Monday, June 29, 2009

LamiDesign IBU Building System - not a house, a platform

Its not a house design - its a platform for making house designs.

Does that make sense to you? We are designing houses here, yes, but more so, we are designing a way to make houses. If done right it becomes something that anybody can run with, something that spawns results that we will never imagine.

With a limited number of predesigned modules you can create floor plan variations at a factor of 3-4 for a given house design - or Schema as we are calling them. Working with a dozen module types we can easily create 40 or more different houses, some with subtle differences, some with great differences. And that is without resorting to simple variations such as mirrored floor plans. The dozen modules designs are based on slightly smaller set of 9 modified container boxes. Different fit-outs are possible within the modifications made to a given box which can yield multiple modules designs for a single set of box modifications. Owners can choose to create their own module fit-out within one of our standard modules expanding the range of possibilities.

Central to this is that we only need a limited number of physical modifications to the boxes to create the modules. They can be pre-engineered, calculations packaged and ready for permit applications simplifying the typically uncertain road for permitting this unusual construction. It reduces the set of modules to a manageable set of stock boxes, so much so that a vendor could even keep inventory. So now some improvement can be made over the every house custom merry-go-round, and one-off boxes and design work that goes along with it. Yet you are not locked into a limited number of house designs. Its a system designed for production.

Ok, raise your hand if this is starting to sink in.


  1. So is each module prewired/plumbed with some sort of quick connect for assembling one to the other? What is done at the factory and what must be done in the field?

  2. You are way ahead of me John. All that is known right now is we have SG Blocks ready and willing to modify the container boxes, and myself ready with the designs. The whole middle is not defined yet.

    With that in mind, you could finish the modules in a factory to rough in or complete. Or you could just bring the boxes to the site and do it in situ old school. Same with the in-fill portions. This could be panelized in a factory, or built on site. I'm open to either and both solutions.

    The roof structure is a pre-engineered corrugated steel arch - a commodity building system that is readily available. It spans from box to box. I' mulling over other roof solutions as well. An EcoSteel style steel framed roof with insulated panels is also a good solution. Cold rolled steel trusses would work well too.

    In the end it wants to be flexible to work with local practices and building techniques.

  3. Who is SG Blocks? I guess they would need to have locations around the US to do the modifications and ship them out. This idea is intriguing. I guess it will come down to cost to modify, ship and finish in field vs. to ship out a completed module. Have you done calculations to stick build a module? Remember these cool steel containers have the added expense of a false layer of suds or furring to contain insulation and electrical plus sheetrock or other surface.

  4. SG Blocks is here:

    There is no studding out of the interior - only some furring in areas where there is tile. You can always opt to drywall the interior, but I say what is the point of that.

    Insulation in temperate areas is handled by SG Blocks with insulating paint. I advise against insulating the interiors because the boxes will inherently form thermal bridges to the interior. Plus interior space is too small to stud out. If you are in a colder climate then insulating the outside is the way to go - see my earlier project for the 3 story structure - this was to be in Michigan.

    I don't love insulating them on the outside either because you then can't see the boxes. But until SG Blocks does further testing and can advise a performance guidance for the insulating paint I'm not comfortable relying on it in northern climates.

  5. I wqant to build a container house in Senegal, West Africa. Do you have a 2 or 3 person crew to come on site and do the set up and basic framing inside?Thanks for any help? Kathy

  6. Sorry Kathy - I have no crews to offer.

  7. i wish you would come up with a series of basic designs for a beach house, predicated on building +/- 5-8 feet above grade, on stilts or concrete pillars. insulation not needed, since it will be in temperate climates. completely enclosed center courtyard would be ideal, allowing for pool/patio, and bbq area, and closed off from beach access/intruders for safety/privacy. once the real estate debacle ends, i can envision these selling like hotcakes, especially in mexico beach areas, or other places where the dirt/land costs are still reasonable, and people only use the homes 3-6 months out of the year.
    can't wait to see some. if interested to pursue bulk sales, pls let me know. but, costs have to be in line, as moderate quality build out can be done for less than 60-70/sq foot (100% concrete). so, to get sales and interest ramped, it will need to be reasonably cheaper than this. can it be done?

  8. The design you see above can be on piers. You would need to frame up the floor system in the middle however.

    Can it be cheaper than local construction in a someplace like Mexico? I sort of doubt it. But I can't put numbers on it. Too many variables, too far from my location. I could guess but thats not much help.

  9. framing the middle living area floor is not necessary - that can be on grade, with step downs from the raised area, to save costs. if there is a way to get the costs down significantly, then this concept will really fly. i've been looking around on numerous sites about this, and the more i read, the more convinced i become about the ibu as the new standard for affordable housing.

  10. you can do what ever you please of course but it seems impractical to have to use a set of steps to enter each room at the perimeter. If the center space was an open courtyard, sure, but then I don't know how you would ever close the place up.

    All coastal areas are subject to severe flooding and houses built in those zones are typically elevated above the flood level. This is not unusual.