to you. I guarantee you that you’ll wake up, dead!

It’s all about using ‘stored’ energy (and less of it than you might think) combined with small resources to achieve the same level of comfort that you used to get from that McMansion of yours.

How do you accomplish this?

Well, first, you find all the “energy nasties” and you give them the boot. In this case, we’ll start with that leaky stove chimney, and work outward from there. Careful planning and attention to detail will have this family in a sustainable vacation home, in no time.

We’re also going to deal with indoor air quality.

Remember that the air quality is 2-5 times worse in your house, than the air outside it.   This is a small space, that may be inhabited by a family of six (or maybe even more, if that damned brother promises not to punch him in the eye again) , under rather severe conditions, and maybe for extended periods of time.

Beyond air quality, we need to pay close attention to energy use, moisture (and it’s movement… unless you LIKE mold and mildew), combustion zones, and ventilation.

Remember, condensation is a killer.

Areas in walls and roof cavities that stay moist, start to grow funky things that attack your lungs. YUCK!

Ice dams on roofs can contribute to this problem, too. So we’re going to pay close attention to that roof, it’s construction, and it’s pitch.

We’ll talk about fixing that stove vent/chimney, before you huff and puff… and burn your house down…

We’ll talk about designing, building, and attaching a roof to catch the sun and even a couple of kids.

We’ll talk about photovoltaic panels on the cheap, and an “in-wall solar heating” solution.

We’ll talk about building loft spaces into it, to get the kids up and out of your hair.

We’ll talk about a “hidden” Master bedroom.

We’ll talk about the floor of that shipping container, and what to do about it.

We’ll talk about a kitchen (with a refrigerator, and running water, and everything!) and even a real bathroom.

We’ll talk about catching water and setting up a graywater system.

And, we’ll talk about building storage.

We need to add some serious storage  into that shipping box, so that it can house all their crap, so that “J” doesn’t step on everything they own, in the middle of the night, when that damned bear is trying to beat down the door!

And we’re going to accomplish this, a goal at a time, a weekend at a time…

Why?

Because you “Show me a man who failed… and I’ll show you a man who didn’t have a good plan”.

We’re not just  going to meet his needs, we’re going to exceed his expectations.

Why? Well, because… I know his wife… and she’ll kill him! (gulp!)

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Go to your ROOM!… Um… Corten Cubicle!

30 Oct

Greetings!

I know…I know…  I’m gaining a reputation as a “Corten Crazy…”

I’m building a home for my family (if it kills me), by using Shipping containers as the core. I’m doing it for a lot of reasons, and I’ve talked about them all here, over the last couple of hundred posts.

As I continue down my ISBU laden path…

I’m experimenting with boxes that are being cut up into smaller boxes. Although it doesn’t happen often, sometimes these boxes get their butts handed to them, and when they do, they go to a shipping container graveyard. And I just happen  to have the keys to one, and a plasma cutter…

I’ve been talking about this, on the blog.

Recently, a family in Louisiana contacted me, to see if I knew of any solutions for “storm overcrowding.”

After reading about our “tree-house project” , they wanted to do something similar, and build a pair of small modules to be used for “EGQ“.

Now, when I first read that, I wondered what EGO had to do with it, until I re-read it.

Then… I thought they were just talking about building something that would be cool enough to grant them “bragging rights” (or possibly house some “top secret military project”), but they were actually talking about;

EMERGENCY Guest Quarters.

They really needed a place… so if the relatives flocked to their house during a weather event, these boxes would be waiting, and they’d have a safe place to put up their kinfolk.

Yes, Virginia, there are actually some kinfolk that you don’t let in the house. In the yard… maybe. In the house? Nope. 🙂

Now… in MY family, you’d never get INTO one of these boxes in the first place… for fear that someone would slap a padlock on it, and ship your sorry butt  to China! 🙂

Hey, if I lived in Louisiana, and my kinfolk showed up unannounced, that’s exactly what I’d do…

I’d have  a “kinfolk Cattledrive”… herd them into those boxes, lock ’em up tighter than Fort Knox, and then ship ’em off to “points unknown…” But, that’s just me. 😉

Anyway, the folks in Louisiana knew that we were cutting up High Cube containers, to make smaller boxes.

Surely, being “hurricane victims” ourselves… we could come up with a solution to their dilemma.

So, plasma cutter in hand… I started cutting, with the idea that I’d turn ONE 40′ box, into FIVE 8′ boxes.

Okay, there are some things that have to happen immediately here.

As you cut these boxes up, you have to support the “cut” end. We do that, by bracing them up in the first place, and then welding “columns” into them, between the floor and the ceiling frames, after they’ve been dissected.

