A reader sent this into me and I really like how well he laid out each aspect of his housetruck. I decided to quote his key points here for your review. He has a lot of practical solutions to many of the “how do I do ______” questions when it comes to tiny houses. He is still in progress of building it, his craftsmanship is gorgeous!
- Philosophy: My overall values in designing the housetruck were simplicity, durability, sustainability, and mobility, which combine to liveability. Although I’ve been inspired by the tiny house movement, the biggest breakthrough was discovering the long tradition of gypsy caravans and British ‘living wagons.’ You can peruse a sketch of the overall purpose, structure, and systems of the project at Overview, read a rumination on the values that direct the design at Philosophy, design, values, inspirations, and read the historical background of the architecture at On showman’s vans, living wagons, and gypsy caravans.
- Dimensions: The house itself (not including the truck cab) is 14′ long, 8′ wide, and about 7.5′ tall. Mounted on the truck, the floor is about 3′ from the ground. I’m well under the maximum height for most overpasses and bridges (13′, if I recall), but I’ll still have to be careful on small country roads and the like. There’ll obviously be no parking garages in the housetruck’s future.
- Truck: The vehicle is an Isuzu NPR. This is a medium-weight commercial truck, often used as a delivery truck with either a box or flatbed on the back. I bought mine as a cab-chassis only, so I could build up on it. The NPR has an excellent reputation, has been made for many years, and is quite common around the world. It has a sturdy little 4-cylinder diesel engine, which can be run on biodiesel or even waste vegetable oil (with some modifications). My truck is a 2001 model, with 91k miles on it and a rebuilt transmission. It’s a total blast to drive!
- Shell: The core frame is made entirely of 2″ square-tube steel, solidly welded together. Attached to that on the outside is exterior-grade plywood, for weather protection and added strength. The exterior siding is Port Orford cedar, sourced from local/renewable forests in southern Oregon. The interior is partly fir beadboard, also sourced locally, as well as Homasote (a recycled newsprint product) faced with fabric wallpaper. The finished floor is cork. The insulation is sheep’s wool. The windows are wood and glass.
Read more about the theory of the steel frame that is the house’s skeleton at The skeleton dance, as well as The skeleton arises, Skeleton becomes structure, and Skeleton becomes structure for the process of building the frame.
- Electricity: The electrical system is simple and flexible. The core is a set of batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter; this will provide me with enough 12VDC and 120VAC power to run lights, computer, phone, etc. The batteries can be charged in several ways: from the truck’s alternator while running, from a solar panel outside the truck (not mounted on the truck â€” if there’s a lot of solar energy, I want to be parked in the shade!), from ‘shore power’ (plugging in to the grid), and from other generative sources like wind turbines, human-powered bicycle generators, and even fuel cells.
- Water, bathing, etc.: Two large storage tanks provide around 80 gallons of fresh water (and act as ballast to keep the housetruck from floating away). A simple brass handpump fetches me water. For bathing, I use the Japanese method (hot water, a bucket, a washcloth, and a tub) or a portable shower. Because everyone asks: yes, I have a simple composting toilet.
- Cooking & food storage: A relatively large counter gives me plenty of space for preparing food, whether for cooking or preservation. Much of the storage space in the housetruck is designed for long-term storage of food & cooking tools. Cooking itself happens out on the porch of the housetruck, on a stove powered by either charcoal or propane. A small absorption refrigerator keeps the essentials (dairy, beer) cool.
- Heating & cooling: A tiny woodstove provides sufficent heat without noise or dangerous fumes. During hot weather, the upper windows of the mollycroft roof open to vent out warm air. Finally, the wheels of the truck propel me to more comfortable climes.
- Communications & electronics: While the emphasis is on simplicity, my hacking instinct is strong. The housetruck is a kind of mobile research station, where I can measure and analyze such things as the electrical system, water levels, weather data, and positional information like GPS. These are tied together in a small network of motes â€” tiny computers that each do a particular job. The data is aggregated and published, when possible, to a website where observers can view a ‘dashboard’ of the housetruck. Like the electrical system, the communication system is flexible, depending on setting: cellular broadband, opportunistic wifi, SMS messages, even the narrowband of amateur radio packet networks.
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