Chat with Kevin Kelly and Lloyd Kahn: Tiny Homes and Mobile Dwelling

A few days ago I had the immense pleasure of being part of a video chat (“Hangout”) with two awesome dudes, Kevin Kelly and Lloyd Kahn, both heroes of mine and very inspirational people. If you’re wondering who they are, Kevin Kelly was the publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, founded Wired magazine, and now does a million other cool things, including the recent publication of the awesome book Cool Tools. Lloyd Kahn worked with Kevin Kelly as the editor of the “Shelter” section of the Whole Earth Catalog, then went on to start his own publishing company Shelter Publications, which has released classic titles such as Shelter, Shelter 2, Home Work, and Tiny Homes (I own and love all of these books, highly recommended!). He lives in a neat owner-built home in California, and is the liveliest, sharpest 79 year old I’ve ever seen!

It was exciting to have a chance to ask Lloyd and Kevin some questions, they both have decades of experience in building, design, technology, and writing/publishing between them. The webcast was broadcast live, and is available on YouTube to watch (and is at the bottom of this blog post!). Lloyd and Kevin started out by talking about domes and Lloyd explained how his book Shelter was a direct response to his years of advocating for and building dome homes. He said that he had realized that perhaps domes weren’t the perfect buildings after all, and decided to showcase a myriad of other awesome homes and building techniques as a sort of resignation about domes. He explained how domes were still viable as some functional spaces, but that they aren’t ideal for residences for many reasons.

 

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:

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.

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.

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

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!

 

Simple Solar Showers for Summer

Simple Solar Showers for Summer

Good Morning!

Last night I perused the web for the best, simplest solar shower devices on the market. I was looking for something affordable and convenient. The COMET doesn't have room for a shower inside, so she will have a solar shower outside, with some sort of portable, collapsible, privacy shower set up that I can pop up behind the camper (I like the idea of a little teak platform with a circular curtain rod made of metal piping that can break down easily when I'm on the move, and some sort of hook to hang the solar shower on once it is heated up).

Here are my favorite finds from the my solar shower research!

Great used building materials resource: DiggersList

I came across this really great resource for finding used/extra building materials for sale in your area. It's basically a Craigslist just for home improvement/building materials/appliances, and it's called DiggersList. Just type in your area/town and DiggersList will find anything for sale/free in a 50 mile radius. I really like the name, because as someone who loves to find used materials in the dumpster or in piles on the road, or even in piles on the internet, I think people like us really are "Diggers!" If you check out DiggersList and find something great to use in your tiny house, camper conversion, or other project, let me know in the comments!

(And on the flip side of acquiring great used/unused extra building materials for free or cheap, you can also post your own leftover flooring, old fridge, or salvaged lumber on the site so others can take it off your hands!)

Tiny House Summer Camp with Derek Diedricksen of Relaxshacks.com!

It's official!! I'm SUPER EXCITED to be a speaker at Derek Diedricksen's tiny house design/build weekend workshop this summer. Deek just announced the workshop last week, and there are very few spots open, so sign up fast!! It's going to be called "Tiny House Summer Camp", and it's taking place the weekend of July 6-9 at Derek's home-built cabin in Vermont. The weekend will be full of tiny house tours, solar cooking, camping out, tiny house building. designing, idea swapping, and geeking out about all things tiny. As a participant you get to sleep in a cabin, a treehouse, a tiny house, or something else cool that will be at the workshop (depending on what state The COMET is in, I might be able to accommodate a few campers!) The COMET will be coming with me to the workshop, and I'm going to be showing it off (mid-construction) and bringing along lots of interesting sustainable building materials and other things. I'll be showing off my free and recycled finds that will be going into The COMET, explaining why vintage campers make great tiny houses,  talking about how to save $$ in your tiny house by having an entirely DC photovoltaic solar electric system like The COMET, and more!

Other speakers at the workshop include WILLIAM ROCKHILL of Bear Creek Carpentry, who builds Tiny Houses for Tumbleweed, TRISTAN & LIBBY and their WHITTLED DOWN CARAVAN (an amazing vardo/caravan they towed from New Mexico to Massachusetts with a little sedan!), Derek's own HICKSHAW CABIN, and more!

Mobile Solar Electricity with PV

Hey everyone! Happy Monday! So as you may know all last week I was in Vermont attending an intensive photovoltaic design/installation class (at the Yestermorrow Design/Buidl School - check it out here). By the end of the week, I realized it would be very difficult to sum up everything I learned, so I think I'll just get into it little by little. There are so many factors and variables when designing a PV solar electric system for your (tiny) house or mobile house. Weight and stability came up a lot, as well as mobility concerns with roof mounted systems.

For today, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the stuff we covered in the course with an activity you can do yourself. It's really enlightening and will definitely surprise you if you've never really thought about how much energy you use.

Photovoltaic Installation at Yestermorrow School

The last 5 days I have been in a very intense class learning the ropes of PV installation. We've done sizing of a system (I haven't done this much math since high school!), flash-mounted roof mounts, and we've wired up our solar panels. Based on my calculations, I think I have way more than enough PV power with the three panels I recently got from Cotuit Solar. Tomorrow is the last day, when we finally plug the panels into the combiner box (then charge controller, then AC breaker, then batteries, then inverter - whew!) and see how it all fits together. This class has been super enlightening and I can't wait to share what I've learned. The Yestermorrow Design/Build School offers a learning experience like no other. It is really amazing here. Every person I meet is either building a tiny house (or has built one) or is working on an Airstream retrofit/renovation or already lives in an Airstream. My kind of people!

Anyway, this is all I have to show you for now, more later!