What if the solution to our housing problems was right in front of us? Millions of tons of reusable construction and demolition waste items, freight packaging, and other easily discarded materials are tossed in dumpsters, curbed, or otherwise forgotten after a single use. If you’re familiar with our mission, you’d know why this is a problem we’d love to tackle.
The first step was to get a bunch of people together. Perspectives from all over the community: architects and engineers, activists, social workers, simple living enthusiasts. We laid out a 10-week plan. We identified needs. We set out to design a model for a sustainably-build, DIY shelter to house a single homeless person from the Rochester elements.
The group spent the better part of 2 meetings debating issues from security to roof loads to power, plumbing and placement. We first settled on a trailer bed design, both for portability and as a zoning work-around. We later decided a modular, pin-release design would work best.
Finally we made it to construction day. Much of it was trial and error. The greatest lesson learned here was that standardization and quality of pallets is critical to a safe structure. Many trips were made to loading docks and dumpsters to find as many 40″x46″ pallets as possible. For the most part older was better. Many of the newer pallets we found were flimsy and wouldn’t handle the weight of a person walking on them.
The walls were a bit more forgiving, but still required continuous 2x4s to tie multiple pallets together. Voids were left for windows. We had some cheap “wood” paneling from a deconstruction job we had completed. This would serve as exterior sheathing. Someone had the novel idea to use plastic bags as insulation, which can easily be stuffed in between pallet slats. On the outside, weather resistant coroplast (or sealed paper) signs would be shingled for protection against the elements. The only material requirement was that it would be free and easily sourceable from the waste stream.
Update September 13th, 2013:
We hosted the screening of “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” as part of the Greentopia | FILM festival. It was the first opportunity in a while to show off the progress of the tiny house. I’m hoping anyone who attended and would like more information would reach out to us. Stop in and talk, or send us an email. We’d love your help.
More to come as soon as updates are available.
Photo credits: Jay Creighton and Tracy Paradis