Monthly Archives: May 2012

On Design: Goal Articulation (What do you really want?)

Hello!

Core is going GREAT here at Yestermorrow. Vermont is beautiful. The class is AWESOME (and extremely intense). Totally crazy coincidence: my instructor is moving into the Whittled Down Caravan (check out their blog) that I saw at Derek Diedricksen’s workshop last summer. The tiny house scene is a small world (har har – pun intended.)

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been thinking on the last day or two:

I think I’m going to start getting more conceptual on this website sometimes. It’s my platform for expressing everything that goes into The COMET – which is so much more than solar panels and recycled materials and new technologies. My heart goes into it, my dreams (mostly daydreams) go into it, all of my time and energy. A lot of THOUGHT goes into it – more than can be measured. It’s completely consuming – and I love that about it. In a single, life consuming project I get to explore a world of possibilities and techniques and processes. An entire history of changing attitudes about the way we live.
(Being at Yestermorrow gets me really excited about this stuff – maybe that’s why I’m feeling this way at the moment.)

So here I can express some of the THOUGHT and process that goes into the Design of the COMET as an educational tool, a classroom, and a home. More than just design iterations of program and diagramming, there is a mental and emotional process that goes into designing your own home. Here’s what I learned about myself as a designer today:

For the last few years professors have reprimanded me for being obsessed with technique and materials (what can I say, I’m a doer and a maker). They offered no alternative, but I understood that the way I approached design was backwards and too focused on minute details from the start. Today I had a major breakthrough. Woah.

Goal Articulation:

what do you want? Can you accurately express what you REALLY want out of your home (or another design)?
You want a tiny house, a big house, a cute house, an energy efficient house, or a fancy house? You want solar panels, a grey water system, and a composting toilet?
No. What you want has nothing to do with the House. (Though these details may help us achieve our goals.)
I think what you want is closer to something along these lines:

I want more free time.
I want more money in my savings account so that I can travel.
I want flexibility.
I want simplicity.
I want to be healthy.
I want to spend more time on interpersonal relationships.
I don’t want to work all the time, I want to relax.

So, What do you really want?

Here’s what I found today:
I was trying to articulate my goals for taking this Permaculture/Ecological Design course. (Talk about it using active, present tense). I just did some free-writing + listing to get started.

- I have the tools to design a building/home in a productive landscape.
– I can design with more than the materials in mind.
– I understand how to actual goals versus superficial goals.
– I can design buildings and homes that interact with the landscape and location.
– I can articulate what makes a successful, functional home.
– I can envision the whole picture.
– I can design for leisure.
– I can design a home with free time in mind and a low-maintenance landscape.
– I can let the goals drive the design process, instead of the details.

I actually couldn’t pick just one that summed everything up, but I think you get the idea. These goal articulations are much more than just “I want to learn about permaculture principles in this class.”

And then I applied this concept to my design process:

I hope this post was helpful to those thinking about designing their own dwellings. If we can establish what it is we really want out of our homes and our lives, the details will fall into place. It can be surprisingly difficult to express what we REALLY want out of our living situations, but I hope this sheds some light on that process!

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Yestermorrow Design/Build School: Ecological Design in The Built Environment

Hello!

As some of you readers may know, I attend Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont for certain workshops and courses throughout this year as I work towards my Certificate in Sustainable Design/Building from the school (also, as I receive credit at my college). It’s not a full-time school like traditional college, but instead I take a few weeks here and there throughout the year to do very intense, immersive, hands-on courses. My coursework here helps me with The COMET – each class that I choose to take is directly related to an aspect of the project.

Today I start the most intensive course in the Certificate program (so I’ve heard), we call it “Core.” It’s technically titled Ecological Design in The Built Environment, and it is the basis of the curriculum here. It focuses on permaculture and sustainable community design, as well of the principles of design and basic design and drawing tools. It’s basically a semester long Design Fundamentals course packed into 3 very intense weeks (I think we have one day off).

Just wanted to let you guys know what I was up to for the next 3 weeks. I probably won’t be able to post as much while I’m here, but look for some updates and a few posts about stuff I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while. It’s very beautiful up here in Vermont this time of year, especially at Yestermorrow campus.

Wish me luck!

Thanks always for all of your support!

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Tumbleweed Tiny House Worskhop Re-cap and Progress!

