Tag Archives: design

Solar Ivy?

I saw this link about the SMIT Solar Ivy project over on the Jetson Green site, and I thought it was quite clever.  Little solar ‘petals’ rather than one big panel.   I was thinking that while I don’t have huge walls to cover with something like this, I do want to add a sun shade/rain catchment sail over the container and deck area of the build, and having something like this on top would be a nice way to break up the surface and enhance the potential shade provided, while also producing power!

Anyway, check out the SMIT Solar Ivy site for more on this interesting idea.

How about shutters “inside” the building?

My current shutter design requires:

1) Cut out the shutter interior material (~4″ less than the final opening) out of the wall itself

2) Cut out the actual shutter space (this will create a 2″ wide “O” cutout from the wall, with the shutters already removed from the interior)

3) Weld 1″ wide by 2″ deep steel tube around the opening, and the shutter (after cutting the shutter in half and removing another 1″ from the new cut sides of the two shutter sides).  This is trick, and needs to be square

4) Insert the shutters back in the opening (tubing to tubing) and weld on the appropriate hinges.

I still think this will make a very nice shutter, but it is complicated by the fact that the shutters need to be cut out and then trimmed.  Keeping everything square is the big trick in this, and that’s where an alternate idea has presented itself.

We had dinner with friends Chad and Anna (and their charming daughter Nimue) this evening, and as we were discussing this particular component of the container process, Chad suggested just welding the frame to the interior of the container.  I thought this made a lot of sense, in that you can build the frame, add the hinges, make sure nothing binds (perhaps even add some cross bracing), and then weld the shutter frame to the wall.  You can add a baffle of either 1/8″ thick steel plate, or just add an appropriately cut out 1×1.5″ tube steel insert, which will fully connect the frame at the top and bottom of the shutter. If you leave an appropriately sized gap (1/8″ should be adequate) around the shutter frame and its mounting frame, you should be able to:

1) Weld the frame up on a known flat surface and weld on the hinges

2) Check for and remedy any twisted hinges, or areas on the frame that bind (which should be ok with the 1/8″ gap).

3) Weld the frame to the sidewall of the container

4) Drill through the container wall to mark the actual location of the shutter gap (between the wall frame and the shutter frame) on the exterior

5) cut through the exterior, either with a cutting torch, plasma cutter, a cutting wheel on a rotary grinder, or even a reciprocating saw (like a sawzall)

Using 1″ tubing would still take a small amount of the interior space away, but this would potentially be masked by the interior walls anway. The biggest benefit is the ability to attach the shutter to the frame prior to cutting out the shutter, and being able to make sure the frame isn’t binding prior to cutting out the shutter!

Now, with a 3.5″ metal stud set all the way to the “outside” of the corrugations int the side wall, there is stil a 1″ gap between the shutters and the wall edge.  This isn’t enough for the doors I’m looking at (5″ framed width is in the spec sheet), but perhaps I’ll look into some custom doors instead.  They’ll stil be thicker than 1″, but if I can get them down to 3″ rather than five, then they don’t stick so far into the interior as to look odd.

I think this model makes even more sense than the original, even if it means sacrificing an additional interior inch of space on one wall.

Steel Studs rather than Wood?

I’m hopeful that the ground will dry out enough over the next week (given that it looks like we’ll have good weather at least through this coming Sunday) that we can actually move the containers to their final destination.  Even if not, we’ll have them close enough that I hope to be able to drag them the last ~100 yards in the April timeframe when the ground really will start to turn back into the concrete that it resembled last August.

In the interim, I plan to continue to flesh out the interior of the containers so that they can become living spaces, even if that occurs prior to their final location change.  That effort would be a good test of the road-worthiness of these boxes, especially if we have to drag them any appreciable distance.

To fill out the interior, I’m planning on framing out walls ~2″ from the interior of the side wall waffle.  The extra space will be filled with a closed-cell spray foam insulation, and the walls will then be clad either in plywood or standard gypsum.  I actually like the idea of using marine grade plywood, which would make for a truly robust space that could handle any potential interior condensation, but cost may be a limiting factor.  One interesting shift from most housing, which may help manage costs to a certain extent, is that the interior sheeting has even less of a structural component than it does in a stick built house, not that it provided all that much to begin with. By placing studs on 2′ centers, and filling the void with spray foam, it should be quite reasonable to use a thin, 3/8″ plywood, rather than a thicker gypsum board.  I think that a nice varnish or even an oil finish will really provide for an interesting interior.  And if we don’t oil the walls, we have the option of painting as well.

