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Tiny House In The Outback

prefabricated-three-season-porch

Once upon a time, I lived in Australia for a while, the thing that  remember so clearly is how big the country is and how much space is available.  The country is the size of the US, with a population well under 25 million, where 80% of that population lives within 50 miles of the coast, this means that the interior of the continent is very very empty.  There is a strong sense of quasi cowboy feel to being in the outback, where I lived while I was there.  This house not only captures that sense of the rough and tumble of the bush, but is sustainable too.  In an odd way this prefab structure has a turret feel, almost medieval.

prefab shelter

This prefabricated structure is sited in an isolated mountainous of Australia. Sheathed in copper, the 10×10 foot building closes down to protect it from brush fire, as well as precipitation. The project also manipulates the elements by employing passive heating and cooling techniques and a water collection cistern (which provides running water).

This small building is an excellent example of contemporary modernism. Formally, it responds to the environment while maintaining a rigorously simple geometric composition. Responding to building technology methods, economy, and siting issues, the unit is completely prefabricated and installed on the site.

From: Casey Brown Architecture

prefabricated-forest-residence

Water catchment system

Water catchment system

weather-proof-home

A Dialogue Of Hope

So the other night I had just went to see a movie and soon afterwards ran into some other folks from my high school years.  We started talking about what everyone was doing when one of my friends chimed in that he was writing a thesis about New Urbanism.   We started talking about all these issues surrounding this topic: gentrification, neighborhood schools, the need for anchors in the community and how Charlotte, NC has approached the issues surrounding new urbanism.

two houses and shared space

Later we talked about how the Tiny House Movement fits into this notion of urbanism.  My friend noted that when he reads this site, he gets the notion of building the Tiny House in the woods, away from it all.  It’s true, I tend to focus on this, which I am at odds with.  The fact is to truly maximize sustainability in the highly populated world we live in today, we must come together and live in a more dense area.  I know that to truly usher in my way of living, one that is green and ecofriendly, one that is sustainable, one that focuses on local, one that focuses on community I must live in an area that is more densely packed.  The issues of course is how do you live in close proximity to others, while still having room to roam, to connect with nature and ensure a high quality of life.

Today’s urban centers are as my favorite author/speaker  James Kunstler “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world, you can call it a technosis externality clusterfuck and it’s a tremendous problem for us, the outstanding problem is that there are places no one cares about”.  And that’s the rub, the urban manifestation is a place that no one cares about, that pushes out the poor, the minorities or if that isn’t possible, we turn to the phenomenon of “white flight”.  We talked about how we need to create places that are local, have your anchors (schools, stores, grocery, churches, living, office space and a non-salient parking plan for double the intended capacity), how these need to be with in walking distance to each other, but where you can go to other centers via mass transit that people actually want to ride.  Preferably we want a place where cars aren’t allowed in the main pedestrian areas, so long as you have lots of parking underground that allows the area to be permeable.

Main Street Spring2

As we discussed all these huge issues I realized that this was a really extraordinary event happening, I was in awe!  Each person standing in that circle, talking about these huge issues, these progressive issues, these ideas that I feel will change the world in an impactful way, we were from such wildly different backgrounds.  I am the only self described “eco friendly” person, the others were not a polar opposite, but represented many different sects of society.  I was astonished, not that I think of them as stupid, but that they don’t have a logical reason to know this much about new urbanism and surrounding issues.  That essentially regular people had their finger on the pulse of such progressive and important issues was amazing.

It gave me a glimmer of hope that this dialogue that we were having about new urbanism, environmental issues, sustainability and community/local focus might be happening as a whole with people my age, that this generation, which has been sometimes labeled as useless, might be growing to inspire a new age of responsible and progressive thinking.

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 21 11.38

Now before I get too excited I took a step back to really look at the group and who we were.  I am seeking a PhD, working for Americorp and running a Tiny House blog, my other friend is a researcher at Duke University, the next girl is a social psychologist pursing her masters at Columbia, finally my friend who is a politician/going to Davidson College, who lost while running for a major office in Charlotte by only 3% at the age of 22 with no money.  These are admittedly not normal people.  But I hope that this dialogue is happening outside of these circles.  That my generation is talking about these issues with their friends, so that when we start taking hold as the baby boomers slip into retirement, that we can usher in a new age of socially and environmentally responsible corporatism in all areas of our lives.

small houses close to each other

Getting Cold Feet?

mobile mini

And interesting development over at Mini-Mobile Cottage.  They recently have moved into their new Tiny House and have run into an issue with Tiny Houses: cold feet!  Now I am not talking about second guessing themselves, no they seem to be quite happy, but I mean literally their feet keep getting cold.  This is a result from have a open air space below the trailer which isn’t insulated or closed off.