Hello!

I’ve been away from the blog for a few days in favor of getting in some full days of work out in the COMET. I will spare you some of the details (I removed the black water tank. I then had to remove and clean the wood/subfloor that the black water tank sat on. Not pleasant!) so you don’t lose your breakfast, but I will say that I found something HILARIOUS hidden in the walls of the camper under the toilet. My COMET definitely has a history! I’ll post a picture of it later, because it’s too funny (and somewhat lewd) to describe at the moment!

Anyway, what I really want to talk about is the Tumbleweed Tiny House workshop that I spoke at and attended in Boston over the weekend. I was getting over a fever/cold this weekend (I hate summer colds!) but had a GREAT time at the workshop. The main part of the workshop was taught by Derek Diedricksen, tiny house and recycled materials guru. I gave a presentation about how the design and technology of the camper industry can be interpreted into tiny houses, and how you can re-use vintage camper appliances and parts in a tiny house to save money. Mostly, though, I talked about solar power and how to set up an entirely DC Photovoltaic system, which saves you money and is more efficient. People seemed to really enjoy the presentation, and there were lots of questions. For me, it was like accomplishing a life goal, a personal achievement! I can’t believe that after only a few months of working on The COMET I was already speaking at a tiny house workshop – and a Tumbleweed one none the less! I was psyched!

The original Tumbleweed tiny house – Tumbleweed Epu

The workshop was really great. It’s 2 days and it was largely classroom-based. We talked a lot about trailers and what special construction details need to go into a tiny house that is on wheels and will occasionally be moving. There are a lot more structural considerations. Being a builder, not all of the information was new to me, but I do think it’s a worthwhile workshop for someone wanting to know how the tiny house building works. I did particularly like talking about systems for your tiny house and hearing from a presenter, Doug, who had built a Tumbleweed Fencl out of SIPs (when I build a real tiny house – in the future when I’m a real adult – I’m definitely using SIPs!).

Day 2 we spent the morning seeing more presentations about construction and seeing some examples of what NOT to do. The second half of day 2 was the best part: We went to the other side of the city to see and tour the ORIGINAL Tumbleweed tiny house, and Epu model that Jay built and lived in himself for years. It now rests in a magical garden behind big brick walls in Boston (I’m not kidding – we’re talking ponds full of fish, waterfalls, gardens, chickens, and a tiny house in this little oasis). It was cool to see the original design and how that has changed. The Epu had no bathroom, a tiny kitchen and a coffin-like loft. I like the new designs better :)

At the Epu location we all sat around a gorgeous pond on a stone wall and listened to a few more speakers. Sage Radachowsky, who lives in his home-built gypsy wagon in a backyard in Boston, spoke about his build process and using found materials. He was wonderful to listen to, and has been going beyond the tiny house and keeping a garden, chickens, and bees. Check out the TIny Yellow House video about Sage’s gypsy wagon home here. I have plans to do a video interview with Sage in his home, and talk about why we choose to live tiny and other big “tiny” questions. I have lots to ask him!

Sage Radachowsky talks about his life in a tiny gypsy wagon that he built.

We then heard from John Hanson Mitchell, author of “Living at The End of Time“. He built and lived in a tiny house in the 80’s, and wrote the book about his experience. It was very interesting to hear his story or living in his tiny house without modern amenities, while less than a mile away a giant computer factory was being built.

The best part of these workshops is the mingling and “networking”. “Networking” makes it sound like a business meeting, but I felt like a met a lot of nice people with similar interests that I would like to keep in touch with. I loved hearing about other people’s plans, and it was nice to be able to offer some first-hand advice.

I can’t wait for Tiny House Summer Camp in July (go to relaxshacks.com to find out more and register!). The Tumbleweed workshop was totally life affirming!

Well, it’s back out to the COMET for another day of work. There’s a lot I have to get done before July 6th (Tiny house Summer Camp), and I leave on Sunday to go to Yestermorrow School for 3+ weeks for Core. I’ll check in later!

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Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop is right around the corner!

Hey all!

