The Bright ISBU – a Design Project Slightly Less Wacky
I put a number of projects on the back burner to rework an old container home idea. The inspiration for this project came from the architect and shipping container (ISBU) visionary Alex Klein. I purchased (made a donation to) his new book “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” Contemplating Corten Castles from his website http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/. Al has been working at designing and building affordable green homes using ISBU containers since the late 70s. For those of us who see the potential of building affordable, energy efficient, appealing homes from recycled shipping containers – Alex’s new book ( and the larger one pending) is exactly what we have been waiting for. I’ve seen resource materials on ISBU building that is short on the “nuts and bolts” of construction knowhow and other material that offer grand architectural visions that will offer very little to those who want to build a home and not be a slave to large mortgage debt. Today it is very rare and welcome to see an architect that has dedicated a good chuck of his life to designing and redefining “homes” and making it easier for the rest of us to own one. I hope this is the first step towards a more standardized approach to building with Containers.
So here is my new project – I call it the “Bright ISBU”. It uses 3 ISBU containers either 2 40ft. containers and one 20ft. for a 800sq. ft. home or 3 20ft. containers for a smaller home with 480sq. ft. of living space. I incorporated a number of cooling strategies in the design. The containers are insulated on the outside with either straw bales or earth bags filled with perlite or scoria ( a lava rock with an R value of 3 per inch – Kelly Hart pioneer this method in the construction of his earth bag home http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/about_us.htm). There is a frame work of square steel tubing welded on to the roof that has a 5 ft overhang for the roof – 2 ft for the straw bale or earth bags and 3 ft. to provide protection to the walls and to protect the home from the direct sunlight of summer sun that sits high in the sky. In winter the sun hangs lower in the sky and the direct sunlight enters the home threw the large south facing windows to warn the home. A tiled radiant heating floor would also help retain the heat of the sun in winter – it would become a solar mass, thermal battery. I have a larger overhang area on the southwest corner of the home – this is the place where it looks like I forgot to add the forth container. This outdoor area offers a shaded area to add further protection from the heat of the summer afternoon sun. Shade blinds will also help protect this area from the sun. on the northwest wall I have two tall narrow windows. In the summer the sun will beat down on this wall and cause it to warm up so I placed heavy planks over these windows – hinged at the top – prop these planks open at the bottom a couple of inches so the hot air will pass up and out through these openings – drawing cooler air into the home from small vent windows on the cooler northeast wall.
I’ve had the idea for the roof for a couple of years now. Rows of 3 corrugated galvanized bin sheets that are rolled for a 42 ft diameter grain bin. The top sheet straddles the apex of the roof making the joint seams lower down from the apex- rain will run over these joints here better. The 2 sheets on the bottom on either side will be bolted to the top sheet from underneath so the rain will roll down and over the joints. I have 2 rope caulking seams in-between these joints. The ends of these sheets will be fastened to bracket angle flashing pieces – corrugated on one side to be bolted to the grain bin sheets ( with 2 runs of rope caulking seams in-between). The angle bracket flashing pieces are then screw bolted to the overhang frame through pre-drilled pilot holes. The bolt hole pattern on the seams of the grain bin sheets and the angle bracket flashing would be 2 rows of holes on the “hills” of the corrugation ( as apposed to the “valleys”) . This provides tiny, unobstructed gutters for the rain to flow. The ends of the roof would be “Structural Insulated Panels” and the steel cavity of the roof would be sprayed with with closed cell insulation foam – This would give the roof a high R value – add more waterproofing to the roof and give in more structural integrity. This would be a very strong roof – easy to build and inexpensive.
The roof in this project expresses the similar ideas that I was working with on the Foam Dome Home as a roof project – a quick and easy to build structure that is strong , lightweight and inexpensive and these Bright ISBU models worked out rather well for me. I would love to live the 480 square foot model and I will be working on this idea for awhile yet but I hope to post with some smaller interesting projects in the weeks to come.