Kevin Warnock

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Archive for the ‘PCBC’ tag

Tiny house created from a shipping container

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Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend 2011, Menlo Park, California USA

Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend 2011, Menlo Park, California USA

I’ve been dreaming since 2008 or 2009 of creating ecologically conscious homes from ocean shipping containers. I independently came up with the idea of using shipping containers to make eco homes. I soon discovered others thought of doing so many years earlier. I arrived at the idea after reading about Tumbleweed houses, which I love.

In late May 2011 I learned of a company that’s already creating backyard cottages from recycled shipping containers. I found out about HyBrid Architecture Assembly by listening to KQED radio, the National Public Radio affiliate in San Francisco, California USA, where I live.

One of the sponsors of KQED is Sunset Magazine, and each year that home and garden periodical puts on an event at its Menlo Park, California headquarters. Menlo Park is about a 45 minutes drive South of San Francisco. Sunset Magazine advertised its Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend 2011 show this year by adding the tantalizing news that a ‘shipping container house’ would be on display.

I have never been to a Sunset Magazine event, but this year I attended.

I was impressed by the interest in the displayed shipping container house — the line to tour the home was a city block long at times, as you can see in the photo above. I would say this container house was the most popular attraction at the show except for the Ikea cooking stage, where I estimate over a hundred people could sit at once to watch a live cooking show in a real outdoor Ikea kitchen set up just for the event.

With the intent to blog about it, I took some pictures of the container home and shot an exterior video clip, walking around the perimeter of the house once.

One of the owners of HyBrid didn’t seem to appreciate my enthusiasm for his company’s product, and asked me on video what architecture firm I was with. When I told him I was a blogger, he asked for my card. I don’t carry a blogger card yet, so I gave him my photographer card.

I ran into this same owner at the PCBC building industry trade show at Moscone Center June 22-24, 2011.

The HyBrid owner saw me in the hallway, recognized me and asked me again for my contact information. He handed me his cell phone and asked me to key in my cell number, which I did. He asked me to stop by his shipping container home, the Sunset display model which was now on display at PCBC. He said he had a proposal for me.

I was surprised, as I didn’t see how he knew enough about me to propose anything. But since I had given him my card at the Sunset show, I thought perhaps he had been reading my blog and had learned I’m fascinated by shipping container homes. I was looking forward to making a new friend.

Later that afternoon, I stopped by the container house and the owner asked me to sit down at one of the chairs in the garden.

I started off by introducing myself, and told him I do not build and have decided not to build shipping container homes.

The owner then explained his company’s designs are copyrighted and that if I copied them he would… at which point he stopped his sentence, leaving me to guess the rest of the sentence. My best guess is:  “sue me for copyright infringement.”

He said that the designs for his house took 10,000 (sic) hours to create and perfect. He claimed that the tolerances in the specifications are so tight that in some places if an item were moved by just 1/4 of an inch that the house would not pass building inspections. He went into detail about the sliding ‘barn door’ made from metal that hangs from a track above but does not run in an opposing track at the base. He said that design is the only way to pass code, as inspectors worry a bottom track will trip people passing through the barn door.

I was shocked.

I had told him up front I was specifically not going to start a shipping container housing company, yet he still felt threatened enough that he intimated he would pursue legal action against me if I used his company’s plans, which I did not and do not have.

This was the first and only time I have been so overtly threatened in business, even though he was somewhat covert.

What is particularly curious about this encounter is that I don’t believe that a US Copyright would prevent anyone from manufacturing exact or similar copies of a house. I think multiple United States patents would be required, both design patents and utility patents.

Design patents, to my knowledge, are easy to get around. I think that’s why so many different companies are able to legally make smart phones that look very similar to the iconic Apple iPhone. If there were a legal form of protection to stop these similar looking phones, I have no doubt that Apple would vigourously pursue such protection.

I am 99.9% sure I am correct that a US Copyright is of no value in keeping me or anyone from making houses like those made by the company that is the focus of this post. If I learn otherwise, I will write a follow up to correct this post.

This owner said he earlier had visited my blog and noted I had not posted anything about his company. He asked me not to post anything about his company.

I asked him if I could write about his company if I sent him the copy in advance for his approval, and he said I may.

I have reflected on this strange encounter for a over a month now, and I have decided that I will not write the enthusiastic and favorable piece I had planned to write before this encounter.

I consider myself a journalist, as I have written here before, so I strive to write posts that reflect the truth.

I think that the owner did not handle me well. From the moment he encountered me at the Sunset event, I identified myself as a blogger, so I am perplexed that he did not act with particular restraint, even if he was worried I might some day ‘compete’ with his business in Seattle, Washington, two states away from California, where I live.

I was a fan and was planning to write a really nice article, with high quality photos and video. There aren’t too many independent blog stories about his shipping container house, and I would think he would be thrilled to have someone like me write about it. Instead, what he now has earned is a not so nice article that raises questions.

