Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day #15 - Really small living

Ok, so we are a tiny bit back on track subject wise.... We anticipate that it is entirely possible build a house from the materials found on craigslist.org in the free section. However, in order to accomplish this task in our lifetime, we will need to build a small house. (I would guess under 1000 square feet or significantly less..)

We are off to visit W. Virginia, Boston, New York (a tiny rest in Seattle) and then on to San Diego leaving tomorrow morning. New York is well known for folks living in small spaces, so we decided to inspire ourselves with a story of a New York couple living in a very, very small studio. Granted, the three of us (and Pele - the cat makes four) live in about 375 square feet....but this New York couple has us beat! http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/cozy_crazy_couple_makes_tight_studio_R15ToNFTaJE3c17zkw4efP

We won't be posting for about 12 days, but don't fret.... we will be back inspired by the intrigues of travel to tackle this crazy mission upon our return.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day #15 - Way off topic

Photo Credit: http://www.mywallingford.com/

Today's post is so off topic it isn't even funny...but I stumbled upon a inspirational neighborhood event this weekend right up the street. A group of neighbors got together, applied for a neighborhood matching grant, acquired all the necessary permits and painted a gorgeous turtle on the intersection of 41st and Interlaken in Wallingford. I was on my way out the door for a run and stopped by and painted for a while. Maria and Dan joined me for a bit (Maria liked the bright colors and the commotion of kids running everywhere.)

Anyway, if there is a point to this story, it is that the original idea to do this was prompted by a little girl seeing the "ladybug" farther north in the neighborhood and asking her Dad if they could paint a turtle at the intersection of her house. A neighbor of the family was excited about the idea and took up the charge. This past weekend, I randomly met great neighbors and was inspired at the amount of work relative strangers could accomplish in a small amount of time... all of which was begun by the idea of a little girl.

So, the next time you feel like a project won't happen, just remember that turtles can be painted in an intersection within a weekends time (during an economic downturn) and it makes people happy - really happy actually. I know it is "just a turtle", but in Seattle (a city well known for tons of permits, process etc.) this is actually no small feat!

I shouldn't admit this (especially as a future landscape architect!) but I sometimes doubt the relevance of public art/installations in times when people need food, education and shelter. However, although most of the people participating owned million dollar homes, a few of us didn't. One person (pretty well known in the hood) most likely doesn't even have a home and he came by for the event and seemed to have a good time as well.

Bottom line, if it took a turle to get to know each other at the cost of $1200 of neighborhood matching grant funds, so be it. In my humble opinion, it was money very well spent and will likely result in people taking care of each other on a more individual basis as far as food, education and shelter. Now people know each other, there is a common bond and an event to look forward to next summer (ie. turtle painting touch ups).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day #14 - Hawaii Alternative Homes

Image source: http://www.rw2.com/gallery-kaweah1893/images/Exterior1-W.jpg

Ok, so this is post is specifically for one person (you know who you are - Lola), but I found it interesting enough to share. This person is moving to Hawaii with her small family and building a house and plants to use salvaged materials. I found some information... the last part is a bit technical (but interesting per se with regards to construction techniques in the tropics). PS. yurts are not recommended - but Haiku Houses are ; ). Oh and if you go straw bale construction, it would suck to pay shipping, but I could get you many bails for free thanks to my Whatcom Co. Connections. :)

I found a re-use store near Honolulu. http://www.reusehawaii.org/reusehawaii.org/welcome.html Maybe a material salvage store on the Big Island would be a great business plan and a way to build a house? Craigslist.org isn't as big of a source of material as it is in Seattle although this free Jalouise glass looks interesting http://honolulu.craigslist.org/big/zip/1921111354.html

Details about building "alternative homes" Source: http://www.city-data.com/forum/hawaii/113519-yurt-homes-hawaii-5.html
Old style single wall construction is legal in Hawaii, several of my clients have done small houses using that method in the past several years. Post and beam construction is also an alternative construction style as well as the telephone pole and beam "haiku house" type construction. I do drafting, so folks are always telling me what sort of house they want and then I draw up the plans so they can build it. Depending on the type of construction you are used to, "post and pier" might be considered "alternative" construction.