The highly anticipated Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Boston, MA is coming up this weekend. I’ll be speaking at the workshop and doing a little presentation. I’m honored and very excited! (Personal achievement alert: When I applied for field study at the beginning of this semester, I wrote down all of the workshops that I was hoping to attend as a student. Now I get to tell my advisors that I actually guest spoke at those workshops!). I’m going to be speaking about campers as tiny houses, how to save money in your tiny house, solar powered tiny houses, and some other off-grid and eco-friendly systems. I’m excited about all of the other speakers and our special tour of the very FIRST Tumbleweed tiny house! The workshop is led by Derek Diedricksen of relaxshacks.com. You can go to the Tumbleweed website to sign up for the workshop, if you haven’t already.

 

If you are reading this and are planning on attending the workshop, let me know in the comments!

See you all on Saturday in Boston!

 

Also, if you’re a tiny house nut like me (which you probably are, and if you’re not you will be soon!) sign up for Derek Diedricksen’s TINY HOUSE SUMMER CAMP! Go over to relaxshacks.com to sign up. It’s a 4 days weekend in July of tiny house fun!! I’ll be bringing the COMET to that one, so you can see her in all her mid-construction glory!

 

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Off-The-Grid COMET models

Hello!

I’ve been working up some 3D models (using SketchUp) of the COMET as she may end up, or the “end result” models. These are likely to change as the design process continues and ideas solidify, but here was what I first envisioned The COMET to look like. Perhaps the rainwater harvesting system will change, and the solar modules might be in different places or as a separate array that pops up and can move around in order to collect optimum sun, but here’s my totally self-contained version of The COMET of the future.

 

Also, here’s one version of an “info sheet” that explains the COMET in a more comprehensive way.

What do you think? Is there anything else that a comprehensive info sheet about the project should include? I need some feedback!

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Solar Module Placement

Hello again!

I just got some really great questions about the off-grid systems that the COMET will have, and I thought it would be a good time to share some of these infographics and design concepts I’ve been working on.

Where do you put three 185-watt solar modules on a 16 foot trailer with limited surface area?

Here are some of my ideas:

 

And how do you maximize solar collection when you are parked, and minimize drag when you are driving? See below:

 

 

I’ll post some of my rainwater collection system graphics later, which will explain how that whole thing works!

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Exterior Paint Design Concept

Good morning!

I’ve been working on some paint schemes for the exterior of the COMET. I think that because I’ll be towing it around so much in the next few months, going to Tiny House Summer Camp With Derek Diedricksen in July, and the KOA vintage trailer rally and sustainable weekend event in Brattleboro, VT, it’s really important I have the outside looking nice and giving people some info about the project.

I love the little stripe details that reference a comet in the seafoam section. I’m also going to put a seafoam colored atomic-looking comet shape behind The COMET text, to tie it all together. I still need to figure out where to put the website and other info.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Marmoleum Click flooring SketchUp model

Hello!

Yesterday I received my pallet full of goodies from the wonderful Green Building Supply. I got the UltraTouch denim insulation (which is so soft and squishy I want to make a bed out of it), lots of no-VOC paint for the interior and exterior, and my Marmoleum Click flooring! I’m really excited about the Marmoleum flooring – it’s antimicrobial, all natural, and really nice to step on. I know the flooring doesn’t go down until everything else is done, but I made up these models in SketchUp so I would know exactly how to lay out each panel (the Marmoleum I got comes in 12″ x 36″ planks).

I chose the black (“Lava”) and white (“Arabian Pearl”) because I felt like it would go with whatever color scheme (or lack there of, haha – I like to mix and match whatever I can find) I choose for the interior. I also think it’s a nice nod to the past, as many vintage campers had the classic 50’s-style black and white checkered linoleum floors. This design is a modern, updated version of those classic black and white tiles!

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Oh, and here’s a teaser for the DIY vacuum form table step-by-step DIY project, which is coming to CometCamper.wordpress.com very soon! It’s taking me a little bit to get the instructions and materials list together, because I’ve been so busy out in The COMET working every day, but a full DIY guide is on it’s way, I PROMISE!

That’s me, cutting out the frame for the plastic. Photo credit + moral support credit: Matt Carroll. Thanks, buddy!

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Thank You TIMBUCKTU RV!!