Granted, you need some extra steel, to replace the framing that you’re eliminating. Where does this steel framing material come from? Well, in our case… Garbaged containers… where else?

Each frame connection is actually “sleeved”. It makes for a stronger connection, in case we decided to stack these boxes back up. It’s not that much more work, so why take chances?

Then, you weld in crossmembers. It’s easy. Now you have a steel box with a steel frame at each end, AND steel framed sides. Congrats! You just delivered a “baby box!” Okay, it weighs about a thousand pounds… so don’t try to carry it. 🙂

A High Cube container is 9’6″ tall. So, has a 8’9″ ceiling inside (on average, all containers are NOT alike).

But, if you lay it on it’s side, now you have an almost 9′ width to work with.

If you insulate that box on the outside…  you have a little steel cocoon to hide from the weather in…

Like I was saying… years ago, we built a small hunting/fishing encampment up in the mountains, using this same kind of idea.

We built several insulated (it was a LONG time ago, so we used firring strips, fiberglass batts and old reclaimed siding…) “sleeping modules” that had 2 burner hotplates, a double sink and a dorm (under-counter) refrigerator.

In-Law_CellCozy, secure and big enough for that long winter’s nap! 🙂

A small closet was included, and most of the storage came from 9″ deep cabinets we fabbed to hang on the walls, floor to ceiling.

A Mexican wedding hammock that we stretched out, was mounted to the top of the ceiling, to give us about a foot more more “hanging” storage.

We’d forgotten to tell the guy who owned the pair of hammocks that we were using them, but… oh well… 🙂

We built a U-Shaped bench that filled one end of the container. A table fit into the center, that would raise or lower, depending on function.

Anybody who has ever been in an RV has seen convertible dinettes that turn into a bed. Well, that’s what we did.

We made three big thick foam pads to cover the platform we’d just built. Then, we made three more bolsters to line the walls around that bed/sofa platform.

The three bolsters equaled the depth of the bed platform, to form an additional layer of foam. The back one had a hinge in it, to allow a part of it to be folded over to form a big pillow/headrest.

Yes, we made a foam pad the size of the table. It’s stored under the bed.

I bet you’re wondering why we made so many pads… Well, we got the foam for free, but it was really too thin. So, we figured that if we doubled it up, it would make enough for a suitable mattress.

It was actually an evil plot hatched by the fabric store we got it at. That lady knew that if we were going to build sleeping platforms  and use that “free foam” to do it, it’d have to be doubled to actually work… so… we’d have to buy twice as much fabric to cover it with!

There are words about women like that… but I’m trying to cut down on my swearing… 🙂

Anyway, the whole thing ended up being about the size of a queen sized bed.

Under the platform, you had all kinds of storage room.

Probably even enough to stuff that old lady into. But, we could never get her to come out into the woods to visit us… 🙂

In sofa mode, you could sit several people easily, and above your head were cabinets and bookcases that covered the walls. We punched in a few salvaged windows in, to complete the package.

Each unit had two windows, and two doors.

In between these sleeping boxes, we sandwiched a bathroom module, that had a sink, a toilet, ample storage and a 4′  diameter “soaking tub/shower”.

The tub was the product of a few years living in Japan, where they actually bathe in special tubs, called “Ofuro”. In our case, it was essentially a big half barrel that you climbed down into. We found several of them in Napa Valley on a wine buying spree, and we decided they needed a good home.   Also included was a solar assisted – wood-fired hot water heater (carefully boxed and insulated OUTSIDE the module), and all the necessary plumbing to get water in and out of the sinks in the sleeping modules.

We wrapped copper tubing around a barrel that we turned into a firebox. Water circulated thru the tubing and got warmed up. The whole thing sat a couple of feet from the back of the bath box, so you had to reach thru a sleeve of steel ductwork (by opening a steel door) to stoke the firebox, in order to aid the hot water production, from inside the bathroom.

It was “hokey,” but it worked really well.

And, we only got burned… um… sometimes! Okay, it wasn’t “kid-proof.” But, that firebox put out enough heat to actually heat up all three modules if you left the bathroom doors open.

And, if you opened the firebox door, you could read by the light of the fire, while you were… um… otherwise engaged in the bathroom… 🙂

Now, the idea was to allow the boxes to get disconnected and moved around. Hence, only the center “bath section” really had any guts…

It’s ability to be relocated wasn’t an act of “coolness”.  It wasn’t because we were particularly “Nomadic”. It was because the whole thing was built without building permits! 🙂

On the roof of the bath module was a solar hot water system that more than provided enough hot water for the pair of modules. We used a pump to get the water up to a holding tank on the roof (it was actually an enclosed Army water bladder) and then gravity did the rest.

