Naively, I thought this meeting would be an opportunity to share ideas on how tiny houses could be built and how new technologies could make this a practical and viable housing option. Instead, this meeting was about what we CAN'T do.
First, in Calgary tiny houses in a backyard will be under the same provisions as ‘secondary suites’ which are under the regular rules of the Alberta Building Code part 9. Which also apply to regular housing. Which then means our tiny houses must follow the same rules as that of a 5000 sq ft 'McMansion'.
This is unrealistic and unworkable in so many cases. From ceiling height to door size to window egress - the rules completely alter the whole reason for building tiny - to make life more affordable. What we need is a separate category in the ABC for tiny houses just as there are separate guidelines for RV’s and for mobiles and for condominiums.
So after listening to a litany of restrictions and conditions with regards to windows, egress, engineering, etc, I finally chimed in, "You know this will cut the tiny house movement at the knees right? The cost of a tiny house will go from $10-15 thousand to over $40,000 dollars. For those who are driving this engine, people who want to live sustainably, simply and affordably such as millennials and seniors, they are prevented from buying a tiny house."
Fact is folks, real change does not come from those who follow the rules. Innovation comes about by people who are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers and go against the grain. The tiny house movement will not go away just because some want them to be more like houses. But the movement will grow because people want affordability, do not want to be locked into a lifetime of debt, want to live simply and want a more sustainable solution to housing ourselves. There is a purpose and a reason for why this is happening today.
OK so GeoStudios has entered the Microhome competition at the Grow Calgary site. This is both exciting and nerve wracking!
It’s exciting because I get to showcase the GeoStudio ‘DomeHome’ which offers an excellent solution to housing issues today (as does the entire tiny house movement). And nerve wracking because the timeline to build one of these is much more than what I had previously thought, given the added features needed ie, toilet and washing facility, basic cooking appliances, sleeping space for two.
So why embark on such a crazy and risky venture? Answer: The personal belief that change in how we live needs to happen asap. We are on the brink (I'm talking less than 5 years) of ecological stress that will disrupt everyone's lives in one way or another. Sounds negative but it needs to be said and needs to be acted on. I want to be part of the solution.
The competition goes through the summer as tiny house builders will put together their structures. Some teams will build in place at the Grow Calgary site here. The awards weekend will be September 15 & 16. The poster on the website describes the 3 categories of the contest. GeoStudios has entered the 100 sq ft category. The reason for creating such a category is no accident. In Lethbridge and Calgary a 100 sq ft accessory building doesn’t need a building permit. As you can imagine this has huge implications.
In the next few weeks I’ll be putting together something very unique that will be adaptable to people’s backyards without worry of red tape or interventions of any kind.
Anyone interested in participating or just checking out the build or just lending encouragement is welcome to come by my place in Lethbridge. Call/txt ahead of course, 403.593.2030.
ECOFRIENDLY WOOD TREATMENT
I wanted to preserve a wooden bench I’ve built for the Good Spirit Acres dome.
We know that regular pressure treated lumber is not the most eco-friendly option we have if we want to put wood outdoors and not rot in 5 years. Or so I thought. Then I ran across something called Eco Wood Treatment. It’s simple to use, you get a package of powder and mix it into a gallon of water. When applying it really is like just putting water onto your wood. Use a roller, brush, spray gun, sponge, anything. In fact the directions state you can even just submerge your wood in the product. Way easy! I got this package, which makes one gallon, at Windsor plywood for about 20 bucks.
Now to wait to see if it really is effective. Time will tell. One very interesting feature about this wood preservative is that it changes the colour of the wood to a kind of grey patina so that it appears as though it’s aged. Especially good if you’re aiming for that antique look. New meaning to 50 shades of grey!
As well all know by now, the real value in our garbage is in separating it’s components. Separate your food scraps from the garbage and you have compost. And so is the value of the UDDT. That’s the Urine Diverting Dry Toilet, whose function should now seem rather obvious, if not humourous.
With the toilet divided into a front and back half (it’s ok guys it’s not any less macho to sit), it collects two valuable waste streams. And I make no apologies for the pun.
Gardeners everywhere will back up the science of spreading your liquid compost around. Pissing on the tree hasn’t always just been for dogs.
And even the solid stuff, (if everything is working as it should) can be of value. After all, it seems to me sheep manure is a thing.
But we humans are exceptional it seems. Our shit not only stinks but can be downright toxic. No problem. Lead a healthy life, have a good diet and avoid too much pharma and your donation to the UDDT toilet will be every bit as good as sheep shit.
And don’t forget to bury it. I learned that from my cat. Then be ready to actually use it in, oh six months or so, in the back 40 as part of your soil amendments program.
Dealing with shit needn’t be that complicated.
The decadent Decagonic walls
To build a geodesic dome in the style chosen by GeoStudios, one needs to build a floor and walls that match the shape of the dome that will rest on them. That means a ten-sided floor in the shape of a decagon and wall panels that will match the perimeter of that floor.
As I move towards building the campsite model dome, I graduated to the next step, building the walls. It involved a lot of cutting at not-so-typical angles.
The first angle I dealt with were the top and bottom plates that need to be exactly 18 degrees. That requirement wasn’t too hard but the ongoing double-checking to ensure everything was on track took longer than just a usual “saw and nail" routine. In fact, “measure twice cut once” takes on new meaning when building a geodesic dome. For the mathematicians among you, that 144 degrees in the picture at left represents the inside angle, not the cutting angle of the plates.
The other 'atypical' cut had to be the vertical sides of the studs. They had to be ripped (cut lengthwise, in this case on my table saw) just a smidge. That angle cut now matches the 'curvature' of the 10-sided wall system and ensures the studs don't 'stick out'. Otherwise it would be a pain in the keister to put plywood on the outside without a lot of wood to screw it into.
The last cut was with a a chop saw to crosscut all the stud pieces to the same lengths, 1000mm or 39ish inches. And after that a coat of wood primer. The result is a pretty pile of wood :) waiting to become the walls of a decagon.
Finally, assembling that pretty wood to make the 2x6 "walls". There will be 9 pieces. Did I say 10? Oh yeah, the 10th wall panel will actually be a doorway so it's not actually being built. Ultimately, those 9 walls will be connected together, sheathed on the outside and to live up to it's roasty toasty reputation, insulated with R14 value insulation. More on all that later!
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.