Posts Tagged ‘construction’


Why Are ISBUs All The Rage?

May 4, 2009

Why Use an ISBU?

I mean… when you tell people that you’re going to build a building with a shipping container, they look at you like you’ve lost your mind!


What Are The Reasons People Are Using ISBU Shipping Containers For Building Construction?

Are ISBUs Cheap and Plentiful?

In the beginning, the greatest interest in ISBU Shipping Container homes and construction seemed to be the need to utilize the  hundreds of thousands of surplus Shipping Containers sitting in U.S. and other ports abroad. By 2005 there were an estimated 700,000 of them sitting in U.S. ports alone, most of this due to the exploding growth of imports from China.


Another  reason for all the international interest was the seemingly low cost of construction, in comparison to other (more traditional) types of construction. “Little houses” were all the rage!  “Downsizing” wasn’t just for corporations anymore! Owning that “small” home or apartment seemed to gather a lot of interest.

By the end of 2007 the “surplus” stocks at U.S. ports were reportedly down about 25% and according to readers and Members of groups like the ISBU Association, the biggest interest now was the incredible strength and versatility of an ISBU, not the surplus or low cost. There are suggestions that this was actually just a statistical attempt to drive pricing. It makes you think, doesn’t it?

HONGKONG/However, it’s 2009… and current reports show over 1,000,000 surplus shipping containers sitting on the ground, collecting dust, and blocking out the sunlight. So much for “a slowly depleted commodity.”

ISBU Shipping Container Homes Are Here To Stay?

After nearly 3 years of  publicity, hype and interest, it seems ISBU construction isn’t a Fad but an incredible growing trend. …not because of the U.S. and global economy, but because ISBU modules are strong, easy to use, and versatile–almost like stacking Legos blocks. You remember Legos, right? Every child had them! They were those magical interconnecting plastic blocks that allowed you to build everything from pretend houses, to a space station!

Although some corporations like  Travelodge build frames and then insert the ISBU’s 8 or more levels high…


Other builders have been very successful just stacking them up, just as the ocean shipping companies do, one on top of the other, to form unitized buildings…


Unibody Construction

I suppose it was Detroit that popularized the term “unibody.” Although unibody construction is the strongest and most common body architecture in automobiles, SUV’s, yachts, and airplanes today, you may not realize that connecting multiple ISBU shipping containers together is also a form of unibody construction. In fact, by connecting multiple ISBU modules together, whether multiple one-level, or multiple ten-level, you have created the ultimate unibody construction unit with far more strength than the already, super stronger container alone. The strength comes from all the connection points combining to form a “solid” assembly.


An ISBU, all by itself, is one tough customer, but imagine the incredible strength you can get when 2, 4, 6, or 100 of them are connected top, bottom, and sides. Even with fairly extreme modification and wall cut outs, the strength of multiple ISBU’s is far greater than any conventional home or building. The total ISBU shipping container structure becomes a single “honeycomb” unit, like a giant colony of corten steel!

The Uses for ISBU Construction are Absolutely Endless…

Over the next few days, we’ll look at how these boxes are being used, to benefit mankind, in ways beyond just hauling freight!

Stay tuned!


The Grand Opening!

April 25, 2009


My Home is an Inter-modal Steel Building Unit!

And yours could be, too! Follow along with us, while we examine this phenomenon and figure out the best way to help you build that home you’ve always wanted!

Leave it to lawyers to screw up our “scheduled opening day,” but you have to follow the rules, and the world doesn’t seem to work without forms filed in triplicate. But all of that is water under the bridge now, and we’re here. And THAT is what matters!

By now, you’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know what a shipping container is. These wonderful steel boxes (Shown below being jockeyed about by lifts designed especially for them) are tasked with hauling freight to every point on the planet, most piled several high on the decks of behemoth ships, and offtimes seen stacked two high on railway cars.


The containers, called inter-modal steel building units (ISBUs) in the trades, are familiar to almost everyone. Even inland hundreds of miles from a shoreline, they can be seen riding the rails, piled onto flatbed railroad cars or hauled on dollies behind tractor-trailers on interstate highways. They are regularly seen on television, as they are featured in stock film footage on the news channels, illustrating every story about port security.


These are indestructible beauties, manufactured of heavy-gauge Corten steel, designed to be water-proof, fire resistant, impervious to bugs and built to hold cargo securely on the pitching deck of a ship in the harshest of environments!


Looked at as exactly what they are, an ISBU is a steel frame, with skin on it, not unlike a skyscraper or commercial building that you see in almost every neighborhood. It’s for that very reason that so many architects are busy working on plans and building techniques to make shipping container building attractive and functional.