Trailer 2

If you have ever been in a trailer park or taken a good look at one you will notice people try to close off the gap between the trailers subfloor and the ground.  This hides the wheel axles, but also creates a air pocket of air, a barrier to the cold and heat of the outdoor temperature.  Most of the time I don’t like the look of how they do it, everything from fake stone to sheet metal.  But then again if you stay allot warmer I guess its worth it, just do some nice landscaping.

Jeff and Arlene…..or rather just Arlene came up with a approach to use Industrial Wool Felt, at $1 a foot its a pretty good steal and it’s 1/2″ thick.  Check out their post on it, which is rather funny, about their cold feet here

Back when I lived in my loft apartment it was really hard to heat – or rather pay for the heat – when you have 15′ ceilings and single layer exposed brick.  My solution was to warm it just enough to not freeze the pipes and I bought a pair of these

bootiesNow I got a ton of flack from my girl friend of the time, until she tried them out, but at then end of the month I was always happy to see that I had cut my bill in half.  However I am looking forward to only having to heat the space of a Tiny House.

An Old RV Into A Tiny House

stove

Kent Griswald has written up a great rundown of how to take an old RV and gut it for parts in order to build a Tiny House.  He outlines three main points that are great advantages to this approach:

  1. RV components are designed to withstand trailering long distances, are made to be turned off for many months, so they are very durable.
  2. Most RV’s utilize 12 volt direct current systems or DC electricity, so generally use 12 volt appliances. However they usually have an inverter for when they are plugged into a grid which converts everything back to AC usage. Most inverters will transfer back and forth automatically.
  3. Many RV’s have portable gas stoves that can be moved in and out of your home. Many of the new bathrooms are one peace and incorporate everything in them form tub to toilet, so this can make setting up your new space a relatively easy process.

This is also a great approach because you can get it for cheap or free.  The only thing you should look into is checking to see if there will be a cost to dispose of the left overs, however, there are certain parts that you can actually sell for scrap metal and make a pretty penny doing it.  Imagine get a trailer for free, taking what you need and then making money off it!

There also has been who took these RVs and took the top off them, grinded it down to clean it up and had their trailer for free!

So their blog has a broken link on it and there is no actualy way to link to it.  The full story is below and was taken from Tiny Tumbleweed House Blog. (if Jay or Kent gets it fixed then Ill just post a link)

Salvaging an old or destroyed RV trailer can be a great way to furnish your tiny house. Many salvageable items can be claimed from an old trailer to be used again in a tiny house on wheels.

The above photo shows a 32 foot trailer that was listed in Kentucky for $600. The side was ripped off but the owner still had the sink, tub and other appliances available that were included in the purchase. Watch your local craigslist for bargains like these or check around your town, you may find someone who would be happy for you to take it, just to get it out of their way.

The base trailer was not damaged so the the outer shell could be completely removed and you would than have a 32 foot trailer to build your tiny house on. You could than salvage all the internal items, such as the electrical control system, plumbing and water supply. Re-use the furniture and cabinets and incorporate the kitchen appliances and bathroom toilet and tub into your tiny house.

Billboard Refit

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I have been preaching the need for us to live allot more locally, for a variety of reasons.   As we do the old infrastructure of our 1600 mile salad will no longer have its usefulness. I wrote about how retrofitting a grocery store was one example of this, well here is another.  Dornob talked about this great concept

There are nearly 500,000 freestanding billboards in the United States alone. What if any number of these could be converted en mass into functional, modular prefab homes that could be shipped and installed in rural and urban areas around the country – eco-friendly, cheap new housing from recycled old billboards.

Prefabrication and portability are nothing new in architecture and transportation, but world-changing modular and mass-producible visions  like this concept by Nocturnal Design Labs are few and far between. Unlike most conventional prefabs, these spaces are planned with interior layouts, sun paths and wind patterns in mind, giving the result a distictive and dynamic shape.

rom the curved modern shell and functional interior spaces to the high-up locations with varied views, there is more to this than simply a clever idea from a forward-thinking designer – these are best understood as prefab building prototypes, the potential start of an entire movement in adaptive reuse already being explored by various architects and designs.

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