I also just realized (after working on my model for a couple hours this evening), that I forgot to include the windows in the back side of the container.  The “front” wall will remain window free, as that will be one end of the bathroom, but there will be a window on either end of the bathroom, for light, and to add a bit of additional space to what will otherwise be a fairly cramped space.

I also need to add the interior wall, and add the raised bathroom floor.  So far (except for my weird header in this iteration of the model), this looks to be a good weekend project.  I think it’s realistic to think that I can at least get the walls framed in a weekend, and then plan on sprayfoam for the following weekend.

So, the only other point here, is that I think we’re going to go with steel studs rather than wood.  This lends it self to the studs being welded to the sidewalls where appropriate (not all studs are going to line up on the wall waffle, at least based on this model, but I haven’t measured the actual container waffle yet, so we’ll have to see).  Certainly the footer and header can be tacked on, and the cieling joists can also be spot welded into place.  This means that the frame will effectively be an extension to the exterior, even though that will also create a thermal channel from the exterior to the interior.  This may be a bad idea, and I’m certainly open to suggestions/reccomendations here as well.  One thought I had is to use 2.5″ channel, which is avaialble at Home Depot at least, and leave a 1/2″-1″ gap between the framing and the actual container wall, which will then be filled with the expanding foam.  This would provide a solid vapor/thermal barrier, but makes the interior shell free-floating until the foam is in place.  Could be interesting though, and it might be a simple matter of providing a few welded ties between the shell and the framing until some sections of foam are in place, which can then be cut out before the rest is foamed in (or left in place, given that the small pins won’t be much of a thermal conductor as the entire stud would be).

More thoughts, more concepts. I can’t wait to actually get this put into practice!

Rainwater Catchment – Water Filter

With the container delivery in process, my thoughts have turned to catching water.  We’ve already done an analysis, and can clearly catch thousands of gallons of clean water off of the two container roofs, but I’ll need to add gutters to redirect the water, and I will still want to pre-filter the water before it goes into the tank to try to reduce the quantity of dirt that will get into the system (some will always manage to get in anyway, but I want to minimze that).

So I’ve been thinking about the filter systems I’ve seen floating around.  First, you want to try to avoid leaves and other “large” particles from even getting to a media type filter, so a pre-filter is in order.  One thought I had was to attach one of the leaf over-flow covers onto the top of a gutter section. These are the sorts of things that use surface tension to keep the water flowing into the gutter while the leaves are supposed to just shoot right off.  Since I won’t be in a position to place full length gutters the day the containers arrive (expecting early on the 17th), I was thinking of just placing a tarp along with a short section of gutter fastened to a cistern. This will at least allow us to capture some of the initial influx of rain, and let me test out the filters I’m considering.

The first actual filter is one I’ve seen described in a few rainwater catchment documents and sites,called a bypass filter. Basically, it’s a tube that hangs down below the downspout and has a slow leak valve at the bottom and a floating captive ball in the tube.  The idea is that the first “flush” from the roof/tarp dumps its dirt into the bypass (expected to be fairly fine stuff, light blow-sand, etc.), floating the ball up to the top where it eventually blocks off the bypass.  The rest of the water then flows across the bypass to the cistern.  The bypass will slowly leak out and will re-fill from a continued rain event, or eventually empty out and be ready for the next event.  Eventually it will become necessary to wash out the bypass in order to get rid of the accumulated muck.  My model includes a standard outdoor faucet for the slow leaking valve, which may even be large enough to allow a washout of the bypass without having to disassemble the filter all together.

The second filter is a sand and charcoal filter.  This is fairly straight forward, with the only “trick” being that I expect to line the outlet of the filter with a piece of geo-textile to act as a screen against sand and charcoal being flushed out and into the cistern propper.

So other than this model forcing the cistern deep under ground, I think this is the solution for rain catchment.

Container Shutters – II

I decided to do a bit more modeling around the accordian shutters, and built out a sketchup model that takes into account the actual size of the Jeld-Wen (Home Depot) windows and french doors.  I’d much rather have a completely open side, but everything I’ve read says you really want at least one brace in the middle of a 20′ container side, so I’m leaving a 6″ section of the side in place, and will add a c-channel brace on the back end of the fairly thin side wall to provide a structural connection between the floor and roof trusses.  With the accordion shutters, you still get an un-obstructed view straight out, but you do now have 3′ wide blinders on either side of your view.  Not idea, but I think this is about as good as it’ll get for now.  The benefit here is that there is still a way to completely re-close the container.  Since the shutters will be edged with 2″x1″ tube steel, and the corrugation in the side walls is ~1.5″, this should keep the entire enclosure within the ISO frame, and yet still give the greatest unobstructed view that is still openable by hand with no mechanical assist.