But ISBU homes do not have to be square and flat-roofed – the only limit is your imagination, and the depth of your wallet. Some of them are finished with trussed roofs and interior and exterior finishes that make them look very much like any other conventional building in your city/town/village/hamlet/suburb…

ISBUs are manufactured in several sizes. You can get them from 10′ – 53′ long. 20′ x 8′ x 8′ and 40′ x 8′ x 8′ are currently the most prevalent sizes in use today. But, I recommend using a container called an High Cube (HQ), because this container is taller than it’s peers. In fact, it’s over 9′ tall (at 9’6” approx). This means that the structure you build will have taller ceilings. Or, laid on it’s side, you get more square footage out of this HQ unit. (almost 30 square feet, to be exact!)

For example, take (4) 40′ ISBUs placed side by side with the side walls of the inner two containers removed, andwhat have you got? Well, you have  an open space that measures 40′ x 32′ – and that translates to 1,280 square feet of living space.

The containers are manufactured to be stacked, and like I’ve already mentioned, you can stack them as many as nine high without compromising their structural integrity. This means that using them to create multistory dwellings in no problem. Be it a second, third, fourth, or fifth floor, ISBUs are there to help you achieve your goal!

Stay with us as we look at the advantages and address the challenges of the ISBU as a structural unit. Learning how it works and how to configure it, will allow you to build that home you’ve been dreaming of, for less than the price of a comparable traditionally built home…

Now, we’re NOT going to talk about the “fantasy houses” that you see on sites like Treehugger (although we REALLY admire those guys!), and we’re not going to talk about “Impossible to build” renders of homes that will never get built. We’re not going to talk about using ISBUs to build McMansions.

What we ARE going to talk about (in great detail) is building a single family home using ISBUs, in most cases utilizing a budget of approximately $100,000 (US). We’re aiming at helping you create a home for your family, a home you can not only afford, but an efficient home that will take care of you, as you take care of those you love.

See you next time!


ISBU2YOU is coming to a town near you!

April 3, 2009

It’s actually very simple…

“The only reason to hire an architect or architectural designer is to improve your life, whether it’s creating a more beautiful home or a more professional office.  The practice of Architecture is dedicated to creating a space you deserve – a space that’s healthier for you, responds to the way you live and work, and one that inspires you to your fullest potential.”

ISBU2YOU is dedicated to raising “Shipping Container technology” to a new level. We believe that families must live in homes. We believe that the economy and the housing crisis have made this almost impossible to a large sector of the population.

The basic concept of “alternative housing” is to offer an affordable home that places a high priority on quality, design, energy efficiency, health and sustainability rather than “bells & whistles” that can drive the price of new construction out of reach from the majority of home buyers.

Shipping containers, called ISBU‘s when repurposed as construction elements, provide the potential for doing exactly that.

The majority of consumers today flipping through the pages of Dwell magazine and similar publications are dreaming of modern,  green homes that are out of reach for them on average incomes. Most are earning median incomes well below six figures. They can not qualify for subsidized housing nor can they afford the green and modern homes that are being sold for half a million dollars and up.

Does this sound like you? If so, keep reading!

If you’re not in that upper income bracket, the only options are to purchase a new construction home of poor quality and design or to purchase an old home and go about the often expensive task of rehabbing it themselves to fit their tastes.

We kept thinking that there had to be a better way. And there is;

ISBU2YOU will unveil several homes as a tribute to working families that are not being currently served by America’s developers and contractors.

The homes are greatly simplified by reducing the footprint, stripping down the finishes to  more “basic”  levels and arranging the layouts so that they function in a very efficient manner. This doesn’t mean “ugly” or cheap. It means that materials will be carefully chosen for functions, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness.

A high priority is placed on the modern architectural design as well as the most cost effective green building materials and methods in order to provide the greatest value at the lowest price.

The majority of the construction budget is focused on providing the best envelope and mechanical design as these are not features that can be easily upgraded by the homeowner in the future.

Meanwhile, exposed concrete and plywood flooring and sheathing are used in order to keep the price of aspects of the home down, so that it can be easily upgraded by the homeowner to suit their own evolving tastes in the future.

Adding bamboo flooring, new tile, higher-end appliances and cabinets are all things that can easily be done by a homeowner in the future while increasing the insulation levels and increasing the efficiency of the HVAC system are not easily accomplished by the DIY’er.

ISBU2YOU‘s mission is to promote a better way of living by constantly gaining and passing on knowledge that will benefit you.  This knowledge entails being aware of your needs and desires, knowing effective sustainable strategies that will create a healthier environment, and implementing high tech software and tools created to to better convey the design (thus saving you money).  The end result is “created space”  that’s good for the environment but also incredibly good for you.

It’s this pursuit of learning and sharing that enables ISBU2YOU to design great architecture that you deserve.

ISBU2YOU is passionate about following the latest trends and strategies pertaining to sustainable design and business practices, so in order to provide up to date information on these facets of architecture we’ll  post links to multiple references on the ISBU2YOU blog.

These references will include sources about sustainability and websites that will  educate and inspire you.

Look for our


on April 25th, 2009!

We thought that we’d be ready by April 15th, but bureaucracy moves slowly in these parts. Never trust a lawyer to get things done on time, unless you are holding him at gunpoint! 🙂