“Garbage House?” I think not!

26 Jul

Welcome to ALTERNATIVE HOUSING 101.9:

If you’ve been riding along with us, you know that my family is building a house out of garbage. That’s right. Garbage. Stuff like aircraft hangar components, shipping containers, and contractor cast-offs is being recycled to build a multi-story residence for my family in Southern Mississippi.

This came to be, out of necessity, as opposed to “fashion.” Those of my “ilk” aren’t “tree-huggers,” or “green gurus,” or even “pseudo-militant environmentalists.” We’re just an average family, trying to solve a very difficult problem, with anything we can get our hands on.

However, life on the rock has led us to some pretty obvious positions, on how to make life more bearable;

Live with the Earth, not just on it.

Take advantage of Mother earth’s gifts; I.e. sunlight, ambient cooling, and the like.

Reuse everything you can. Steel doesn’t grow on trees, ya know! LOL!

Actually, reuse everything you can, because sooner or later, the pantry is gonna run dry…

And, use your brain. Thinking “out of the box” can often lead you to a path that might save you. That’s my hope, here.

In my past, there are more than a few “alternative homes.” I’ve lived in caves, treehouses, Rail Cars, “Bucky domes,” and underground houses. In each location, in each clime, on each continent, lessons were taught, and some of them paid off. We learned something.

It’s my hope that I’m capable of throwing all those lessons into a blender, and “blend” a solution, that will house my family safely, effectively, and efficiently.

I’m not going to preach environmentalism to you. I don’t have a soapbox, or a pulpit. What I do have, is a dire need that has to be filled. And, by showing you what I’ve done to fill it, I’ll either give you some ideas of your own, or prove myself a fool…

Time will tell…

In previous posts, we’ve described and discussed the foundation, the exterior of the home, and the house from the roof, down in general.

Now we’re going to start discussing the house specifically, so that you can see what we are actually doing, and how it will all play out.

The house is contained within 5 floors, 4 of which are constructed of stacked components called “shipping containers.” These containers measure 8’x8’x40’, and are connected and welded together, to form the two “wings” of the house.

Each wing has a task. One, the “Public Wing,” houses all the common activities of the household. The living Room, kitchen, and playroom are all located here.

The second wing, the “Private Wing,” houses all the bedrooms, bathrooms, and “get out of my space“ spaces…

We’ll start in the “Private Wing,” at the top…

The 832 sq. ft. Master Suite (yep, we’re building a “suite…” sweeeet!) will be located on the top floor, basically as a “penthouse” unit. Master BDRM, Master Bath, and Master Bath all facing a roof garden built over the “Entertainment Room” space.

I’ll be “the King of everything  I can survey,” except the stuff my wife has already laid claim to. That means I’ll be lucky to see a window.

Essentially, it’s simply two rooms with a connecting (walk-thru) bath, at the top of the staircase. It’ll be bright and sunny, with good views of all the squalor around us.

Master Wing & Rooftop Garden
Master Wing & Rooftop Garden

I know that the spaces are on the smallish side (for what seems such a big space), the Master Bedroom being approximately square, the Master Bath is small by today‘s Master Bath standards, and the Sitting/Dressing Room is L-shaped, but we wanted to keep them manageable.

The Master bedroom is basically a room for the bed. Oh, stop groaning… I wasn’t making a “pun.”

It’s a massive bed, one I built during my “I hear that furniture craftsmen make more than carpenters” phase.

BTW: They DO, if you have any real talent. In my case… I’ll keep looking for work… LOL!

Think of a four poster bed, built to look like it grew in Africa. I found some really cool wood, and carved it into “organic flames” and used the “flame panels” as a headboard and footboard. It’s humongous, and will allow us all the room we need, for nights when the three of us need to settle down and go to sleep, in spite of a hyperactive kid who kicks and squirms all night!

I still have the bed, because nobody ever wanted it, try as I might to sell it. I did get one really good offer, but they wanted me to ship it to Russia, and I didn’t have a clue as to how that could happen, on anything resembling a “budget.”

A “river” of lapis countertops surround the room, providing lots of storage underneath. The countertops are “salvage” from a Naples, FL remodel. They were just too pretty to throw in a dumpster, so I saved them “to be used another day.” This is that day.

I built a matching armoire, and used some of the lapis as “ornamentation.“ It will house a TV and some assorted storage.

There are no closets in the Master BDRM, it’s just furniture and “art niches.”. The storage for the floor will be in the sitting/dressing room. The sitting room gets double organizer closets. A small sectional gives mommy a place to read in peace and quiet, and daddy a place to sleep when he’s in the “doghouse.“

I’ll have to shop carefully for this one, because I suspect it’s gonna get a lot of use! LOL!

