Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Archive for October 2009

Cars and The New American Dream

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I have been reading the Home From Nowhere, by James Kunstler.  I am on a chapter that covers the evils of cars if you will.

Some interesting facts about cars from the book:

  • The US spends $200 million every day just to maintain (not build) our highways
  • Every year $6.3 billion is spent in interest on loans from debt incurred by the US government to upkeep roads
  • 50,000 people are killed every year in car accidents, that is the number of deaths during the entire Vietnam War
  • Accidents cost Americans and the government $368 Billion every year
  • In the next 10 years with increasing number of cars on the road, we will spend 5.6 billion hours more than we used to waiting in traffic as a nation
  • While we are waiting in traffic from the above bullet, we will consume 7.3 billion more gallons of fuel than before
  • In Los Angels the average speed of freeways travel is estimated to fall to 11 mph
  • The average American will spend 2.18 weeks traveling to and from work

Here is a article from good about reinventing the American dream, it brings in the car aspect and speaks to how this all fits in.

Reprinted: Good Carol Coletta on August 20, 2009

During a decade when Americans returned to cities for the first time in 50 years, it surprises me that “urban” can still be a code word for all things negative.

Attach the word “urban” to almost any ill, and what is bad becomes worse. Urban poverty is worse than poverty. Urban crime is worse than crime. It must follow that urban neighborhoods are worse than just neighborhoods, right?

Wrong. In fact, really wrong. But you would hardly know it unless you looked closely at reality.

When GM depicted a new vision of the good life for Americans at the 1939 World’s Fair, it looked like a dream come true. Vivid pictures romanced a new highway system through rural farmland into the heart of a well-ordered city, where every family would live in a single-family home in a single-use neighborhood filled with families from a single income bracket. Such promised order, combined with the freedom of a car in every garage, offered previously unimagined possibilities.

And it worked. General Motor’s compelling vision for car-oriented suburbs spawned a new American ideal. A lot of people shared that dream. And that dream has shaped our lives today. We have freeways connecting every major city in America, and most families have not just one car but a car for every adult in the household.

We also have gridlock traffic. And pollution. And an addiction to foreign oil.

Our health is in danger from sitting too much and moving too little. Many mortgages are underwater. And we’ve undermined the natural advantages of cities for innovation, opportunity and efficiency by spreading too few people over too much land.

It is increasingly clear that the old American dream is shattered, and we need a new dream to replace it, one better suited for today’s realities. We need a new definition of the good life.

Signs of the new American good life are everywhere. Young adults, with their pursuit of 24/7 lifestyles, led the way back to the city. By 2000, they were 33 percent more likely than other Americans to live in neighborhoods close to the center of town. The interest in cycling has exploded, with commensurate responses by municipal governments in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and, just recently, Boston, to make cycling easier and safer. Similarly, the local food movement has gained a foothold with the mainstream, with farmers markets popping up in the most unlikely places. More Americans are choosing dense condo living than ever before. Households without a nuclear family inside are now the majority, just as “non-traditional” students now dominate college enrollment. Suburbs are being remade with the addition of commercial uses and public space to introduce new vitality into these places. Zipcar has made the idea of Americans sharing their assets almost normal.

Perhaps the biggest upset of all is that Americans have reduced their driving for the first time since World War II.

The problem is this: These remain only disconnected signals. To date, Americans are unable to see the new pattern that is developing.  There is not yet a compelling narrative about this emerging good life into which Americans can project their own lives—certainly nothing with enough power to counter the stories we tell ourselves about what is “normal.”

Even though the signs may be all around them that something new and important is underway, they haven’t put the pieces together.

That’s why CEOs for Cities—a national network of urban leaders from the civic, business, academic and philanthropic sectors, of which I am the president and CEO—is launching a new movement we call Velocity in mid-September.  Its purpose is to create an energizing agenda for next generation cities and nurture the initiatives needed to advance that vision—and to pull it all together in a way that defines a new aspirational lifestyle for Americans, one that eventually becomes the “new normal.”

Tiny Cottage

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So I found this little cottage over at a architectural photographer blog, the traced it to the builders website, which revealed a really interesting philosophy of building high end tiny cottages.   The builder had a moment of clarity one day when it came to building vacation homes.  While his who life he had been a traditional McMansion builder, he suddenly realized bigger is not better.

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This is from their website:

“Clients often think that a larger room is more functional and easier to live in,” Lloyd says of his traditional building background. “But, in actuality, a well-designed, intimate space is always more comfortable.”

At a time when simpler sounds better to a lot of us, what makes this young company unusual is its streamlined approach to building custom cottages. The barn-like Bunkhouse was first, and the dormered Ocean Retreat cottage came next. These two red-roofed structures now stand near the water’s edge in Freeport.

They focus on building the majority of the house inside a warehouse, then ship the panels to where they will be assemebled.  He deals with 100% locally sourced lumber in a manner that reduces the amount of waste.

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check them out at Creative Cottages LLC

New Approach

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Hey all, I wanted to let you all know that I have started a new job and have been pretty busy.  But I still love talking about tiny houses, environmental issues and products etc.  I have also been spending more and more time trying to find tiny houses for you all, once you have covered as many as I have, plus factor in not wanting to cover what other tiny house blogs are talking about, it makes it difficult sometimes to find fresh stuff.  All these things combined and I have decided to not do posts on weekends.  It will be a Monday through Friday thing.

Of course I am always looking for help with the blog, if you  would like to write some peices or post links etc.  I would welcome you, all stories written by you, you will retain exclusive rights to.  Email me at Ryan112ryan [at] yahoo  {dot}com

Green Horizon – Emergency Housing Solutions

Check them out here

Braumraum Tree Houses

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Tree Houses will always have a nostalgic aspect in our hearts, growing up we loved ours if we had one and wanted one if we didn’t.  The architects over at Baumraum are masters at tree houses, but at a whole new level than your childhood dream home, they have fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms.  We are talking running water, flushing toilets, industrial gas ranges and Wifi.  These folks are out of German, so I don’t know a ton about them but they focus on sustainable design, making sure the tree isn’t injured and allowed to grow.  They have several houses that range from 18,000 to 140,000 Euros.  This includes design, materials, labor etc.   They even build houses on stilts if you don’t have suitable trees or even if you have no trees at all!

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This is what they say about their houses:

A treehouse! A promise of adventure for the kids, a retreat for the adults, a romantic hideaway close to nature. These special little dwellings installed up among the trees fire our imagination and rouse our curiosity, bringing back childhood memories, and with them the desire to climb up and enter a magic world amongst the foliage. To be spellbound again, to witness the different sights and sounds up there by day and night and throughout the seasons. To play up there, to work undisturbed, to relax, to daydream…

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Check them out here

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