Now, we were up by a river so we did a little bit of “MacGiver Hydro-power”, into truck batteries.

A boat dock plus a very small hydro electric generator… equals power. All we needed, in fact… and then some…

Voila!… “Instant fish camp”.

We scattered a few of these all long the riverbank of the property, and soon the vegetation pretty much concealed them from view.

Decks built outside the front door made it easy to go outside and commune with nature, and they were quite comfortable, all things considered.

The whole thing measured about 9.5′ x 24′, and it stood about 12′ tall, after we put a pitched roof on most of it, to shed snow. That pitched roof also gained us some attic space over each module.

I say “most” of it, because some idiot decided that it would be cool to use a part of it as a terrace deck. So, when it snowed like hell, somebody would have to climb up there and clear that section off, before the snow got too thick. Not a good plan…

BTW: I’m sorry to have to admit that the “idiot” was me. Hey, I thought it’d be cool. In the summer, we could get up there and watch girls in bathing suits (and sometimes even less) go by…

And in winter… it was… about 20 degrees “cool” and knee deep in snow. Brrrr!

Oh well, live and learn… 🙂

At least we were smart enough to get small electric heaters for each unit that ran off a generator.

Back to the guts of this post.

I’m going to toy with the idea of building a series of “In-Law” lodges, that are essentially just “bedrooms.” You’d be able to just set one in your backyard, on cinder blocks, like a utility shed. Run a hose and an extension cord to it, and you’d have a place to sleep, away from everyone else.

The idea is to use the same concept as the “Fish Camp”.

  • Cut up a 40′ High Cube Container. Put the pieces on their sides in order to get more square footage.
  • Build in furniture and fixtures to allow them to be used for extended periods of time, as temporary dwellings.
  • Make them efficient (and even cozy) but not so cozy as to make you want to overstay your welcome!
  • Use solar and maybe even photovoltaic panels, if possible.

They’ll all utilize an existing bathroom. You’ll just have to knock on the back door first, and hope that someone’s awake to let you into the house!

The budget is $5,000.00 each.

Wanna bet it’ll turn out cool?

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

“I’m from the Government. I’m here to HELP you.”

23 Oct

Greetings Campers!

If you’ve been following along, you know that my family is trying to build a steel house, in a backasswards neighborhood.

I’m talking about using Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hangars, to build homes for people who really need them. And, the goal is to do it affordably and sustainably.

Shipping Hangar HomeNo! Not ADAM’s house. but something like it…

It’s a long, pot-hole filled road, but we’re further from the start than we were yesterday, so all in all, it’s a good day.

Until you open your email.

As I sit here, my email box is getting flooded with email from politicians.

Yep, “POLITICIANS”.

im_from_the_government_im_here_to_help

It’s been going on for weeks, and I’m getting sick and tired of it.

They’re telling me about programs that I can sign up for, that will assist my family in building a home. They range from “government backed loans”, to grants for land, and  grants or long-term loans for building supplies. There are even grants that cover the costs incurred when you hire other people to help you build.

Oh Happy Day!” Right?

Wrong.

I’ve been raising hell about this for over a year. I’ve been using the Internet as a hammer, to try and beat some sense into those idiots in Washington D.C. who claim that they are “single-handedly saving America.”

Most of the email I’m getting (and it’s coming from aides, direct mail outfits, and morons… and not the “other morons…” the actual congressmen and representatives…) is just political double-speak, pointing me at programs that either don’t exist at all, are completely deadlocked by political bungling, or impossible to enroll and qualify for, by design.

Here’s an example:

I got a listing of banks and lending institutions that would write loans to people who qualified thru a “government program” allowing them to buy and build. It was a long list, with over 200 institutions on it.

I looked it over, and then like an idiot, started dialing.  I talked to what seemed like every banker in the South. And, I got the same story with each new opportunity.

“We have not made this kind of loan in the past 5 years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we even processed an application. If you come into the bank, we’ll explain why you can’t apply.”

And those were the ones that seemed to take an interest in my questions.  The rest of them said that they had stopped supporting this kind of loan program decades ago.

They claim that they are understaffed and not equipped to deal with additional workloads created by these programs.

When I did find a bank willing to work with me on this kind of loan program, the guy on the other end told me not to get my hopes up. It seems that you can apply, but the USDA refuses to communicate with the banks.

The USDA? The US Department of Agriculture? I’m not trying to start “Old MacDonald’s Farm!” What the hell?