In my mind HyBrid should welcome press coverage and competitors with open arms, as I believe the field of container housing suffers from its poor visibility. More companies in more locations advancing the concept can only help the cause.

The best thing that could happen to HyBrid is for hundreds of vibrant and profitable companies to spring up making homes from shipping containers.

I continue to be interested in shipping container homes, but I can’t take on creating a manufacturing company right now, as I am too busy with my current company, my chickens, my fish, my garden, my photography and my social life.

I don’t want to tangle with HyBrid, so I have deliberately not linked to their site or named the division that actually makes the house in question. I also have not named the founder, out of concern for his venture. I want him and his company to be wildly successful. I would be thrilled if he sells a million units a year.

The lesson of this strange encounter:

Do not try to intimidate journalists and/or potential competitors you should be making friends with and encouraging.

Written by Kevin Warnock

August 8th, 2011 at 11:00 pm writes about my aquaponics system at PCBC

with 2 comments blog post about aquaponics at PCBC June 22-24, 2011 blog post about aquaponics at PCBC June 22-24, 2011

Blogger, writer and consultant Keith Rockmael wrote the post Aquaponics Outside PCBC and West Coast Green about my aquaponics system that’s been on display this week at PCBC in front of Moscone Center in San Francisco, California USA.

Here’s a screen capture of just the first part of the post… please be sure to click on this link to send him some traffic.

The house in the background is by New Avenue, Inc.

Moscone North is to the immediate left, as this house is sitting in the driveway in front.

New Avenue personnel staffing the New Avenue eco house told me that representatives from three other trade shows asked about getting an aquaponics display for their shows. If these trade show representatives are reading this post, I am interested in helping out, even though I am not in the aquaponics business.

I’m a software entrepreneur that’s simply fascinated by aquaponics.

Written by Kevin Warnock

June 25th, 2011 at 5:00 am

2011 PCBC Home of Innovation video tour – June 24, 2011

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My friend Kevin Casey at New Avenue, Inc. got the PCBC Home of Innovation installed on time for the opening two days ago of the 2011 PCBC convention in San Francisco, California USA.

This was a fantastic effort on Casey’s part because the show gave him a short deadline to complete the ambitious project. I’m not privey to the exact timeline, but I am pretty sure he had under a month to build, deliver and erect this ~750 square foot house inside the Moscone Center, the largest convention center in Northern California.

I wrote last week about this house being delivered to Moscone.

Today I shot a walk through video during the public hours of the show. Today is the final day of the show, so there are fewer attendees than there were the first two days. This makes for a cleaner video.

As you watch this video, remember this house was designed, built, delivered and assembled in about a month! If you work for a trade show and need a demonstration structure built quickly, I suggest you consider working with New Avenue. I have no connection with that company, but Casey has allowed me to show off my aquaponics system at one of his other houses, which I appreciate.

2011 PCBC Home of Innovation, June 24, 2011, San Francisco, California USA

2011 PCBC Home of Innovation, June 24, 2011, San Francisco, California USA

Written by Kevin Warnock

June 24th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

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Video of New Avenue, Inc. houses being delivered to Moscone Center for PCBC June 22-24, 2011

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In my blog post from yesterday, June 17, 2011, entitled New Avenue brings two of its homes to Moscone Center for the Pacific Coast Builders Conference June 22-24, 2011 I wrote about the spectacular delivery of two houses to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California USA.

I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera to shoot high definition video of the delivery process. HD video takes time to process and upload, so the clip wasn’t ready by the time I published yesterday’s story.

As promised, here is the clip I assembled of the houses arriving from San Jose, California.

The first part of the video shows 3 large semi trucks driving up 3rd Street and descending down the loading dock adjacent to Moscone South. Moscone Center is composed of 3 large halls – South, North and West, built in that order over years. I follow these trucks into Moscone South, which was the incorrect hall, as workers told me the South hall is undergoing renovations and thus shows aren’t currently being held in it. Even though this was a mistake on the truck driver’s part, I include the video because most readers of this article will have never seen the South hall totally empty, like it is in this clip. The South hall is the most impressive of the three halls because there are no support columns in the middle of the room. It’s nearly a square block of unobstructed space, and it’s stunning to behold devoid of all the commotion present when it’s occupied.

Off video the trucks then snaked through the tunnel underneath Howard Street into Moscone North, which is where the PCBC conference will take place June 22-24, 2011.

Before we see the houses inside the North hall, the video switches to the driveway for the North hall, on Howard Street. A 4th semi truck brings a second house, complete with deck and my aquaponics system, and parks it parallel to Howard Street and the entrance to the hall.

The video concludes with a clip showing one of the semi trucks inside the North hall driving out from under one of the parts of the first house after that house was temporarily set on blocks. Although it’s not shown in this video, the house pieces were later lowered from their blocks onto their ‘foundations’ and the house pieces were put together to form one elegant ~750 square foot home that will be a featured attraction at PCBC next week.

Written by Kevin Warnock

June 18th, 2011 at 11:46 am