Category Archives: ISBU

everywhere, everywhere containers

A friend of mine sent this article post to me the other day.  I’m telling you, container homes and offices are EVERYWHERE.  You can’t escape them, they are here to stay.  These images are not projects that are just in random overseas countries – they are in our own back yard and it’s AWESOME!  Enjoy.

The Daily Green

Anyone who wants to learn more about containers, container homes or building with them – let me know!


container homes and planning nazis

this is what became the subject of a recent post over at my other blog.  Comments started out in the realm of design as a critique of the posted project and quickly devolved into something much more sinister.  Judge for yourself and even offer your own commentary, please.  I love hearing new ideas and welcome diverging opinions.  Here is the link to the original post and the comments in their entirety.  I’ve only posted a fair few to give you the general idea of where this discussion went.

Ronin:

NOW you see what I’m up against.

This is exactly the kind of stuff we usually see… stuff that looks cool, but won’t work as drawn. While it’s cool and all, look closely at that render of the St Aug home proposal.

Then think “point loading”.

You’re going to spend more money rebuilding and reinforcing the structure to support those cantilevers than you’ll spend on the “base” structure itself.

Those top rails aren’t “structural”. The kids have spent too much time on Treehugger.

You and I know that, but somebody better tell these kids that, before they end up wasting all their money on engineering reports.

But the spirit of the project soars!

If they could re-harness that, with a sound (easily achieved) design, they could commit to creating change, one family, one community at a time.

That’s Corten Coolness.

Me:

As a pretty picture, the design is great, and as with all student projects (and even a fair few professional projects) the “kinks” get worked out in CDs. This project could work with minimal structural reinforcement, I think. Since the walls are structural, and containers are built to stack, the biggest concern, other than point loading, is horizontal support. The cantilevering of the first floor container is a little silly and would not be necessary to the design as far as I’m concerned. Also I’d like to know how they tie back the entry overhang to a aluminum railing, but that, again, is something that could be worked out.
As is, you’re right, it’s loaded with issues, but with some tweaking I think it could work. Even if it blows their construction budget (which of course they will), projects like this start to push the envelope a little bit and get some much needed press for “corten coolness” to quote your eminence. :) And the more people who can spend the money to push the envelope will push innovation which will make more complex container structures “easier” in the future. It’s a win win, as long as the money don’t come out of my pocket. :P

Ronin:

Issues aside, I like that it’s being talked about.

However, these projects usually get a lot of “fluff” publicity and the first thing they seem to point out is that “they broke the budget”.

Granted, their budgets are usually unrealistic to begin with, but…

It’s this “too expensive” seed that get’s planted, that seems to discredit the practice of converting/repurposing these wonderful boxes. It gives contractors more room to yell, seemingly at the top of their lungs;

“See? Told ya. Wood is better.”

“Um… Why?”

“Well, cuz’ I got me a wood saw, right chere…” [wink!]

Just once, I’d love to see these projects in the hands of people who know what they’re doing from day one. But (sigh!) those people are already up to their butts in alligators, trying to save families… ;)

Peter:

Give them a break buddy : )

I have seen a ton of stuff on your blog about container homes that is just as impractical from a professional point of view.

One that springs to mind was last year you ran a post on making a swimming pool out a 40ft container laid on its side, backfilling with dirt to make a shallow end, creating a masonary wall near the door end to make a “pump room” and lining the whole thing with plastic.

http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/im-in-the-hole-and-its-wet-in-here/

Buddy – I know you mean well but thats just a whole lot of silliness there, your blog is always entertaining if not always factually correct, there are saying about stones and glass houses !

this is where things start getting……fun. 🙂

Ronin:

@Peter;

It’s funny you should pick the 40′ Corten Pond to single out.

Several lap pools and even fish farm operations that use almost exactly that configuration have been running for decades without failure. The post doesn’t do the project justice, nor does it outline the entire build process. It was to simply illustrate the potential of the steel assembly. It was a quick commentary to a posed question.

And I’m always open to “rebuttal and even correction” if you find that “I’m in error”…

I make that clear on the blog. The purpose of the blog is to allow DIY building families to explore the boundaries.