Keep reading…

I found out that there is a grant program that would help me build my house. But there was one catch. I needed a USDA guaranteed surety bond, for $25 million dollars.

$25 million dollars. Whaaaa? For a house?

I was confused as a mosquito at a convention of Bubba’s (trying to figure out who to bite first), but I figured; “Hey if the USDA wants to help me qualify for this program, I’m game…”

So, I contacted the USDA. Guess what? That’s right. The USDA doesn’t even have a program that gives surety bonds to citizens, much less to help them build residential property. They suggested that I call the SBA (Small Business Administration).

I sent the USDA guys a copy of the grant I was applying for. And I bet it won’t surprise you to find out that;

  • (a) they’d never heard of  it,
  • (b) wouldn’t possibly support it, and
  • (c) didn’t have the funds, even if they could. In their exact words… I was “S.O.L.”

I contacted SBA, to see if THEY had any programs I could use to leverage the building grants. Guess what? That’s right. More governmental BS. The guy told me that I’d need to pay $5,000, to get a business plan written, that would allow me to apply for their programs. Now, it wouldn’t ASSURE that I qualified, it would just increase my chances.

Three days later, I heard from a different SBA official, who informed me that they don’t even have “a product that will accomplish the tasks you are trying to complete.” When I asked him what the $5,000 business plan was for, he replied:

“It’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a program. You should do it.”

When I pointed out that he’d just told me there were NO programs that allowed me to do what I was trying to do, he hung up. When I called him back, I kept getting his voice mail.

So, I talked to someone else, who told me:

“We get points for every person we get to enlist in the Business Plan program.”

Our government at work. Oy. And we actually PAY these people to do this to us.

In all, I called, emailed, or mailed letters to all 200 institutions. You want to know what I got for my trouble? Lost days of work and a huge dent in my cell phone minutes. Beyond that, I got nada.

Where’s the The Golden Fleece Award, when you need it?

I’ve seen a lot of grant paperwork in the last year. So far, my personal favorite grant was announced in July.

It’s an $85 million grant “to support at least 50 early career researchers for five years at US academic institutions and DOE national laboratories.“

The US Government, in all their wisdom, won’t help citizens build decent homes for their families, no matter what they TELL you. But, they’ll give $1.7 million dollars per “researcher” or $340,000 per desk, per year.

But WAIT! There’s MORE!

These university positions are for “summer salary and expenses” only. Only some of these positions — for DOE National Labs — are full time. And if you’re a “full-timer”? Well, full-timers get $500,000 in funding, per person per year.

Okay, color me “googled…” I race off to “Salary.com.” And what do I find? Well, the average salary for an assistant professor in the United States is $62,654.

So, I reread the grant. It seems that “undefined” excess in the expenditures is for DOE Lab expenses. That’s $438,346 per person.

Let’s put this in perspective. This 50-person “sweetheart program” received more money than nuclear energy R&D, hydroelectric power development, solar power research, or fuel cell research.

What is wrong with these people?

Somebody pass me a Tylenol, please…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

“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…

gore

Don’t get me started…. 😉

You too? Right?

Well?

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

Shut Up! You can’t actually LIVE “off-grid”!

14 Oct

Or… can you?

Greetings, Campers!

Lately, I’ve been exploring the possibilities of moving my family to a place “far and away” where power fears to go. And, you can forget about cable TV. Not gonna happen.

That’s right, I’m talking about (gasp!) Mississippi! Um… er… not really…  🙂

Contrary to popular belief, they really do have power and cable TV in Mississippi. It just doesn’t work all that well, yet… 😉

If you’ve been reading along, you know that my blog is aimed at building an off-grid alternative home out of shipping containers and recycled aircraft hangar comnponents, so that the family nestled safely within can take more responsibility for their lives and livelihood.

In our case, we’re building a home out of re-purposed shipping containers, commonly called ISBUs (or Intermodal Steel Building Units).

Like I said…  we’re not just using these marvelous containers, we’re also using some components we scrounged off of an old aircraft hangar, and anything else we could find that looked sturdy… but that’s another post, entirely! 🙂

The idea is to build a home out in the country, away from everybody else. Why? Well, it appears that the neighbors would certainly like it better that way.  It seems that around here, the locals are rather “ISBU intolerant,” and we need to get out of “eyesight and earshot”, if we want any peace and quiet.

Like having a two year old terror of a little boy is going to provide anything that resembles “peace and quiet.”

Yeah, right?!

I’m sure you already know that we’re replacing a home that was eaten by a hurricane. I am sure that you know that we’re doing it without the help of the insurance company that we paid to protect us from this kind of loss. As a result, much of our life as we knew it has changed.