What a wonderful surprise! I came across an outdated catalog for Timbucktu RV in Worcester, MA that my father had given me when I started getting into vintage trailer restoration, and found that the catalog had ALL of the camper parts that I needed to replace in The COMET. I picked out a few things in the catalog and called Timbucktu RV in Worcester, explaining my project and what parts I was missing. They said I should come on down to the store and see what I could find that I needed. I ended up leaving with everything I needed to begin repairs on the COMET. The people at Timbucktu RV are so helpful and friendly, and engaged with the project, which was wonderful. I got lots of good advice from the people at Timbucktu RV, who have been repairing campers, motorhomes, and trailers for many years. The store and catalog both have a GREAT selection of parts – hitches, jacks, lights, even water tanks and toilets – all the larger items that not all RV stores stock in their stores. It was great to be helped by a person that new what they were selling and understood what I was trying to do with The COMET, as opposed to guessing what I needed and ordering it online, hoping that it would be the right part when it got here. Timbucktu RV has experience in all things camper related, and they even have a couple of vintage Airstreams on the lot. I fell in love with a little Globetrotter in the parking lot. They also have an extremely rare vintage Airstream diner, complete with glittery vinyl seating and bar. It’s one of 8 ever made. It was gorgeous! They literally have everything under the sun camper-wise, and every part you could ever want – new or retro. And all of the appliances that they offer would be ideal in a tiny house on wheels! I now have a new jack, roof coat, a rocket hand-pump faucet, a new inlet, replacement teardrop running lights, a solar-powered vent fan, and about a dozen other things I needed, thanks to Timbucktu RV (1047 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA)! Timbucktu is in the process of moving their inventory and getting a new website, so when that gets updated I will add that information as well! For now, please call 508-459-1132 for a catalog.

Thank you Timbucktu RV, for your amazingly generous contribution to The COMET!!

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Demolition: Tearing out the Trash in The COMET

Two days ago I began pulling out the rotted wood and un-salvageable parts of The COMET. This post will be most useful to those of you who are thinking about (or in the process of) restoring/re-doing a vintage camper. Here are some of the “fun” things you might find when working on a camper that is over 50 years old!

WALL PANEL

Here’s the rear wall panel. As you can see, there is visible dry rot and water damage under the window. I took off the window frame and decided I need to replace the wood from half way down the window and below (imagine a straight horizontal line continuing off of both sides of the window where the gap in the panes are – everything below that). I began going at it with a chisel before deciding that the job needs a more precise hand held multitool, something like the Rockwell SonicCrafter, which can cut flush up again the walls. I peaked behind the wall panel, and all of the wood back there looks great, no damage. I’m still going to super reinforce the framing of this wall with more beams though, because I’ll want the extra supports when I go to mount the bumper greenhouse later.

 

WATER TANK

This is a photo of underneath  one of the front dinette benches, where the original water tank was. The water tank was a big hunk of rusty metal, so I used a sawzall to cut it out of the wall and then pulled it out. You can see that this area once kept a mouse very warm! I’m going to clean this area up and put down some new wood, maybe paint it all white so that you can see it better, then have the new water tank (which I ordered yesterday from Timbucktu RV in Worcester, MA) installed in here. I don’t know why there’s an outlet in this box, but we’ll find out!

 

TOILET

Here’s where I tore out the old camper toilet. Kinda gross! I’m going to try to re-use the tiny camper toilet seat from the original toilet, since it’s so small and perfect sized for the tiny closet. You can see that the toilet closet is a step up from the rest of the floor of the camper. I think I’m going to saw through the floor of the toilet closet and replace it with one that is at the same level as the rest of the camper. It’s probably a little higher right now to make room for a black water tank and plumbing, but the composting toilet doesn’t require a tank or any plumbing for water, so it doesn’t have to be a step up like that. Can’t wait to take out the floor and see what’s lurking under there… Can’t wait to show you all the mock-up for the squatting composting toilet.

 

INLET

Here’s the 30 amp/120V AC inlet that is on the exterior wall of the COMET. The male inlet is missing, so I got a whole new assembly (Thank You TIMBUCKTU RV!!). This is just temporary, so that I can use the lights and outlets in the camper, until the PV system is installed.

 

It’s been pouring rain the yesterday and today, so I’m hoping it lets up soon so I can get back to work! Someday I’ll have an indoor workshop and won’t have to rely on good weather. I’ve been collecting all of the materials I will need for the first few repairs (hardware, electrical, wood) so I won’t run into any unexpected roadblocks.

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