Yestermorrow Design/Build School - first workshop this week!

I realized that I hadn't written a post about the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont, and that I should introduce you all to the place since I have my first class there this coming Sunday. Yestermorrow School is a design/build school that focuses on hands-on teaching and sustainable building practices. They offer workshops that range from 2 days to 4 weeks (and they have a sustainable building semester program with UMass Amherst). Topics range from Green building materials, woodworking, and tiny house building workshops, to architectural design and drawing courses and stained glass making workshops. I found out about them last year and when I read their "Philosophy" statement I was SO HAPPY to find a place that shared my values exactly. All last semester I had been talking about closing the gap between designers and builders, and wasn't really getting any support in doing that. So I left my college for some time to attend Yestermorrow for the next year, through their Sustainable Design/Build Certificate program. Basically with the certificate program (and they offer certificates in other subjects too)  you choose a handful of week-long, 3-week long, and weekend workshops from a long list of amazing classes. I chose the certificate over the semester program because of the flexibility and that way I could work on The COMET at the same time. I've heard the workshops are really intense and totally awesome, and that a 3 week workshop feels like an entire semester. I'm about to find out!

Guest Post: Celina Dill Pickle, 16 year-old Tiny House builder, talks about keeping your eyes open and finding what you need

Today is our first guest post here at The COMET Camper blog, and I am really excited about introducing Celina Dill to you all. I mentioned her and her blog in an earlier post here, and we immediately started talking about guest posts and sharing ideas. She's got an incredible eye for finding amazing second-hand building materials and interiors. Her frugality and style is impeccable! Also, Celina is 16 years old, and left traditional schooling to start building her own tiny house, something I strongly endorse and think is downright awesome. So here it is, our first guest post. Thanks Celina for sharing!

Eyes Wide Open

by Celina Dill

Who am I?  "South Whidbey teen builds tiny transportable house" This just appeared in our local paper - check it out - http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/139133434.html

Marmoleum mock-ups

I love the Marmoleum natural linoleum flooring. It comes in tiles and planks, and the Marmoleum Click series is a great floating floor that is perfect for DIYers. Old campers usually have some sort of linoleum flooring (probably asbestos, too), so using the new, green Marmoleum linoleum seems like a good nod to the past. Today I worked up some really rough mock-ups of some Marmoleum planks/tiles on the floor of The COMET. I was working in stripes, and will probably try some sort of zig-zig or checkerboard variation at some point too. I also have that dark hardwood flooring I found for free that I am trying to incorporate in some way, but I only have 20 sq. ft. of that and the entire floor is 50 sq. ft. I am thinking about maybe using the hardwood up front and the Marmoleum in the kitchen and the back, but we'll see! Anyway, I thought I'd share! Let me know which combination is your favorite in the comments! There are tons more colors available, these are just the ones that stood out to me.

More Refined 3D Models

Good Morning! Yesterday was another day spent in The COMET, measuring and again, simultaneously modeling, a more refined interior 3d model with SketchUp. I measured all of the ceiling and put the vents and light fixtures into the model. I spent hours measuring and diagramming the intricacies of the main cabinet, which has 3 parts that hold the closet, the fridge and some drawers, and the toilet closet.

Here's some highlights of what I did:

So above you can see the main cabinet, on the back wall, has been broken up into it's 3 parts. This is the model with the doors to each of the cabinets/drawers on. The cabinet to the far left is the clothing closet, the middle section used to have a fridge in the top opening and the lower 3 are drawers and cabinets. The cabinet on the right is the toilet! You can also see the vents and light fixture in this image - the vents are grey and the light fixture is that box on the ceiling. Yesterday while I was there I was trying to figure out if I would need to add any more light fixtures or wire up any more wall plugs. There seems to be just enough, but I need to make a serious list of what I have that uses power to figure it out.

 

In these two images I have hidden the cabinet door layers so that you can see inside the cabinets (I've also hidden the galley cabinet and galley counter, but you can see the footprint of it on the floor). Like I said, left side is the closet, middle is fridge spot up top and drawers/cabinets below, and the right side is the bathroom. The orange block at the bottom of the closet is the wheel well. You can also see the vents and lights a little better in this one.

Right  now the spot for the fridge (and I don't have the fridge that actually fits it) is the top section of the middle cabinet. In the next image you can see the fridge vent. Most likely that whole middle part of the main cabinet will be reconfigured so that the top-opening chest-style solar powered fridge that I have my eye on can fit in there, I can comfortably open it form the top, and have some food storage/pantry above it.

As you can see, and as I wish I could convey to you, the bathroom is insanely tiny. I sat in there the other day just for laughs and it is cramped even for me, and I am tiny! But I think I'll gain some leg room when I install the custom composting toilet, because I'll move the seat closer to the back wall and make it as small as I can.

 

This is just a preliminary roof sketch based on the vents from the interior (I still want to climb up there and measure everything form the exterior). The purple squares are the existing vents: two air vents, one fridge vent, and the tiny purple circle is the bathroom vent. This diagram gives me a good idea of what I have to work with in terms of configuring the 3 solar panels I'm getting. There's definitely room for 2 up there, but depending on how I set them up, I can either try to fit a third on the roof or instead fit a third panel on the side that lays down flat when I'm mobile and pops up when I'm parked.