And, I’m sure that you know my wife is going through radiation and chemo to combat cancer, as we do all this. So, you can see that we have our hands full.

One of the cool things about using containers is that they go up fast. On a Monday, you may have a vacant lot, but by Friday, you can have a nearly completed home sitting there.

It’s a LOT of labor, but it’s worth it…

And, I’m sure that you know that we’re struggling…

Well, you do now!

As we go thru day after day of torment and trial, waiting for somebody in charge to “man up and make a decision” (besides “NO!”)  people reading this blog are starting to get involved.

As in… we’re helping other people build THEIR ISBU homes.

And this has presented some interesting opportunities. I’ve told you about some people who have land to trade for help and labor, as they construct the homes of their dreams. And, I’ve told you about an idea I have, to build a hangar, that will house shipping containers instead of aircraft, as they get transformed into homes for worthy families.

Ronin doesn’t have a lot of money.

In fact, Ronin struggles each and every month, to insure that Joshua has diapers, and Momma has medicine. But, Ronin does have something that some other people don’t have. VISION.

I’ll just barter for the things we need, and we’ll just “rough it” until we get to where we’re going.

Where are we going?

Well, we’re going as far away as we can from “some people” (who shall remain nameless) who lack anything resembling common sense or even a grasp of reality.

Starting with transportable modules built from Intermodal Steel Building Units (shipping containers), you can actually fabricate a pretty solid home, for less than the price of a stick built one.

And, it’ll be made out of Corten Steel.

If you’ve been reading along for the last year and a half, you know that it is possible, and that it’s happening more and more. You may see an ISBU home in your own neighborhood, soon…

Or, you may drive past one, out on some lonely country road, or maybe on a far-flung beachfront lot, sitting there all by it’s “onesies”.

And you may wonder about the possibilities of living in a steel house “out in the middle of nowhere”.

WE don’t just wonder about it. WE crave it. It’s all I can think about, most days.

That’s right… we’re going “off-grid”.

Now, living “off-grid” means exactly that. No power hook-up. No water company. No sewer pipes to connect to, to haul your … um… er… well, you get the picture. If you don’t , I could SHOW you a picture, but you wouldn’t like it… nuh-uh! Ewwww!

Living “off-grid” means being responsible for all your needs and requirements. It also means that if you screw up, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.

Shhhhh! Don’t tell my wife that, though! She already blames me for nearly everything as it is!

One of the questions I get asked a lot, is whether or not it actually makes sense to build and live, totally off-grid.

“But Ronin, can you really live ‘free – in the wild’ in this day and age, without becoming something out of a SciFi movie plot?”

Virginia, take a  pill. You really can live “off grid”, completely  unfettered by utility poles and free from the monthly harassment of those pesky utility bills. Honest.

I’ve shown you how to do the hard parts. Earth friendly HVAC, Solar hot water production, Photovoltaic Electricity production… you name it.

We talk about it here. Constantly. Endlessly. Until “I’m blue in the face”… Get it?

And we’ll continue talking about it, until some of you finally get it thru your thick skulls… You know who you are! 🙂

The info is there, people… Hit the archives, if you doubt me…

But, unless you’re independently wealthy, there are other problems to solve.

Like, for instance… “If I live off-grid, how do I get paid?”

I mean, you have to buy groceries, right? I mean, if my son get s hungry, he gets REAL grumpy. If my wife gets hungry… well… let’s just say it’s hard to tell, because she’s ALWAYS grumpy… 😉

It’s because of stuff like this that people seem torn by the idea of leaving the safety of the subdivision, to go it alone, in “the wild and woolly outdoors…”

To those who fear “abandonment”, isolation, or possibly even becoming “pariahs”, I say this:

“Follow your heart. If your intent is to take care of YOUR family, the neighbors won’t matter that much. They don’t pay your bills, or make your meals.”

At least, MY neighbors don’t and if they did, I’d be afraid to eat it.

You see, Ronin doesn’t like being poisoned… 🙂

So I took a poll, on one of my other blogs…

And I discovered that more and more people who work over the internet, for companies in far away states.

Now, I’m not talking about “Google” type jobs, or “get rich quick” schemes.

I am not talking about “internet telephone answering” or “help-desk answering” jobs in Mumbai…

I’m talking about REAL jobs!

You know the kind… Highly paid, professional positions, held by responsible people. They do actually exist.

And, it’s starting to happen more and more… although it’s happening slower than might be possible if companies would just start giving thought to how their operations operate, and more importantly for them, what the actual costs of operation are.