And BTW: Glazing is okay, but I prefer Corten Steel to stones… ;)

Peter:

My rebuttal is not about if you can take a steel box and make a vessel that contains water.

Its about your blog and the method you describe to build a swimming pool out of a shipping container – I said you should ease up on the students design – its not that you can build a home out of containers but they had no idea how to do it right.

As far as your design goes its just wrong.

There is NEVER a case to be made for burying a container NOT EVER – not as a cellar, not as a storage room, not as a shelter and NOT as a swimming pool.

There are many arguments here but the simple fact is the container will rust within a few years and any attempt to “coat” the container with any material to prevent corrosion is a fools errand, this is about practical affordable durable construction.

The one container based swimming pool you referenced in the posts below that has actually been built is “above ground” and so not of the type you described digging a hole and burying one nor does it have some masonry wall at one end.

As I said in the original comment your blog is very entertaining I don’t think anyone holds it to professional review for “how to accuracy” that’s not what its about – all I am saying is you get things wrong regularly so try not to be so hard on young designers just starting out.

skipping down a couple of comments to me:

Peter…..where do I begin. In your second comment you say “this is about practical, affordable, durable construction”….And you’re right. And Ronin’s comments/critiques on the original design are exactly that, critiques on the “practicality, affordability and durability” of the design as it stands. So, in that you both agree. I do love bringing two people together so effortlessly. :-\
Second, you keep saying that you give specific examples. But yet you simply keep repeating that Ronin “gets things wrong regularly” and “a lot of what he talks about is wrong”….that’s not even close to specific and is at the heart of what I was talking about. What does he get wrong? What projects or topics do you have issue with and can offer alternate opinions on? For that matter what do I get wrong? Are there things that I’ve said or posted that you disagree with? I’d love to hear your opinions, but please be specific and back up your own theories with substance. It’s really not a tall order for even the smallest and most modest of blogs.
You say you take issue with his comment on one of his blog posts that ““Just once, I’d love to see these projects in the hands of people who know what they’re doing from day one” – if you’ve ever actually read his blog that’s exactly what he does is try to provide some basic educational resources so that people will know what they are doing (or at least know the right questions to ask of those who should know what they are doing) to get these types of projects built. So, through all of this your comments are not specific, they are not targeted at any specific projects, other than a damn swimming pool, or specific topics other than this one project that Ronin takes issue with on simple constructibility issues that even you point out as being costly – so again you’re in agreement and again I point out that I’ve brought you two together in some manly bonding. Just no tongue, there are children watching. :-P
And by the way, I don’t care if I only have one person reading my blog, or even no person. This is MY blog and I’ll run it just about any damn way I please. If that kills my readership, so be it. I’m not using this as a platform for popularity or even to make money (notice no targeted Adsense ads here?). I do it because I want to offer my own opinion out to the world wide web for posterity sake and quite frankly because I like to hear the sound of my fingers typing late at night, as is evidenced by this very long comment on my own blog. :-D
You said, “Does the man know what he is talking about, in my opinion he has strong opinion but he is missing a lot of professional understanding on core issue from insulation to modification to permitting.” This STARTS to get at something specific. Please expound on this topic with some DETAIL and offer your own experience and expertise (whatever that may be) and lets start a substantive discussion. PLEASE.
As a matter of fact, the two of you have given me all the material I need for Monday’s post. I will be reposting all of these comments and adding my own little spin on where this discussion has gone and where it may be going. If you don’t like it, tough. Again it’s my blog, so….PFFFFT! *sticks tongue out like a 5 year old*.
Ronin, I always welcome your opinion on any topic foreign or domestic.
Peter, I also welcome your comments and want more specifics and substance to your comments – suggestions, whatever. I’d also be interested in what it is you do for a living. Whether architect, builder, ex mob boss, former big top ring leader, maybe even a disgruntled postal worker?
Have a great weekend. Cheers.