That type of construction has the house built up off the ground so the air can blow under it to keep it cool, it sometimes has screened floor areas in closets with louvered doors so the air can circulate better. There are generally less centipedes in a post and pier house and the wood floor is much kinder to your feet. It also is a good type of construction if you are building somewhere a concrete truck can't get to. Frequently, yurts are put on a post and pier foundation although there is a bit of a round house on a square platform conundrum.Almost all houses will need some sort of ground work done, usually a bit of land clearing for a driveway, house area and some sort of septic/cesspool.

Either solar/photovoltaic for off the grid houses or attachment to the power grid. Those prices will remain the same for the different types of construction. The rest of the construction prices can be kept low by using the less expensive construction materials and using the ones available here so they don't have to be shipped in.
Generally, for Hawaii houses, really wide eaves are good so they not only keep the rain off the side of the house so there won't be mold and mildew but it also keeps the sun off the sides of the house so the house won't be so hot. Three foot wide eaves is almost considered minimum. Also putting a lanai or other covered indoor/outdoor type use between the house and the outside allows the breeze a bit of time to cool down and or dry off a bit before entering the living areas of the house.
Having cross ventilation is extremely important for having a liveable house. The price of electricity here is astronomical, so running an air conditioner is too expensive for most folks. Also, many houses are off the County water lines (there is also a small private water company over in Pahoa, but most piped in water is from the County) so having the wide roof eaves gives them more rain catchment area.
The expense of electricity shapes a lot of proper house design in Hawaii. Big windows let in light and air, sky lights or those new sola-tubes bring in sunlight to decrease the need for electric lights. Energy efficient appliances as well as no-energy appliances whenever possible (such as solar clothes dryers), etc. Each house is generally different because each house has to fit it's own unique house site as well as suit the owner's needs.
Some of the construction methods which aren't frequently seen here are straw bale construction, due partly to the excessive rain in many areas but also due to the price of straw bales. Those are generally shipped in from the mainland and are terribly expensive, at least, for a straw bale. We also have a lot of earthquakes here so concrete and rock might crack in an earthquake so they aren't overly favored for building the entire house from. Bricks are all shipped in from the mainland and ferociously expensive as well as prone to cracking in earthquakes so brick houses aren't common, either. Stucco isn't very favored in many areas because of the humidity. Steel doesn't get eaten by termites, but gets eaten by the salt laded tradewinds. The balmy tropical climate is actually really corrosive.Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/hawaii/113519-yurt-homes-hawaii-5.html#ixzz0xpLb5b5s

Day #13 - YURTS!

Today's rain is making us feel unproductive, so we decided to explore yurts as a possible design to focus our free stuff search. Who says a house has to be made of a traditional foundation and wood walls? (well, at least in the PNW). Go yurts!

Photo courtesy of http://www.ulaantaij.com/images/Ulaantaij-Simply-Yurts2.gif http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/Yurt_Facts/Build_Your_Own.html (diagram photo)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day #12 - Mission non-yet-accomplished

After a lovely long weekend in BC's Gulf Island's, one would think that we would be rejuvenated by the mission of constructing a house entirely from free stuff found on craigslist. However, we both feel a little tired and perhaps - skeptical - that this mission is possible - mainly due to the high value of property. Regardless, we have shaken off this feeling by creating a photo-collage of a house from items found in the last few days "free section". We will write again tomorrow (re-freshed and re-energized....hopefully!) ....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#11 - Free Stuff

Today's posting is brief as Maria and I have been packing for a little "girl's vacation" in Canada and will be taking a few days off from blogging and our quest for the free craigslist house.

Anyway, we will leave you with an interesting fact. Today alone there were 250 listing for free items on craigslist. Isn't that crazy? From dog diapers, to a picture window, to a boat, to rhododendrons.... pretty amazing.

The opportunities are endless.... all I need is a tiny little piece of land.... think happy vibes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day #11 - Boom, the President is gone and small homes are "in".

After dragging poor Maria all over the city, we saw the President's car and we think we might have seen him wave. We were sitting under the monorail when we heard the sonic booms....which didn't feel very smart. I doubt the structural integrity of that structure.
.... I was going to chat about yurts (thx. MacKenzie for the suggestion), but considering the size of some of the pieces of property we have been researching, I think small houses might be a good "next topic". I will re-post to craigslist today as well looking for a kind soul to rid of his or her property....
Anyway, from 4' wide homes in Amsterdam to 10' wide in NY, there are some interesting designs that would fit on some of the long and skinny homes I have found via GIS information. I checked our "living space" - including the entrance, kitchen and living room and we are getting by just fine a 12' wide space (which could probably easily be reduced if we picked up length). If you get a chance to check out this web article, it is pretty cool.... http://weburbanist.com/2007/10/05/cramped-urban-living-9-of-the-narrowest-city-houses-in-the-world/

Below is a picture of Maria waiting anxiously to catch a glimpse of President Obama and the sighting of his SUV - (and if you zoom in really close to that picture, you might maybe see a hand waving - maybe?)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day #10 - the president is here.