The Master Bath seems huge, until you take into account that it’s a walk-thru, connecting both Master “rooms” together. It’s really just a normal bathroom. It has a small (tiled) walk-in shower, a Jacuzzi tub with a granite pedestal that a contractor buddy has promised me, and a toilet stall. It has a double sink “island” and some decent storage built in, as well. Nothing special here.

Remember, this isn’t “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!” It’s “Built on a budget, by recycling beer cans!”

(I’ll tell you the story of our “inherited spa tub” one of these days. It’s a doozy, and it’s guaranteed to make you um… er… think…)

In fact, thinking about it is giving me the shivers, so… where was I? Oh yeah…

If you’re keeping track, this floor represents a module that is 16’x40‘, accessed by an adjacent 8’x24’ U-Shaped staircase and “lobby.”

The floor will seem larger than it is, because French doors will open onto the rooftop garden and patio, from the Sitting/Dressing Room.

A small screen room off the Master Bedroom will house an “indoor/outdoor gym.”

The bowflex and treadmill get parked here, when I can afford them again. I’m not getting any younger, you know…

A small deck off the Sitting Room will allow us to eat breakfast at altitude, and sunbathe in “private.”

(Like we’ll ever “sunbathe!“ I’d just get “harpooned…” by a helicopter riding – whale hunter…)

The house really got defined by the requirement we had for the amount of garden space. We know from experience that I can grow all the produce we need for our family (and a few others) in the space we’ve laid out. It sounds crazy, but it’s true, and fruits & veggies are a major part of our diet.

So, in keeping with the theme, we’re designing a house that will provide for us, as we provide for it.

You see, after the hurricane hit, and the water receded, the land was useless.

It was covered in debris, salt (from the seawater) and contaminants. So, we decided that “next time” we get visited by “Hurricane What’s-her-name” we aren’t gonna have that problem. Putting the garden on the roof gets it out of harms way, and it’s actually securable. The modules can be locked down, by using securable “lids.” We may lose whatever was in them the day before the storm, but we can replant, very soon after, to get started back up again.

(And before the storm hits, we’ll secure the cistern, to insure that it doesn’t get contaminated.)

We know that we’ll lose the greenhouse, and most of the screen on the lanai, but that can’t be helped. They are delicate structures by nature.

That “homebuilt” screen lanai I’m speaking of will enclose this garden, to keep pest-control at a minimum.

The rooftop garden will have access to a small greenhouse (located up on top of the Master Bdrm via the staircase), a series of (4) “sq. ft.” (4’x4‘) garden modules that are 2‘ high, a perimeter of planters (2’ deep and 2’ high) and some garden benches, and a small “sandbox” for Joshua to “garden in,” while we garden.

The “Upper Greenhouse Deck” is just the roof of the Master Wing. Accessed by the staircase that dumps onto a little library/loft, it has French doors which open onto the rooftop. A 10’ diameter spa “pool” is located here, as well as a 16’x16’ Greenhouse, for gardening and floral production. The 10′ spa was another “remodel salvage treasure.”

Greenhouse  and "Oasis" - (Rooftop)

After all, we’re living in humidity, and that means “sweaty, sweaty, sweaty…” Anything that knocks down the smells we’ll produce, without the use of massive chemicals, is okay by us!

Next time, we’ll talk about the “lower floors.” It’s a place we like to call “Maximum Security Joshua…”

Stay tuned…

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5 Responses to ““Garbage House?” I think not!”

  1. Nancie July 26, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    How interesting! I’ll be watching to see your progress. My husband will love this.

  2. Poonam Sharma July 28, 2008 at 12:15 am #

    Hey, I came across this news about paper house., though I am not sure how practical is this.

    Have a look here: http://keetsa.com/blog/home-and-garden/paper-house-made-from-newspaper/

    And have you ever thought of changing the theme of your blog? It is easier to read black text on white than vice versa?

  3. renaissanceronin July 28, 2008 at 5:08 am #

    Poonam: I’ve heard of this house before. The guy built it out of rolled up newspapers, varnish, and glue.Can you imagine how “high” he must have gotten on all those glue fumes? And looking at the house, I think his “altered state” is pretty obvious! LOL! I can’t imagine that it has much in the way of insulation value, but that’s probably why he only stayed there in the summer!

    And, I’m playing with other themes now, trying to find one that “speaks to me…” You’re right, this space could use some “lightening up.”

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Ashish July 28, 2008 at 5:17 am #

    For themes, I’d suggest Pressrow, Cutline or The Journalist. Pretty good for looooong posts as they have superb formatting. 😀

  5. Poonam Sharma July 31, 2008 at 2:08 am #

    True, this house could be inhabited only in summer. But what about cooling then? 😦

    And you could ponder over Ashish’s suggestion. And I see that you are getting famous. Interviews et al.. 🙂

Comments are closed.