“Never argue with a fool, for they may well be doing the same thing.”
That may be true for most cases, but try telling a government agency that growing your own food is completely safe, or that the latest scholastic research suggests that by feeding grey-water (think sinks and showers, NOT toilets, that’s blackwater/brownwater) through “enough” plants in a system, it’ll come out cleaner than it went into your taps. Yep. Nope. Not going to happen. So what can we ecovillage “bio-neers” do about it? We can work inside the system, using existing code compliance regulations and combine several ideas into one that wouldn’t be quite as perfect as if the project were cut from whole-cloth, but we create something “good enough” to both satisfy our needs and maybe become proof-positive that the concept works; and that’s the next best thing.
Here in Newfoundland, we’re a half-century behind the times on a GOOD day when it comes to many things, and ahead of the curve on many other things at the same time. Unfortunately, innovation in building design is not an avenue in which we pioneer. You see, in order to get power hooked up in your (even rural) property, you must have septic facilities prepared/authorized, be they a grid intertie or a tank/field solution (septic… solution… *giggle-pun*). Anyway, it really sucks. In order to live 100% off-grid, you need to go through all kinds of hoops to not get a fine. Seriously… a FINE for not using the medieval technology of the municipalities. Don’t like being told that? Then go tell them. They’ll throw you in the stockade, or the dungeon with the other thieves and blasphemers! -ahem-
Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes. All those bureaucratic problems require some clever solutions. To that end, I have come up with one of my own which I think will work out just fine. Since it is perfectly legally sound to live full-time in a travel trailer, and it is perfectly kosher to set up one of these trailers in the woods (or a gravel pit, as the commonplace), especially since I actually OWN the land it’s parked on, it should all be okay. In a conversation with the crown a few years ago, they don’t consider intensive greenhouse aquaponics a pure “agricultural” science. Which sucks for my attempt to earn a 44-acre forest lease for $150.00 per year with on-site out-buildings and residences… but is GREAT when I know that I’ll be left the HELL Alone on my own grounds for my own greenhouses and my own travel trailer RV’s and my own land. BAZINGA!
Now… ranting aside, Here’s what I’ve got figured out. I found a really sweet “Tiny House Trailer” in the Google Sketchup Free 3D Warehouse. I used this model and built the stud-walls atop the 20′ (6096mm) by 8′ (2438.4mm) wide structure. The platform was 3′ (914.4mm) from the base of the tires to the top of the trailer bed. All windows are 3′ by 3′ (0.836127 square meters) and there are 11 of those, standard steel exterior door to the back, three axles supporting and six scissor jacks to keep the weight off the springs once it’s parked. Able to be towed by a heavy-duty passenger pickup truck ( I would REALLY advise against using a light-duty truck or car to tow something this size… if it moves at all you’d be screwed atop a large hill ).
The walls (and ergo ceiling) are 7′ (2133.6mm) tall with a barn-style roof, and at 20′ wide it’d be too easy to heavily insulate the roof trusses, throw a ladder in there and have two kneeling-sized lofts. This is, after all, a travel trailer and not a regular home; many building codes and expectations change when you alter that one dynamic. The rear room fits a double-bed, and has five windows; this is above the trailer hitch. There is a Envirolet Composting Toilet and a stand-up corner shower. Water hookups will be mentioned shortly. After that is a small kitchen and a sitting area. There is no sofa, unfortunately there was limited space when considering the form-factor of under 160sqft (14.8645 sqm), and only 7′ (2133.6mm) tall. ALL studs/trusses are 2×4″ (though really only 1.5″ x 3.5″, and about 38mm by 84mm). The small building combined with it’s eventual resting place made the smaller studs necessary, as well as weight-saving.
The building, once enclosed, will be a few inches shy of the code compliance in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province of Canada, such that the added height or width of a baseball would push the design into violation of code and require additional resources for “WIDE LOAD” designation, or similar. Preferring to avoid that, I built it as I did. There is a window on either end of the loft, in the case that we wanted to investigate bedrooms or storage up there. There is no source of heat for this unit, but it wouldn’t be a terrible effort to install some maritime oil/gas stoves or a tiny wood stove in there for supplemental heat, though I don’t think that’ll be necessary. The plumbing hookups and a radiator might be all that we need, and we’ll see why in a moment.
We’re almost done, here. You see in the image to the left that there is (moving from right to left) the plywood shell in grey, then the framed-out trailer house, then a wrap-around deck, followed by a concrete foundation and a half-cylinder transparent greenhouse cover. When you throw all that together, you end up with a 40′ by 40′ (148.645) foundation slab 10′ (3048mm) deep, half of which is the “basement” of the aquaponic greenhouse. We need to keep the hordicultural systems as isolated from their environment as we can, in order to avoid the invasion/infiltration of pets, diseases and other contamination. That said, wooden SOLID foundation walls ought to be enough to support the specialized equipment, each piece of which can have it’s own devoted series of columns to support them. This greenhouse, at 20′ (6096mm) wide by 40′ (12192mm) long with a 30′ (9144mm) vertical wall at the building’s centre, The whole roof-structure will be transparent, providing ample natural light to the southern (Greenhouse-side) exposure and the indirectly lit northern is deal for a home. Both ends of the vast structure seal, and vents are installed in the “residential” portion, though more technically it’s a car port or garage in which we store the trailer that people just happen to be living in most of the time…
The greenhouse will filter all air and water, storing heat in vast basement-mounted reservoir/cisterns for various stages of filtration as performed by our hard-working flora and fish tanks. The complex balance of these ecosystems will purify our reusable resources, detoxify and cleanse our bodies through healthy, clean living and the trailer can plug directly into the greenhouse water supply, feeding it contaminated grey water (all solid human waste is taken care of in the composting toilet and removed from the cycle) that will nourish the plants. A combination of photovoltaics and wind turbines can supply what energy is necessary to power thus system, though most of the technologies are passive or minimally draining on power demand.