 

As I spend more and more time in The COMET, finding out exactly how much cubic feet I have to work with is really interesting. Paring down to 16 ft. (total is 112 sq ft, but that includes cabinets and benches and everything) will not be super easy for me. I've always had multiple bedrooms, and I've always been a collector. I'm going to miss my vinyl and my vintage knick knacks! My unicorn collection (that makes me sound like a 70 year old lady - I'm not though)! And I have way too many clothes, again I'm a collector of vintage everything, so that will be tough too. To be fair, most of the stuff I have like furniture and clothing is for my store (I have a little online shop, PlanetQueenVintage.etsy.com: vintage is the most fun way to recycle!!). But it's really starting to hit hard what I'll have to do without! Of course I'll be able to store some of my things with my parents, but not like I do now. Though it makes me sad to think of everything I will have to get rid of, it's also incredibly freeing and wonderful to think about, because I've been overhwhelmed by materials possessions my whole life. Freedom!

 

Green Building: Insulation

I want to start introducing you all to the different options for sustainable building materials that I will be using in The COMET. Though I'll have to choose just one insulation and one kind of flooring, I'm going to detail many of the most popular options for green building/finishing projects (and some less popular, more alternative ones as well), so that you can see what's out there for your own project. For example, there are a plethora of sustainable flooring options, but some are better suited to certain applications than others.The products that I choose to use in The COMET have to take into consideration a few more factors than if I was building a house (small or average sized). I have to factor in how each product or material I use will react with moisture, because in such a small space, just a human's breath can create moisture issues if the structure isn't built and insulated correctly. I also have to consider indoor air quality: how will each product/material affect the indoor air quality of The COMET? This is very pertinent also because of the tiny space within campers. Also, the fact the The COMET is mobile means that I have to assess how each material will react under the stress of motion.

So keep an eye out for these materials and systems overviews (I'll also talk about different options for energy and water systems). I want to give you an idea of what's out there so you can choose the best material/system for your project. Of course, I'll let you know what material I have chosen to use in The COMET and why, when I do.

The COMET: Interior SketchUp Models

So today I spent all day inside The COMET (which was surprisingly warm despite the 30 degree weather outside and considering it has no heat, broken windows and 1950's insulation). I was measuring all of the interior space (cabinets, beds, appliances, etc) and simultaneously making a SketchUp 3D model so that I could begin to figure out how much I need of each material (flooring, countertop, paint). Here are some stills of the model I'm working on...and keep in mind, it's a rough draft! The green color is just to differentiate between walls and cabinets. Soon I'll use these stills to diagram the interior space in a more conceptual way. Also, this is just the interior measurements (no windows, no door) and the exterior still needs to be measured. Google SketchUp is a free 3D modeling tool, it's very easy to use and an awesome resource. If you don't already use it, download it and start fooling around!

Do It Yourself Solar

So as you readers probably figure, I'm a DIY kind of person. I would just much rather build something myself, know how it works (and therefore be able to fix it!), and learn a new skill than buy something and forget the value of it in a few days. Yesterday I had an amazing conversation with someone over at AltE (an alternative energy powerhouse located nearby in Hudson, MA - they started out in Worcester!), the company that is helping me out with the solar power aspect of The COMET project. I'm not too well versed in Solar electricity, photovoltaics, or thermal heat (not yet anyways, but my Solar Design and Installation workshop at Yestermorrow Design + Build School is coming up real soon!), and AltE is helping me figure out what I need for my system. The lady I spoke with knew exactly what I wanted to do with The COMET, totally understood where I was coming from, and was enthusiastic and super helpful. We talked about everything from solar water heaters to exactly how many watts I will need in photovoltaic energy in my new set-up. She gave me some really good resources to look into, and I want to share those with you all. I had been looking for a reliable, honest website about DIY solar pr0jects for some time, and she pointed me in the right direction! Check out Build It Solar for what seems to be a million and one DIY solar energy projects. This website is infinitely helpful and full of information. This website has links to tons of solar projects you can do yourself and on a budget. I saw something about a solar shower made from a car inner-tube...pretty neat!

On The Green Road

On The Green Road is Cece Reinhardt and Brenda Daugherty. I came across their website when I was researching The COMET project, and since I've found them they have been infinitely helpful and supportive of me. They were my first official sponsor! They really are wonderful people and what they have done and are doing to educate people about sustainable, mobile living is amazing.

Cece and Brenda travel the country in their gorgeous Airstream, which has been completely retrofitted with sustainable, green building materials and technologies in alternative energy. They tow their classic Airstream with a truck that runs on Biofuel (waste veggie oil). These visionary ladies give open houses and informational sessions in their off-grid Airstream, spreading the word about sustainable, healthy living. The two of them live in their Airstream full time, they even have a cat!

Tiny House people: The future belongs to us!

Tiny Houses and campers/RVs are great because they can be awesome living situations for young people with a young-person's budget and mobile lifestyle. Today I learned about a couple of other people my age (college kids and other early-mid twenties crowd) who are building their own tiny houses. This is fantastic! When I was a kid there was no way I thought I could ever afford my own house when I was 20. This really changes the way we think about independence, autonomy, mobility and opportunity. So I wanted to point out a couple of other people who are working on and documenting their own Tiny House adventures. I would love to create some sort of network for connecting young people that are building their own (first-time) homes on a college-kids' budget. We can really get creative with our homes.  Salvaged materials, free-cycling, DIY! It's very exciting to see other people my age caring about the things I care about.

Also, I'd love to connect with other young people looking to live in a camper or RV (or other converted mobile situation) for the first time. I'm sure we could all learn a ton from each other. If you are living in a camper or on the road, or in the process of becoming a full-timer, I want to hear from you! Tell me about it in the comments and leave your website if you have one!