Because in the end, we all know that in that boardroom, it’s about profit.

Alas, it has not happened on a large scale yet. Perhaps its because of a ‘warped” management mindset:

If we let our workers actually work from home, a bunch of managers will get laid off.

“Who can I terrorize, if they aren’t here?”

Obviously, in a telecommuter based operation, less managers are needed and their psychological power is vastly diminished when employee performance is measured only objectively.

(For me, that’s be a good thing. I got “fired” once, for decking a miscreant of a manager, after he started shaking his fist in my face and calling my kids bad words, after I refused to stay late and clean up yet another one of his messes. I didn’t exactly pummel him, according to the on-lookers. He just kept falling down…)  🙂

I say “fired” because he didn’t understand the phrase:

“Before I quit, I have something to show you… my fist.”

“And G_d smiled…” the company got taken over later that year, and he was one of the first to get canned. The next time I saw him, he was an assistant manager, at Wendy’s.

Having your workers actually work from home actually makes good sense to me. As a manager of one of these companies, you’d end up evaluating people on their work quality and their productivity. And, you wouldn’t be plagued by dealing with “office politics” or gossip, or even prejudice.

A worker would get merit (or maybe even “demerits”), based on actual work! What a concept! 🙂

Your company could “downsize” that corporate office they’ve been throwing money into, at a time when companies have to streamline in order to survive in this miserable economy.

And hey! The real estate market sucks right now, finding a smaller building should be easy!

Look… if America business is going to compete with “companies from beyond…” they have to think progressively. What’s more progressive than saving money, by making your operation more productive, and easier to manage?

It takes some adaptation, to be sure… but lots of companies are proving that it’s quite possible, and even profitable. Sure, some workers are going to be concerned about maintaining their little power structure, because they won’t be in the office to continually pucker up an kiss someone’s butt…

But frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of “brown-noser’s” anyway.

Companies claim that Internet service isn’t reliable enough.

Or, worse, that it isn’t available to all of their workers. Bull.

Companies like Dish IP are making Satellite Internet connection a breeze. You can get a satellite uplink for $50 a month. You’ll get more than enough bandwidth to work on-line, and blast email back and forth. You’ll even have enough to video conference, if the boss wants to catch you in your underwear, plowing through spreadsheets.

Remember that you’re dealing with satellites. If you can get a Dish TV setup, you can get an internet link. So, there aren’t really any limits to what you can do…

If you need to do some massive downloading, then get off your butt and head for the car. Hey, that’s what WiFi is for! Go find a WiFi hotspot, (or a McDonald’s) and download away on your laptop, while you eat a fast food lunch. Nearly every town has a free WiFi hotspot, somewhere. You can usually find one at your local library. You just have to go find it.

The benefit is that you’ll not only fuel your need for the latest iTunes upgrade, you’ll also get a tasty, calorie laden, over-priced  meal that you’ll have to pedal off on your exercise bike later.

But it’s all good! Attach your exercise bike to a car alternator and voila! You just made an instant “Idiot Powerplant!” You can even charge up your batteries in your home power bank! 🙂

Now, all you need is direct deposit paychecks, and on-line banking.

Congrats!

You’re off-grid, supporting your family and buying groceries! And, you don’t have to put up with that miserable bastard in the next cubicle, anymore!

Could it get any better?

Now get into your pajamas and get your butt in front of that computer! That’s it…

Good Job!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Addendum: Since I wrote this post, I’ve been deluged with people doing exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, Greg S. in Texas is doing exactly that, while he waits for the arrival (they’re enroute) of his (3) 40′ ISBUs, that he’s going to use to build HIS new Corten Castle!
Greg says: “… it’s totally off grid….wind power, solar, well, and septic…it’s the freakin’ dream.”
Way to go, Greg! 🙂

I Gotta Get Me One Of These “Bug-Out Boxes!!”

27 Apr

Say hello to;

The All Terrain Cabin (ATC)

A bunch of Canadians, tired of being shown up by us “innovative Container types” decided that they’d “one-up” us by slapping together a cabin, and putting it on the road, for everybody to see…

atc1Little did they know  that they were playing right into our hands! You see, it’s exposure that we’re after! We want people to see us (but not “exposed,” because that’s against the law)!! 🙂

atc2

So, probably fueled by that horrid Canadian Beer, they bent over their drafting boards, and came up with this beauty of a cabin! Now, I’m guessing that they came up with it “lickety-split,” because everybody knows that Canadian beer isn’t all that good, and it goes right through you like “a bullet through butter!” 😉

atc3

Seriously, a few “bright bulbs” in Canada decided to show us how it’s done, and I must say that they did a fine job!  They’ve brought together good design, some great technology, and even some imagination and wrapped it in a “Corten Cocoon.” And now, it’s on the road, for everybody to see and experience!

