BentoBox – Latest Renderings

Designers Gonna Design. That’s the way it is. I just can’t stop refining my design until the components are in place and built.

So, here are the latest images of the BentoBox  (click on an image to enlarge):

I’ve got two hats on my house. I did start framing the second ‘hat’. Updated photo progress coming soon. The little low slung beret, where hipsters can hang out on the roof deck (after signing a waver or I figure out a way to get a railing up there).

The second roof has a split personality. In the ‘parked’ configuration as seen here is a shed roof.  The hat on my house as well as many local buildings,  affectionately referred to by architects in this area as the Seattle Sombrero.

Speaking of hats. Yes, it rains a lot here. So the flat roof is not really flat (sloped 1/4″ per foot) and as you may have noticed in my previous post, has an integrated roof drain (sloped 1/2″ per foot) which will be connected to a removable downspout for rainwater harvesting.

During travel mode, the shed roof folds flat, to stay under the maximum height of 13′-6″ (4.11 meters). That is the most common DOT standard in the states and provinces of the USA and Canada. The house is a bit taller than most tiny houses when parked.  Full height (for me) in the tatami room is important. That room is 42 inches (1050mm) above the main level, so all these heights add up fast, including the trailer. The roof overhead will be a continuous standing seam metal roof with that material continuing down the back wall.

The exterior materials are composed of a combination of steel, dark brown stained wood windows and shou sugi ban wood siding, a Japanese technique of burning wood to seal it from the elements. Here’s a fantastic video by Delta Millworks in Texas, who I hope to work with for my project.

Delta Millworks (Trailer) from Good Luck Sir on Vimeo.

I’ve never seen anyone do such beautiful work as they do, examples of different species and techniques are found here: 

I’ll still be working out the construction details and materials for the area above the fixed wall on the shed roof. I would love to do something like a highly insulated translucent panel, however must be mindful of the budget.

Make a list, make a budget

When building something as complex as a house, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. That part was solidified over the holidays, and now I’ve begun making lists. Shopping lists, wish lists, comparison lists, lists of lists, and no project could be completed without a schedule, and a budget. The schedule we’ll get to in a future post. Let’s first talk some numbers. By the way, that’s Piggleston above, the Burke family piggy bank and future vacation fund. Say hello.

Making a budget would be a real challenge without prior construction experience. It’s sort of like a game of The Price is Right. Guess too low and you will be in for a surprise com build time, have aspirations that you cannot afford would be a real let down. On the other hand, guessing too high (really rare for most of us) would mean you may simplify your design so much that you are unhappy with the final result and perhaps unable to change your mind later. I wanted to put this together, because I have been challenged by a few nay sayers who don’t believe my budget to be real, or that a tiny house could be built for under $145 per square foot. Of course, I already know that some houses have been built for half my budget by relying on many reclaimed materials and/or sponsors. My new freind Macy Miller built her amazing modern tiny house on wheels with only $11,500 just two years ago.

I’ve done my best to make these numbers realistic – having researched heavily into several of the more costly areas so I could know what to maximize and where to reduce costs. For instance, I knew that I really wanted my design to have significantly more glass than the typical tiny house on wheels. To save money, and preserve the design intent – I will be fabricating my own window frames and sashes, and just having the insulated glass units made to order. I will be spending $35 per square foot on materials versus $65/SF for clad wood windows with all the bells and whistles. Sure, I could put in my labor, however I’m doing this (and building the house in the first place) because I know I will appreciate the experience. Tracking my labor, especially design time would be impossible. I dream about the design, think about it while commuting to work, and spent many a late night tossing out, sketching new and rediscovering old ideas.

Below is my materials budget, both current and with a couple of future projects that I plan to add later. I’ve organized it according to the Construction Specification Institute ( This is the most common way of describing materials used for building in the United States. I’ve removed divisions that have no relevance in residential construction.

I did add a section for tools and any labor I need to contract out – which I will try to minimize. I’ve already spend half that on some tools I wanted not just for this project, also for other unrelated projects. As a result, I have broken the tools and labor out so they don’t count toward my goal.

The BentoBox won’t have a hot tub (yet), however since someone else might, I left in the division 13 on Special Construction – ’cause if someone builds an ice rink or swimming poor on or in their tiny house, I want to see it!

As I get all my receipts organized, I will start showing how I’m tracking to the budget – and try to explain what unexpected items I’ve come across. Realizing that this framework is very specific to my choices, especially the decision to build around a shipping container, your mileage will vary.

Pencil Sharpening

Starting your own project soon? I suggest sharpening your pencils and getting to it. It’s not that hard. You can even download the attached Budget Template spreadsheet as your starting point. Good luck.

CSI Division Number CSI Division Name General contents Budgeted
Division 00 Procurement and Contracting Requirements Legal, Contracts, Fees, Permits, etc…


Division 01 General Requirements Tools, Rental, Construction Facilities, Temporary Construction, Cleaning and Waste Management, Labor


Division 02 Existing Conditions Shipping Container


Division 03 Concrete Slab on grade, foundation piers, etc..