Well, not here at our place, but in Seattle, so we are sidetracked today. We did dabble at contacting one property owner with a small vacant lot in Wallingford (thanks Seattle DPD website http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/maps/dpdgis.aspx) and found another cool tree house (http://inhabitat.com/2010/07/15/gorgeous-mirror-walled-treehouse-hotel-now-officially-open/ ). We will be back on task tomorrow (maybe).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day #9.5 - Property Logistics

My sidekick is taking a super long nap, so I thought I would take a moment to address what could become a crucial issue.

Potential Land Value.

I am looking for donated property that no one is using or wants (and isn't likely "build-able" for the traditional house). If I succeed in finding a piece of property and constructing a real house and will be of some sort of real estate value. I am not trying to do this to "make money"... I am trying to see if it is possible to build a house from the craigslist free section and create a beautiful home from salvaged materials.

So, our pledge is that if we are donated land and can actually build a house and if we ever sell it or make money from it in anyway (ie. rent it out), we will donate 65% of the proceeds to charity in the name of the generous property owner.

Why 65%? I am assuming there will be some significant costs to construction this house such as potential power/sewer hook-up, permit and labor. Additionally, there will be closing costs (etc. etc. etc.) At this point I am a 3rd year MLA (Master's in Landscape Arch) student facing a bleak job market, so I want to make sure there is a way to cover those aforementioned costs at some point in the future.

If the property owner doesn't have a charity in mind, Camino Seguro (Safe Passage) is near and dear to my heart and would be my charity of choice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day #9 - Live in a Tree House?

  • I picked up my first "free" items last Friday.
  • 2 white plastic outdoor chairs

  • a plastic side table

  • 100 yards of upholstery fabric

Granted, I don't think these items will result in a house, but talk about great free stuff! If you think about the potential worth of that fabric alone, you are talking 1oo's of dollars of salvaged materials (ha, pun intended). I really do think this house building idea is a feasible one. There are windows, insulation, entire mobile homes, sand, paint, furniture, siding (etc etc.) - available in the free section....

I really do need a piece of land quickly... with 3 of us living in a 375 sq ft condo, I don't have much (ok...any) room to store things.

So, in the meantime, Maria and I are daydreaming about living in a tree fort that sort of looks like a bird's nest? Pretty cool stuff.


Day #8 - Live in a Steel Container?

Last night I ran into my neighbor who is renting out his condo two doors down from me. We had a quick discussion with regards to real estate prices, the rental market and the current state of economic affairs. Both of us seemed to have ditched our old lives (or our old lives ditched us - aka. layoffs) of a stable income in favor of our "dreams"; mine being landscape architecture (and random quirky projects) and him - golf pro (or golf instructor or something like that). I could sense that we were both living frugally (the state of our cars in obvious states of disrepair was the biggest give away) and my neighbor mentioned living in a free family situation and renting out his condo to cover the mortgage until he was employed full time.

Anyway, we both mentioned how we probably couldn't sell our places for what we bought them for and so forth and so on. I realized as we were chatting that we weren't really complaining about the state of affairs, we were finding adventure and freedom in this random stretch of life and we parted saying "good luck in these unique times" ...with sheepish grins that we were both off to whatever adventure we might pursue.

So the whole point of that story is affirmation that life is worth more than a paycheck, healthy real estate prices, huge living spaces and nice cars (although a paycheck would be nice... I will totally admit that) and to go crazy and live your dreams....

And... if all else fails, you can live in a really cool steel container house (see picture and link to article)


Day #7 - Free Homes on Craigslist.

People are giving away entire mobile homes in the craigslist "free" section!!! It appears that a mobile home can be remodeled similarly to a house (via online google search).

Although I originally envisioned starting a home from scratch.... it is also interesting to contemplate modernizing a mobile home. I know that there are $1,000's of dollars involved in moving a mobile home, but still.... reduce, reuse recycle - -right?