atc4

In spite of being taxed by that terrible Molson stuff (how in the world do you drink that swill? Blaaaaech!) they designed a small cabin, using a standard ISBU shipping container as the basis, and then they brought the “Canadian Flair” to it. Now Canadian Flair isn’t a WWE wrestler, it’s a combination of all great things Canadian, squeezed into a very small package. Hmmm… That reminds me of a tiny little lass from Toronto I used to date, back when I still had hair on my head. I wonder what she’s up to? I’d call her, except for that pesky restraining order… 🙂

atc5

The result is a a really efficient cabin, full of style and smarts! The cabin, although quite small, is perfect for a for a family of four (and even your dog) to live or vacation in, “off the grid” in what can only be described as ” Corten comfort and contemporary style.”  Remember, it’s a shipping container. Delivery is as easy as you could imagine it might be! Just roll that lil beauty onto a train, truck, ship, airplane or helicopter (if it’s on steroids), and off it’ll go, to the destination of your choice. And, in travel mode, it’s all folded up and indistinguishable from any ordinary shipping container. So, you could move it every year! Talk about a “time-share” that keeps on giving!  This year; “The Rockies!” Next Year; “Tahiti!”  Yeah, Baby!

atc6

Once it arrives “home,”  it unfolds rapidly to 480 glorious square feet  of completely self-contained, sophisticated living space with all the comforts of your home in the city!

atc7

If you want to live softly, smartly, and stylishly on this rock of ours, this may just be the way! But, it’s just an evil April Fools Joke, I’m afraid. You can’t have one. Why? Because there’s only one ATC in the whole world and there are only so many places it will visit. They have no intention of building them for us to live in! Oh the horror! Why? Oh Why? 😦

atc8

See? I told you you had to watch out for those darned Canadians, they’re SNEAKY and they’ll break your heart!! I expected something like this out of Paul Stankey, but to have it perpetrated  by our neighbors to the north? That’s just wrong! 🙂

Stay Tuned!

The Renaissance RoninRenaissance Ronin is a blog dedicated to helping you help yourself. We’re going to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about building a home out of recycled materials. A home that will save you money, provide you with comfort and security, and provide for your needs, for decades to come. If you appreciate what we’re doing here, hit the Paypal button up there on the right, and lend us a hand!  We really need your help!

The 2 liter lightbulb!

23 Apr

Every once in a while, you hear about something and wonder why nobody had thought of it before! This… is one of those times!

Think simplistic, powerful, cheap, easy to “manufacture,” and capable of affecting lives all over the entire planet.

Step right up folks, See the future! And if you slap down those $20s right now, we’ll double your order, absolutely free!  You’ll never pay for light again! It’s the “Ronco 2 liter lightbulb!”

Actually, Ron Popiel had absolutely nothing to do with this. But I bet he wished he did!

Alfredo Moser is an Brazilian inventor. And like all inventors (that we all hope to be) hes invented somethingthat will aid mankind. Not just “rich” mankind, but ALL mankind! Alfredo’s newest invention is spreading like wildfire through his neighborhood in Brazil.

“Like all really great ideas, it was born out of necessity. During a 2002 energy blackout in Brazil,  Alfredo’s workshop was plunged into darkness. And so, using a simple 2-liter bottle of water,  a cap full of bleach or two of household bleach and an old 35 mm film canister, he created this lightbulb.”

He figured out that all he had to do was cut some holes in his workshop roof, so the new water-bottle lightbulbs could shine the sun’s rays directly into his dark workplace, bathing it in light! Voila, instant illumination, and he could go back to work!  And he shared this invention with others, too! Now they have been using his invention to light their homes without having to pay for electricity.

Now, unless you’re a moron, you’re not gonna go hack holes in your house roof, so that you can use these lil beauties to light up your life. That would border on “idiotic.”:)

But…  it could easily work in that shipping container shed or workshop in your backyard! I’d be willing to bet you money that there are a gaggle of geeks looking at this environmentally friendly light source, as we speak!

Of course it has flaws. It works using the sun. No sun, no light. However, It’ s not a solution to all our lighting needs. It’s a solution to light up a dark place during the day, without spending one single penny on electricity.

Have you ever watched National Geographic specials on Brazil? I didn’t see a lot of cash floating around those barrios and shanty towns.  And this works wherever there is sun, you know, even in the poorer third-world countries… places like Laos, India, and the African nations…

This invention is going to change lives.

