Going “green” is like pulling your own teeth out… isn’t it?

30 Jul

It’s funny how things happen…

I’ve been getting interviewed lately by people who want to know why I’d even want to build a house out of “garbage.”

And once they hear that I’m including “old shipping containers” in my building materials, they just roll their eyes and look at me like I’ve forgotten to take my medication.

As many of you know, my family is trying to build a house, in a rather “unconventional” way. We’re trying to build a home out of recycled buildings and shipping containers.

It wasn’t because I’m a tree-hugger, or an evangelic environmentalist, or a member of the “Birkenstock Brigade.” I’m not a hippy (I have NEVER been “cool”), or a Communist, or a “Green freak,” or a “whack-job…”

(Well, maybe the jury is still out on the “whack-job” part…)

I’m just a guy with a family displaced by the storm, trying to get us back into a healthy, happy home.

My family has it’s challenges. Mommy isn’t doing very well, and the little terror is a demanding lil kid, just like you’d think any red-blooded tyke would be! And, like many people here, we live day to day, with no safety net.

We’re not insane (well, okay… maybe we are), but we are desperate. We have a small child (he’s 9 months old) who needs a safe place to live, a place where he can get down on the floor and explore the world, like a normal child.

And for reasons too bizarre to drag back out again, he can’t do that where we live now!

(I’ve written several posts here that detail the hardships we face. That’s them, over there on the right side of the page…)

The town we live in is still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina. It’s not “within spitting distance” of New Orleans, so it basically just fell off the map. I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating that is. We weren’t famous, so we got lost in the shuffle.

So, this little town started trying to heal itself. And, like dear old dad always told you, you try to work yourself out of trouble. But, the opportunities are pretty slim. If you don’t work at a casino, you probably work at Walmart. Wages are right where you’d expect them to be, in this part of the South. So, you aren’t going to save any “recovery money” along the way. It just doesn’t work like that.

The local politicians said a lot. They posed, and they prosed, and then, they posed some more. But, something must have happened to derail the “recovery train,” because everywhere you look, and everyone you talk to, reeks of “crisis and struggle.” I know it’s an election year, and people say things to get votes. But this was important. The very fabric of this community, this city, is being torn apart, and nobody really seems to care.

The only thing that seems to matter is getting the new casinos open on time, so that the taxes will start to roll in. I bet casinos pay a lot more taxes than say… a few city blocks full of families, huh?

After all, the people who are suffering aren’t the “real important ones.” Those lucky people found a way out, and got clear of the mess. But being poor has a way of holding you back…

A lot of good was done here, I’ll admit that. But a lot of “left out,” got done here too. And most of the “recovery trains” have pulled out of the station, and left some of us to fend for ourselves, without much in the way of conventional solutions.

Don’t mistake my frustration for whining. I am so happy that so many here made it back, and now lead normal lives. I just wish my family was doing that, too…

And, I’m not looking for a “free lunch.” I’m looking for answers that will lead me to a solution, one where I can work myself out of this, support my family, and insure their safety. But those solutions just aren’t there.

So, I’m looking “out of the box” for solutions.

And that includes thinking out of the box, by living in one. Well, not ONE box, but a series of boxes, bolted and welded together.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. After all, it’s a steel shell with a massive steel sub-frame that provides over 300 square feet, per “box.” Pile enough of them together, and you have a small home that’s weather-resistant, easy to erect (after all, you’re piling the boxes together with a crane), and stronger than any wood house on the block.

There are some challenges, I admit. But most of them aren’t “construction challenges.” They’re “political” challenges. They’re challenges posed by people who are used to doing things a certain way, and get really bent out of shape, if you try to change the way things are done.

And those are the challenges I want to talk about, in this thread of posts.

In order to build this house, I’m going to have to educate people about “alternative housing,” while I try to do it.

In order to pursue grants, I’m going to have to swim against the tide, and convince people that not only is this type of housing possible, it’s capable of providing a housing solution for many families facing this crisis.

In order to convince the neighbors in “the sight line,” I’m going to have to demonstrate that a home built out of shipping containers isn’t going to look like an old graffiti covered industrial yard. I’ve got to make this house fit in…

In order to pursue permits, I’m going to have to convince Planning and Zoning officials that not only is this type of housing safe, it’s actually safer than many houses existing here, today.

In order to pursue a certificate of occupancy, I’m going to have to guarantee that anyone living in the house will be safe, just like in a “conventionally built” home.

And that’s gonna take some doing, because the problem with building a house like this, is that it doesn’t attract architects, engineers, and tradesmen with lots of alphabet soup after their names. Because houses like this aren’t built by rich folks looking to make a statement. They’re built by families struggling with a budget every step of the way, with little left over at the end of the day. There simply isn’t any profit in it.

That’s the biggest challenge. I have to locate people who have the right credentials, to approve of my project, so I can get approval to build it. And, I have to figure out how to compensate them, for their involvement.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore each of these hurdles, and see how they play out. The very future of this project depends on it…

For those of you that are interested, you can hear one of my “interviews” here:


(Personally, I like the “complete call” version. I’m much “wittier” in that one!) LOL!

And this guy didn’t ask “WHY?”, question my sanity, or call me names. He asked “How can I help?” There are some visionaries out there, who actually believe. And for me, that goes miles… Thanks, Peat.

Stay tuned…