Thanks to Lea Anne for reminding me that a house doesn't necessarily need to be built on land. I found a few boats.... not quite livable, but interesting none the less....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day #6 - AIA Inspiration - Random Thoughts....

Today's post will be brief and not necessarily super focused (as it is nice outside - enough said - right?).

After attending AIA's "New Edge/New Blood" Exhibit last night http://www.aiaseattle.org/new_edge , I was particularly struck by Grey's Design for both his "sheds" and his gorgeous resin chandeliers http://www.greydesignstudio.com/lighting/large/large_1.htm . (top picture)
Of course a craigslist home wouldn't be complete without urban agriculture....maybe we could partner with http://www.alleycatacres.com/ ?
We are also inspired by David Sparti's house built on a backyard lot in the Central District (he the backyard for $35k) and built the whole house for $200k (including land). It is 800 square feet (which would be a mansion in comparison to our current living situation!). http://www.smallhousestyle.com/2008/03/09/seattle-sarti-small-house/ (bottom picture)

So, maybe I could find a backyard and use a free shed and some free alternative materials to make really cool lighting features and have a yard full of veggies?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day #5 - Cool Ideas

Newly inspired by the man who quit Jetblue yesterday (ie. heck with the "normal life"!), Maria and I are drawing precedents from other people who abandoned the "normal" house in favor of a less than traditional dwelling space.

As we search for "free land", we will try to keep up our spirits with also searching for cool ideas. Today's features including a home made from one man's junk, a beer bottle house and a house built out of a rail car.




Monday, August 9, 2010

Day #4 - Nothing's Happening

In the word's of Little Mermaid's "Scuttle".... "nothing is happening." We still need a piece of land.... even a tiny piece with a tiny bit of vacated/unloved/un-used property would work. There must be a bored Seattle"ite" out there who wants to donate an unused parcel. Maybe I could offer to assist that generous property owner by growing free veggies in return for this person's generosity or maybe free gardening, free pet sitting etc.?
I wonder how long this phase will take... 6 months, 5 years...infinity?
....Well, it isn't entirely true that absolutely nothing is happening. Thank you to James Minstrell for finding a "free house" on craigslist. I am guessing a free house such as this in addition to other craigslist free stuff (flooring, windows, insulation, etc), this could really be a reality!
I am not sure if I have mentioned this, but we fully intend to try to live in this house and it would be a "real house" (just in case anyone is wondering)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day #3 - Waiting

Here is a photo of our craigslist add.
No responses. We are not entirely surprised.
I have permission to temporarily use a site on 5th/Columbia for another project, but a craigslist hours isn't what they have in mind :)
Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day #2 - Find Land

Finding Free Land
Today's quest includes finding free land. Maria and I did extensive map research early this morning using Seattle's 2010 Bike Map. Although "beggars shouldn't be choosers"; we do want to remain a one car (or less) family and live in a walkable community. We hope to find something close (aka walkable) to the neighborhood centers of Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Greenlake or Queen Anne. Of course other areas such as Capitol Hill, Columbia City, West Seattle, Seward Park (etc) are awesome and we would love land there too. Maria has spent her whole life in Wallingford so it is our most desired neighborhood, but she told me she will be flexible if necessary.

Yes, this makes our mission even crazier because these areas some of Seattle's most expensive real estate, but si levi. If you are going to go on a crazy mission, you might as well go for it!

Already Breaking the Rules

We already have to break one of our rules. To respect craigslist.org's policies (because craigslist is awesome and we want to respect it), we can not post "wanted" adds in the free section. So, we have posted an add for "free" land in the "item's wanted" section - but we will be asking for "free items".

We also added a 6th rule: We will gladly accept donated advice, expertise and labor whether this be through craigslist or word of mouth. Our main quest is to see if we can gather enough materials through the free section to actually build a house, so we will happily accept volunteers :)
Maria is a bit skeptical that we can find land for free (as am I) so she decided to nap off her concerns immediately following our property search.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day #1 - The idea

The Rules:

#1 Everything must come from craigslist.org's free section

#2 It is not cheating to post that we need something in the free section and see if we get a response.

#3 We can use what we already have (which is limited to a few tools such as a jigsaw and a drill)

#4 The cost of transporting/picking up free stuff we will pay out of pocket if necessary.

#5 Have fun...