Now all I have to do is go down to my favorite deli restaurant, and see if I can get a sandwich named after him…

“Excuse me, I’d like a Moser on Rye, extra oil and vinegar! NO BLEACH!”  🙂

Men of Vision: Luis de Garrido

20 Apr

I told you a while back that I was gonna start exposing you to the guys who are moving ISBU technology forward.

paul-stankeyWe started off with Paul Stankey, who built a cabin in the woods, to replace a dilapidated trailer that had long since seen it’s time.

Paul’s Holyoke Cabin is just the tip of the iceberg, where ISBU’s are concerned. Using (2) ISBU’s, he built a cabin that will stand the test of time, and exhibit (for anyone crazy enough to hop his fences to take a closer look) a sustainable, reliable, efficient structure that is certain to spawn lots of family stories and pride, for many, many years!

This time, we’re gonna talk about Luis de Garrido, an architect whose projects inspire awe and imagination, whimsy and wonder…

Professor Garrido travels the world teaching his sustainable building concepts and bio-climatic, zero energy concepts at colleges, universities and Sustainable Building conferences.

luis-de-garridoLuis de Garrido has earned many, many accolades, and a lot of respect from his peers, internationally, Most recently, the “ISBU Association” has chosen prominent architect, designer and educator Luis de Garrido, PhD. for his sustainable Bio-climatic architecture, educational symposiums and the innovative use of ISBU shipping container modules in his award winning architectural designs.


In my opinion, it’s an award that is long overdue.


Professor Garrido was only one of several nominees for the “2008 Architect of The Year Award.”

Many other architects and firms were considered;

Here’s the “short list;”


We’ve talked about Adam Kalkin, Lotek, and one of my personal favorites, Peter De Maria, here on the pages of  “RR” as well.

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The ISBU Association advisory board spent months evaluating the nominees since August 2008, based on their work;  their accomplishments, their use of ISBU modules in architecture, and their overall use of sustainable concepts, materials and original thinking.

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Professor Garrido quickly became a front runner in the selection process, not only for his use of recycled ISBU shipping containers but also his visionary Bio-climatic concepts, designs and sustainable educational curriculum which is becoming widely accepted globally.

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Luis de Garrido is a prime example of what the ISBU enthusiasts and builders have hoped for; Professor Garrido is much more than a sustainable architect, he’s a true innovator of usable concepts and teaching concepts.

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You can expect that his successful example with sustainable architecture, Bio-climatic design and affiliation with our organization will serve to inspire and stimulate the use of ISBU shipping containers and help promote the interest in quickly emerging ISBU technologies.

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Without exaggeration, Luis de Garrido nearly stands alone in his qualifications for the 2008 Architect of the Year Award.  His reputation and body of work speak for themselves, in many languages! He has numerous achievements, awards and appointments in Spain, Europe, and Latin America and in the U.S. has also won two awards from UCLA. Presently he is director of the ANAVIF Organization in Spain and also visiting Professor at MIT where he has taught since 2002.

Among other things, he is presently building the first “bio-climatic” commercial building in Panama City, Panama. It is 55 levels of natural refrigeration; the first of it’s kind in the world. The Bio-climatic concept can easily be constructed using ISBU modules rather than conventional building materials.

The standard strength of an ISBU module makes it ideal for use either horizontally or vertically as seen in the photos. For most architects an ISBU is alluring for the creating of “green roofs”, solar heating and solar panels.

Below is the famous R4 Bio-house which made it’s debut in May of 2007 at Construmat, the world’s largest building Expo. It was featured in the new Sustainable Construction Pavilion at Construmat and gained international attention by architects globally.

The R4 Bio-house is a mainframe of 6 recycled ISBU modules (shipping containers) and is 100% sustainable.

All residential housing and commercial building designs by Luis de Garrido include his trademark Bio-climatic architecture and air movement details.

Bio-climatic concept: Summer cooling with nature's energy

Bio-climatic concept: Winter heating with nature's energy.

Six ISBU (shipping containers) provide the base structure of the fully sustainable
home and "green roofs.

This R4 Bio House is only one of many residential and commercial designs using his Bio-climatic technology.

The same bio concept is being used with his new I-Sleep Hotel design created for the Zaragoza Best Western group which began construction this Fall in Spain.

Professor Garrido teaches his Bio-climatic concept to architects, designers and builders globally. He is also a visiting Professor at the famed MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston since 2004.

And you can bet that MIT is damned glad to have him! Can you imagine the passion and inspiration he instills in those young minds?

Stay tuned!

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