Extra sleeping bags? Check. Queen size foam mattress? Check. Binoculars? Check. Heater installed? Check. Coffee, dried snacks and candles? Check, check and check. The dome at Good Spirit Acres is finally ready for adventurous campers!
At this time of year things are pretty quiet, for some maybe tooo quiet. But I’m betting there are a few of you out there who would relish in the unusual privacy of wandering outside and walking about without restrictions...in cool weather.
From this location you’ll be able to discover the river, explore the prairie, maybe catch the eye of some wildlife or even commune with the horses nearby. This will be a totally unique camping experience. Just outside the dome you’ll have access to a propane bar-b-que, a campfire pit, an outhouse only steps away...did I say rustic? Let’s call it, camping with benefits.
Want to connect with nature? Here’s the place. Want to make friends with winter? This is the time. Connect with your significant other? Wonderful opportunity. Do some journaling? Now is perfect. Experience a starry night from 5pm to 7am? There you go.
I guarantee you won’t be cold at night nor will you have to pitch a tent. And once you snuggle in you’ll have a great sleep.
Reserve for any night in December and January for the startup price of $35/night. Give us a call to reserve, 403.593.2030 and prepare to escape the urban jungle.
This is probably the only spot in Alberta where a person could view not one but TWO domes in an urban residential backyard. Renovations to the People’s Choice winner (model GS4) at the GrowCalgary Microhome competition are in progress. It's just been insulated and interior finishes are being put it. While it is a collapsable model it can also be reconstructed to be 'winter friendly'. No mean feat by any builders standards. And the hammock will be set up not just to enjoy but as a test to the strength of geodesic domes.
The GeoStudio Deluxe (model GS1) with interior decor to 40 triangles will be on display to demonstrate what one could do with that backyard getaway. As with both domes, they are a demonstration of how pushing the envelope of design and innovation are important ingredients to creating sustainable living spaces.
So be there anytime between 7 and 10pm. We’ll have a backyard campfire if the wind isn’t too crazy and a drumming circle in the Deluxe dome for those who want to feel the vibe. Last but not least - and to meet your need for networking - there’ll be a space in the garage where you could enjoy some Christmas cheer. And yes feel free to bring your own, you might want to stay well past 10 :)
Here is the map.
Survivalists say if you’re ever lost in the wilderness the first thing you need to do is ensure you have enough heat to last the night. So maybe this should have been part 1!
There are many heating options but based on my personal experience and learning, while creating off-grid geodesic dome living there are three sustainable “goto” technologies to this date.
First is propane. Technically this is not off-grid since it’s a fossil fuel that is very much like centralized distribution. But here you are strictly paying for the fuel you use, not infrastructure and not 3rd party delivery (if you pick it up yourself). With propane you can provide heat and it’s a cooking fuel and you can make hot-water. It’s hard to beat for convenience. And it’s proven to be mobile as you find it on most RV’s.
Second on my list is wood heat. Wood fuel is everywhere so heating would be next to nothing. But there are a couple big disadvantages. You have to deal with smoke which requires a stovepipe and because of the heat you need wall clearances. There are a few wood heaters on the market which are relatively portable but the issues are the same. And as with standard wood stoves you can’t thermostatically control the heat level in your space. Finally, most users end up losing their heat at 3am. This makes mornings a bit of a task if you have to restart the fire.
The best heat source in my books (and most ecofriendly and cheapest) is passive solar used with thermal mass. The technology on how this works is slowly seeping into the general population and the terms thermal mass, annualized solar heat gain and passive design are becoming better understood amongst designers and builders alike.
In the GeoStudio tiny dome of the future, the structure will be in-place and it will be designed with solar gain in mind by placing the right amount of glazing at specific angles to let the sunshine in. The floor will have thermal mass built in (adobe, concrete, masonry, almost any rock and yes even hemp crete) and the heat will be sequestered well below ground in July for wintertime use. For sustainability, costs and maintenance passive solar wins hands down.
In part 1 of Critical Living Issues I discussed a solution to water consumption - specifically how to reduce our water use to 70 litres per week/person. In this part I would like to address how we can completely eliminate water consumption from the human waste equation.
Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that a composting toilet is unsafe and unhealthy people will raise an eyebrow when suggesting that we simply compost our waste rather than use the 10 to 40 litres of water per use each time we use the latrine.
The fact is, managing our s**t is not hardly as difficult as we collectively think. And as I mentioned to visitors at the TH competition, odors can be controlled with minor modifications such as a fan and some sawdust and like any other compost, human waste can completely break down in a short time. With the right setup most of the breakdown would occur outside your living space. And pee, when handled separately is easily dispersed into nearby trees or flower beds. Some would recommend ‘watering it down’ but that probably depends more on the ‘type’ of pee it is. I will spare you the details on that one. My favourite line on this is, “a million dogs can’t be wrong”. So while disconnecting completely from the water ‘grid’ has its challenges it is definitely not impossible.
There are other ‘grids’ from which we could disconnect since the tech is already in place.
The most common disconnect is from electricity. Solar power is not only easily available but once the upfront costs are taken care of it is much cheaper than the long term on-grid costs. I won’t address this since the info is out there and easily obtained. Ditto for the telecommunications grid.
The 3rd grid, the natural gas grid, deals mainly with heat, cooking and hot water. That’s discussion is worth an independent look.
Next blog: Alternate means of getting heat and hot water.
When it comes to tiny house placement buyers are on their own. Without legal jurisdiction in most areas it's up to TH owners to meet their needs. Therefore a builder might assume electrical access, water access, gas hook-ups, etc... but this is a steep assumption given that tiny houses don't yet have a place in cities and towns. Therefore, no access to sewer lines, etc...
The fact is, before tiny houses are accepted by large numbers of people there are critical issues to resolve and two clear options in building.
First option is to build your TH with all service hookups. All the while fighting for change at the administrative level. This could take a few years especially with regards to building code changes which are dealt with at the provincial level. So your best bet is a rural area where no one notices or cares too much.
Second option is to build without services in mind. The purpose of the GrowCalgary Microhome Competition was largely about offering tiny houses as an affordable, sustainable and simple alternative to the existing. Offering a sustainable type of housing means also promoting a sustainable way of living. At the competition I addressed the 3 main issues of off-grid water, heat and power.
Here’s a rundown of those issues.
First, water. From drinking to cooking to washing dishes to personal hygiene to toilets we all know the importance of H2O. If we are to live simply and off the “water grid” we need to use sparingly it’s that simple. My solution included bringing in 4 jugs of water every week. I estimate that one person could get by with about 70 litres per week (10 L/day). Here’s the breakdown; 2 L per day for drinking, 1 L for cooking, 2 L for washing dishes, 4 L for personal hygiene, 1 L for miscellaneous uses and NO water for your composting toilet.
While the breakdown will not be exact for everyone the total should be ample for most of us. The biggest water usage comes from personal hygiene and toilets. We know over 20 L are easily used up in a shower so rather than including that in the GeoStudios TH I simply made a space to sit with a 4 L water pan and a sponge. Fact is personal hygiene needn't be complicated, nor water intensive. I will elaborate on the composting toilet in part 2.
If you are contemplating living in a tiny house it will be worth your time experimenting with these numbers. Remember the last time you went camping without a campsite water hookup. How much water did you use? Was that holding tank empty when you returned?
Do give your water use some thought. It will become very critical in the near future. And don't let the fear stop you from making a huge difference to the planet.
Feel free to leave your comments.
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.