Things quickly spiraled out of control from here.  Click the above link to the whole messy discussion and let me know what you think.  Cheers.


monday bloody monday

so not having a whole lot of inspiration to write today (and having a half dozen other projects to work on) I thought I’d post some more videos garnered from youtube.com on shipping container/alternative homes.  Enjoy.

This guy is insane!  Looks like he’s using all 40′ containers which would put his footprint at roughly 56′ square….not exactly gonna fit on your typical residential lot, but when finished I’m sure will look really cool.

Most realtors will tell you that to sell a house you need location location location…to live in a shipping container you need storage storage storage.  I think this does it.  14 sq meters.  Whoa.


some container porn videos for you

seeing as this is a holiday week, here are some container porn videos found on youtube.com.  The third video, I think is the most amazing.  A 3000 sf home built out of shipping containers for around $175k – wood frame construction cost would have been around $400k.  That is one serious endorsement for modular/container construction.  Enjoy.


ISBU prefab outsourced to China?

Over at Treehugger there is an article about a Canadian firm, Meka, that has outsourced their prefab container homes to China.

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

What I’m thinking is…..WHY?  There are literally thousands of shipping containers sitting unused right here on our own shores in port cities spanning both coasts.  Why would you outsource to China?

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

Obviously cost would be the biggest issue, since everything coming out of China these days is cheaper.  But is it a better quality product?  Treehugger gets the last word with this brilliant line: “Modern prefab is now affordable, but at what cost.”

image courtesy of inhabitat via treehugger

oh no…not again – part II

Last time I talked about the loathsome return of the McMansion and how a new generation of homeowners and home buyers are moving away from the “traditional home” to something that is more sustainable, has a distinct modern architectural style and is suited to a different style of life than our parents and grandparents were used to.  But what does that look like?  As I’ve talked about before, if the “traditional home” is no more, what replaces it?  In order to answer that, first we have to look at what the traditional home is, break it down into its component parts and identify how our modern ideal has changed.

stock floor plan from random floor plan website

Above is your typical home plan that you can find in any suburban neighborhood in America.  Already you can see that the layout is very segregated and compartmentalized.  Immediately entering the home you’ve got a traditional foyer and a formal dining room.  The “great room”, otherwise known as a living room or family room, all of which are completely cut off and separate from the kitchen and breakfast area.  To the left, the bedrooms, including master, are reached via a small opening and hallway (not unlike a cave entrance).  You could almost draw lines and color code the disparate functions of the home without any colors bleeding together.  I don’t know about you, but this is NOT how I want to live in my largest investment – my home.

So what is the alternative?  What do we offer the next generation of homeowners that addresses this new lifestyle of efficiency, sustainability and open interaction?  First how about just tearing down a few walls?  I know what you’re thinking – I’m a GENIUS!

The Charleston - Sketched floor plans

So we tear down some walls, we blur the barriers between disparate functional spaces and suddenly, with just a little imagination and a lot of architectural education (i.e. numerous sleepless nights, countless gallons of dark roast coffee, more than a few packages of caffeine pills and a propensity for wearing black) we start to think about the “traditional home” as something other than the “traditional home”.

The Row House - single family 3/2

The two above floor plans were created by thinking about how people use a home.  And I mean really use a home not what people tell you in those horrific focus group meetings that developers use to generate ideas for floor plans and elevation layouts.  I’m speaking from dark and terrifying experience here.  Conducting one of those meetings is tantamount to asking a cat how to better design a carrying cage to be more comfortable….it’s still a cage for carrying animals – nothing special and certainly not enjoyable for the cat.

Returning to the topic at hand – if the traditional home is no more than what replaces it is a generation of designers and architects that design for the client – not a sudo-cleint, but a real flesh and blood person/end user – and the way that client lives.  In doing so we first have the opportunity to create something that will have a lasting impact on the lives of an entire family and secondly we will actually be providing the service for which we were made – creating good architecture.  Because at the end of the day, creating efficient, sustainable homes is at the core of good architecture.  Architecture has always been meant to have as little impact on it’s surroundings as possible, to be a part of it’s landscape rather than intrude upon it.  Returning to the basic tenants of architecture and architectural design is the future of not just the home, but the future of the profession itself.


a monday video


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