Division 04 Masonry Concrete masonry units


Division 05 Metals Metal Studs, Fasteners, Hurricane clips, etc…


Division 06 Wood, Plastics, and Composites Wood Studs, Plywood, etc…


Division 07 Thermal and Moisture Protection Insulation, Siding, Roofing


Division 08 Openings Windows, Doors


Division 09 Finishes Gypsum Board, flooring, trim and moldings


Division 10 Specialties Bathroom accessories, fireplace and stove, cooking stove, fire extinguisher


Division 11 Equipment Refrigerator, washing machine, etc…


Division 12 Furnishings Art, Furniture, drapes, shades, cabinets and countertops


Division 13 Special Construction Hot tubs, ice rinks, swimming pools, vaults


Division 14 Conveying Equipment Hydraulic lifts, slide out mechanisms, etc…


Division 21 Fire Suppression Fire sprinkler system


Division 22 Plumbing Sinks, tub, faucets, water heater, etc


Division 23 Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning Heater, air conditioners, exhaust fans, dehumidifiers, etc…


Division 25 Integrated Automation Home automation, including learning thermostats, occupancy sensors,


Division 26 Electrical Switches, outlets, electrical system, lighting, storage batteries


Division 27 Communications Wifi, Telephone, network cable, routers and ports


Division 28 Electronic Safety and Security Video surveillance, electronic locks, smoke and CO2 detectors, gas leak detectors


Division 31 Earthwork Work to prepare your parking for the project


Division 32 Exterior Improvements Landscaping, paving, gravel, etc


Division 33 Utilities Water storage tanks, propane tanks, Any connections to utilities or items not permanently attached to the THoW


Division 34 Transportation Trailer, vehicles, etc…


Division 44 Pollution Control Equipment Water filters, air filters


Division 48 Electrical Power Generation Solar panels, wind turbines
Total Spend


Project Phase Total (minus tools)


Update, BentoBox design is now really close





Here’s a preview of my current design in progress – Bento Box, a one of a kind shipping container THoW. I spent the last hour annotating the floor plan to make it easier to explain the components. I’ll model the “garage” and other areas below the sleeping/living platform later this weekend and add this to my blog.

Comments and questions are most welcome. I’m so excited I got all the major layout issues worked out in the last two weeks.

I will miss the butterfly roof… it just doesn’t get me the headroom. The only way around that is to punch up past the allowable 14’ height for the west coast states’ DOT limit. I could do something with hydraulics, which while would be the most amazing tiny house ever, might just be beyond my capabilities.

Meet Bento

from Wikipedia:
from Wikipedia:

The FORGE system from my earlier post inspired me. I’ve tried to see how much I can push the limits to keep my shipping container looking unmodified when it’s closed up. By basing the design on the use of a side opening configuration, I can have a container that is largely open along one side as well as the short end. Those doors are big and heavy, however with simple finishes, my overall project should still be roadworthy. 20140614-232214-84134780.jpg

So, on to the good stuff. I have spent a few hours reconsidering nearly every part of the layout and removed the traditional tiny house loft. It is instead replaced with a storage/sleeping platform. Nearly everything that is not being used, which doesn’t contain plumbing, could sit its own little compartment. It’s like a Japanese bento box., or maybe a traditional wooden puzzle box. I’ve tried to have elements of the design serve more than a single function, which really will make this feel like a house that is many times larger than the footprint suggests. So, here it is. I’m taking the lid off my design and I hope you enjoy it. I present, Bento: This series of vignettes is modeled on my iPad, using Autodesk FormIt, a free 3D modeling environment. I will take you through the transport mode, to standard living, to food prep, dining, sleep time and ‘party mode’ (where the center floor space opens up). Click on an image to view the gallery as a slide show.

I still need to work out how the pop out breakfast/reading nook will function. That’s one of the pieces I removed so you could see into the great room. Also, there’s opportunities to explore the storage and access to the covered porch off the bedroom. Now, to begin detailing this design, while continuing to complete a deal with a trailer fabricator. I’m down to three options, and I could have more to share very soon. Exciting! I’m really curious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. Thanks.

Design progress, a bit sketchy

I was inspired to rethink a few details after visiting the Tiny House Conference a few weeks ago. Since I’ve been traveling so much this month, I’ve finally had the time to capture some design decisions in Revit 2015. While one could use just about any tool, even a pencil, to draw up a tiny house project, I use this tool professionally. The new version has added the capability to add ‘sketchy lines’ to the view, which really helps me to study this concept without getting to bogged down in the details. There are a lot of items to resolve, however I think this might be ‘the one’. You feedback is most welcome. Like it or love it, I still would appreciate your thoughts.

Iterative fun

A bit more fun on my iPad with FormIt, a free Autodesk app. This took about forty five minutes – averaging 3 minutes each. I cheated a bit using the array tool to get started. I’m getting quite good at it. Anything yellow is new material, versus gray being the re-mixed parts of the shipping container. Growing fond of the ‘low-rider’ in the front row. I imagine it on hydraulics to tilt up at a slight pitch revealing the entrance. I might even do another 15 studies this evening.



Want to experiment? Below is a link to the files, which you can open in FormIt on an iPad, Android tablet or using the Beta online version. Or, you can open the automagically converted Revit (.RVT) or ACIS (.SAT) files from the Autodesk 360 cloud service.

FormIt – Iterative Fun design files – 1.6mb