There is one more design that I still want to investigate, which would be these smaller shutters, but with a winch based mechanism for raising the shutters.  My real concern is that if the winch fails, there’s no “easy” (i.e., non-heavy-weight-champion-strenght-requred way) to open the shutter, making this a bit less flexible if the winch fails for any reason.

Container Shutters

I’ve modeled the re-used wall shutters in sketchup, and I think these will work quite well, although I’m still scheming, and have another thought about accordion shutters (which I’ll sketch tomorrow). I also realized as I was dropping these onto the container, that I made the model too short. They should be 82″ tall, not 72…  But I think the image shows what it might start to look like.  Basically, the cut-out gets edged in 2″deep by 1″ wide steel tubing.  This same tubing is then used to make a frame around the cut-out sheet (which will have to be cut down by 2″ all around to fit). These shutters are then attached with fixed pin external hinges (in order to let them open out).  I found a source for steel hinges in all kinds of strengths and sizes, and that give me the confidence that we can get hinges that will support the weight of these doors (which I estimated to be ~ 80# at 6’x3′).

I also included  a set of welded on pieces through which a bar would be slid in order to lock the container up, but it may not need that, as the way the container walls are bent, it might be possible to have most of the 2″ tube exposed where the shutters meet, allowing for a simple pin/lock on the outside which would help to stay within the ISO shipping envelope.  If we end up with sliding doors rather than french doors (still hoping to talk to the door people tomorrow), it woudl be possible to pin the door inside, and it wouldn’t need to be locked from the inside, another area to investigate!

Another container design company

Apparently I’m about 2 years late on this whole container thing as most sites seem to be about that old.  Perhaps it’s become old hat and architects just do this as normal course any longer.  Anyway, here are a couple more I found over the past few weeks:


These guys (or guy) have a really interesting model, based on a fixed set of 12 floor plans, and a bridged central space.  Pick your kitchen, bedroom(s) and glass walls, and you’ve got a house.  It’s similar to the model I’m looking at, but it follows what I’d call the “standard” mold, leverage the container as a building element, rather than the building as a whole.


This company is closer to what I’m building towards, where it’s still a single container, and is certainly more house like. My big difference here is that they just inster their windows/doors right into the container directly.  For a truly rural studio, I think it’s important to totally close it up.  But I like where they’re at otherwise.


Wow.  Again, more practical for a remote, but less rural setting (i.e., there are other people around most of the time, etc.) but in this case: STUNNING!!! Wow are these places beautiful (at least to me), and what style.  They aren’t single container dwellings, but they are clearly still container based.

Glass walls – phases?

Riffing on the prior set of sketches, here’s two containers (with a possible 3rd “central” container) over a number of phases.

The first phase would be a single container, with one side removed, the end doors opened and a set of dual central sliding doors installed.  Glass is covered by window sized panels that open down over the fixed windows, and up over the sliding windows.  The end doors are still there, and the far wall has two floor to ceiling fixed windows.  This allows for a simplified build (only one side has moveable components) and simple shutters on the “far” side of the container. Read more »

Glass walls – sketches

Ken’s comment about loading of the roof got me to thinking, and e data found on the Runkle site really pushed me over the edge. Clearly my full glass walls need some additional support. I sketched up three options as a starting point, and leveraged some of Kevin’s thoughts (bracing for transport) as a more permanent component.

As I at least still liven in the world of the stand alone structure, I prefer to leverage the light transmitting properties of glass or plastic and let as much in as possible. There are plenty of plans out there for dense housing based note ISO container (look at http://tempohousing.com for an example of a great set of floor plans for this market), but none address the US demand for space, views, and light.

Read more »

Can it handle the load?

Ken pointed out in a comment that it might be important to add a sloped roof to this structure, if it were to end up in a snow zone.  And of course, we don’t have that exact issue, however, given my design goal of having this structure usable for more than just a single location use (i.e., moving it in the future to our next land conquest), I thought I should at least see what might be necessary to do to strengthen the roof.  And while I was at it, I was wondering how bad cutting out the entire container sides might actually be…

Read more »