Seen here is a neighborhood concept with the basements BELOW ground, so as to show a true nature of their shapes/heights… they are 20′ (6096mm) tall by 40′ x 40′ (12192mm) by 40′ 40′ (12192mm)… a volume of 25132.74 cubic feet (711.68 cubic meters), half of which is greenhouse… involving each of these eight units. Costs would be variable, of course, but an equivalent house would cost in the area of a quarter million each. Eight of these, on a 264′ x 264′ (80.4672m square, or 6474.97 square meters) is about 1.6 acres. Housing and completely (100% diet) feeding 8 families… assuming a mama, papa and two baby bear families… 24 people sharing almost 70,000 square feet… means each person has a sustained carbon footprint (at least that associated with housing) of 2904 square feet (or 269.79 square meters). I know many people who have HOUSES That size, let alone their carbon footprint. Just imagine the good we can do in the eco by promoting the work, studying sustainable agriculture, as well as our sustainable forest management practices. Also possible is building a workshop behind (on the north-side, so as to preserve the southern solar exposure) each building to facilitate some sustainable industry to help fund the work. Still lots of space for trees, though we need to be careful of shade on our greenhouses… Exciting!
EDIT: New image upload with a 40′ (12192mm) wide by 150′ (45.702 meters) long municipal building! be a great place for collective meetings, or a recreational area… perhaps some supplemental greenhousing, goods storage, collective workshops in one large, passively heated building… meetings, community meals, supplemental storage in the basement! many possibilities! Also breaks up the “suburbany” feel with the split road/avenue. Could have one whole half of the building, the one that is MORE south… you can see from the houses that do NOT have the wooden house/deck area that the due-south-corner is the bottom left… the whole left side of the greenhouse could be gardens, 20′ wide, and the other half could all be offices, workshops, public areas, 20′ (6096mm) wide by 150′ (45.702 meters).
And another one… just for kicks. Gothic arch roof over a main floor over a concrete basement. Two arched vaulted rooms, and a 40′ radius geodesic dome for greenspace. The main central buildings will contain the same “mall”, of sorts, where all the main workshops are located. The upper floor will be wide open to accommodate weddings, banquets, dances, but I’d LOVE to have a nice big library. The dome is going to be a public greenspace designed to feel like a proper sitting area, with water, fish, greenery, not intended for farming, just to look beautiful.
Allow me to take a moment to discuss the zeitgeist of this project; Minimal living. Most people in the First World do not understand the word “need”. You do not “need” (By that I mean require) satellite television, or broadband internet, or takeout Tai food, or Coke to live a happy life, in fact, if you do without you just might be healthier! The irony is not lost on me, posting such thoughts on an internet blog on a laptop, but I am not a luddite. Having a laptop, tablet, cellphone, netbook or nettop does not equal waste, but living minimally is a great way to minimize our carbon footprint. The trailer house is not designed with a large sofa and television, though there could easily be made provision for comfortable reading furniture… There will be no infrastructure for wired internet or television services, no satellite services will be permitted on the grounds. At best, there will be a community owned/run wireless data network that will broadcast at intervals along the community spine/road, into which users can tap, but will be MAC ADDRESS Sensitive, and we will limit the number of connections and shared community bandwidth.
Please understand, that is not why we are here. Those willing to live in a 160sqft (14.8645 sqm) house, individually or as a couple will likely not mind the adaptation. If you’re expecting a 40-hour work week in a place like this, you’re sorely mistaken. If you don’t work whatever hours are necessary to keep your own greenhouse alive, then you starve. If you don’t work enough hours in your workshop to keep that project alive, then you will be asked to leave the community. Humans, as personnified by first-world culture specifically, have gotten so soft in recent centuries, that they don’t understand what is good and healthy and not. So many people live a sedentary lifestyle and avoid healthy eating/exercise as though it were bad for them. It won’t be like that, here.
The mindset in the community project is captured perfectly in this design. Independent, off-grid, minimalistic living with robust design requirements. Pure, healthy, redundant systems and near-zero negative consequences on the environment. Once you can get your head past the negative carbon emissions associated by building the house/greenhouse/foundations, you can quickly appreciate what can be gained by NOT requiring food to be trucked in, by NOT requiring drinking/waste water treatment, by NOT requiring power supply, or the infrastructure to maintain expensive entertainment habits.
Finished work for the day? Bored? Read a book. Write in your journal. Visit/assist a neighbor. Play with your children, go for a walk in the community’s private forest. Why must vegetation in front of a uni-directional form of censored, media-controlled communication be a part of your day? We will be a community, if we ever get off the ground, and though we will live in independent households with independent goals and identities, we are above all a community of like-minded, passionate pioneers who share an exciting vision.
For those people who can use all kinds of colourful expletives to describe the “madness” I am describing, please enjoy your smog, cancer, crime and corporate-controlled entertainment venues. There was once a purer way to exist, and we intend to rebuild a very small part of it in our very small part of the world, and will thereby unlock the vast potential within ourselves.