This turned out to be a bit of a long one.
“I dream of what kind of house I would live in if money was not an issue.”
This was a statement in a session by another group member this week, it acted as a kind of safe space for them. To be fair I can relate to a certain degree, but the only difference is I think about the home I want to live in, with my money issues sorted, and the house bought and paid for. I don’t intend to stay as is, this is not me, rather the toddler me, this has to get better.
So, my version of the future home took in the realistic price tag, both initial cost and running cost. I knew that certain ‘luxuries’ would be out of the window, so to speak, but in the aspect of having my own home, my own space, the loss of them was insignificant.
My initial thoughts were along the path of a 50-55ft narrowboat. I did look at a 45ft one, this is usually the size where there is a permanent bedroom rather than making a bed each night, and disassembling each morning, but I wanted space to do my art work, a studio area. I looked at the costs, including mooring in a marina, the most basic, and it worked out about the same as renting a flat, the council tax was the same, but the running costs were much, much lower than even just an average electricity bill, for the entire lot (Gas, wood, coal, diesel). But I would own my home. Unfortunately the people who run the canals don’t want any live aboard narrowboats on the water it seems, so out of the equation this went.
I have no intention of finding another partner, I now wonder how much desire to live independently from our parents drives us to find a partner to afford the cost of a house, cynical, maybe, but is that not what we are told we should do? How many relationships have lasted longer than they should have once a house is in the equation? Realistically a low income worker will have to be in a partnership to afford the costs of buying even the cheapest house now and renting can be even more expensive. With no intention of partnering up this time, owning a house is out of the equation.
I could live in a 50ft static caravan, with a few alterations for all year round living, but that is generally frowned upon by councils, so also out of the equation.
Some log cabins are now homes, but at a cost, a premium cost, once again out of the equation.
Options are running low, I did not want to live in a flat, even if you own the flat you generally don’t own either what is above or bellow it, so problems could arise from other peoples maintenance, or lack thereof, its just not the route I want to take.
It was at this point that I came across the Tiny House Movement, some I would call micro house rather than tiny and some were sheds on wheels. The ones on wheels were not of interest but those that were built as a regular house alternative, i.e ‘fixed’ that was an option I liked. 30ft x 15ft with an upper bedroom, I could easily cope with that.
Then I came across these really ugly houses made of tyres and dirt, for the most part, and other ‘recycled parts’. But the principles of the tiny house were here, just more extreme. Oh and more science than you would think for old tyres, cans and dirt. This intrigued me, sucked me right in. I wanted to learn more.
On the Narrowboat the electricity came from running the engines, generator, solar and wind. Usually a 12v and a 240v, via an inverter, system is used. Today a fridge, freezer, lighting, phone, I-pad, camera, iron, kettle and many more items can use a 12v system thus making batteries last longer on an ‘off grid’ setup. The same can be said for the Tiny House and Earth-ships, except the engine. Nowadays there is a battery for a normal house, charged from solar panels, so how efficiently could one be used in a house designed to be super efficient?
Water is a premium on all three, the Earth-ships however, harvest the rain water. Something I have yet to see on a Narrowboat or Tiny House. But I never said mine would not be connected to the mains, just on a meter for the water usage, if any, supplied by the water company, I do live in a rather wet country.
Storage – this one is won hands down by the Tiny Houses, space is at such a premium there is some fantastic spacial designs and multi functional uses of storage. Some that could be implemented on the Narrowboats as well if the Tiny House movement gains more popularity this side of the pond, and why is the Atlantic Ocean called ‘the pond’ whilst your lakes are called ‘great’? (one for my American readers)
Back on topic…
Heating – all three utilise the small multi fuel stove or gas bottle heating or both. In a small space the action of cooking with gas burners will also warm the house.But there is new technology available that can store heat, generated by solar or collected ‘waste heat’ from another source, for later use, they can even transport it, mind boggling I know.
Solar – You may be forgiven if you think this is already covered electricity, but the Earth-ships and Tiny Houses use the sun passively as well. The tiny houses have been known to use blackened cans in a wooden frame as a kind of solar still, the reverse of a radiator, to get free warmth into the house. The angle of the glass frontage of the Earth-ship is at such it uses the full heat collection of the sun in the winter and some even use the sun to heat a water tank. The suns heat is actually stored in the walls and floors to radiate throughout the home in the darkened hours of the day. How well this would work in a non desert environment I don’t know, but at the end of the day its free heating. This glass area is also a greenhouse segment of the building and leads us back to water.
Water – part two. Recycling and the Earth-ships go hand in hand, it is at its very core of its existence. This is where they get very clever with water. The rain water is collected, filtered for drinking and showering, dishes etc, the waste water goes to a planter in the greenhouse, the runoff water goes to a filter then a tank, some systems then pump it back to the planter on a timer creating a loop, this water also gets used to flush the toilet, ingenious yes? But wait, it’s not finished its journey yet, the toilet waste goes to a septic tank and then to an overflow field, however the overflow field is usually more self contained than standard overflow field, going rather into a lined area, gravelled and planted, normally ornamental plants, this way the plants are part of the waste management system and final recycling part of the waters process. How much water does a ‘normal’ house waste in comparison?
Now I am not an ageing hippy, nor a new age hippy, green vegan or a fringe movement activist. Nor am I a tree hugger or one of those ‘environmentalists’, I am just interested in being able to live in my own home and to be able to LIVE, but I do accept the fact I am aware I live in and affect ‘the’ environment, so if I can design a house that lessens my footprint I should.
Previously I just worked to pay bills, 90% of my working hours was for bills and essentials, and I usually had two jobs, one of them full time. I like many others, worked hard and played hard, that beer time at the end of the week was earned, deserved even, for putting up with job I hated, but one I needed to pay the bills. That beer time was the goal to be reached for many a week, the mind altering, perception changing beer time. Oh how it made me comply with the norm for the rest of the week. But I don’t want that life now, I don’t want to have to numb the week away at the weekend, just to repeat it all over again the following week.
I could, theoretically, buy an acre of land and build a home for half the price of a terraced house, yes it would be a smaller but it would be more self sustainable. It could still be on the grid, it would be a combination of the Tiny House, Earth-ship and even the Narrowboat (in terms of energy/water usage). The look would be more akin to the Tiny House with the greenhouse aspect of the Earth-ships. I also like the idea of the water collection from the Earth-ships as well as the water recycling. I don’t want the shed look but rather the – ‘this is a small home for one/a couple’ look, smart, practical, environmentally friendly and just in case the chap who predicted the drop in oil production in the 2030s and therefore the massive price hike in all things that utilise oil for transportation of goods or services, one that could manage ‘off grid’ should the grid fail due to our reliance on oil, and our shortsightedness on ‘alternative’ energy creation other than the toxic, radioactive waste producing nuclear plants. Oh and one that could produce fresh, in season fruits and vegetables, right on my doorstep and not requiring paying for an allotment.
It may be a dream, but it is an achievable dream.