Tiny Tuesday: Flood Relief

Many Carolina residents lost their homes to flooding in October 2015, and a tiny house company wants to help. Driftwood Homes USA hopes to raise $50,000 for materials and labor to build a few of their airy cottages on wheels. When complete, they’ll donate the cottages to deserving families, as described in an article on Little Things.

This is a fantastic idea. By providing homes that are quick to build and use less material, it’s possible to help families with a relatively small amount of funding. Driftwood has nearly completed its first house, which it says will cost $25,000. The beachy interior has two bedroom lofts and uses elegant fixtures and finishes throughout. The layout looks comfortable for a couple or a young family, though I’m not sure where to move the loft ladder when you want to use the kitchen or bathroom.

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Inside the first crowdfunded Driftwood home.

I also like the idea that a house on wheels is flood-proof. If rising waters are in the forecast, just hitch your house to a pickup truck and drive to higher ground. Of course, not everyone has access to a towing vehicle, or the means to leave their livelihood far in advance of the next Hurricane Katrina (instead of getting trapped in a traffic snarl when panic sets in). The poor always suffer most in a natural disaster, and there is no magic bullet to prevent that. But at least the decision to run becomes easier if you can take your house with you.

You can donate to Driftwood’s gofundme campaign here.

Thanks to Laura Schutz.

Touchdown!

The Eagle has landed. Our timber frame, having spent a month in the air supported by a pair of bridge trusses, is back on solid footing. The owner, the engineer, and the carpenters all are very relieved.

Whereas assembling the trusses and lifting the timber frame took north of a week, getting it down took only half a day. Clayton avoided a repeat of the Great November Jack Rental Fiasco and bought four bottle jacks of his own. Jacks in hand, we stationed one person at each of the four corners, plus a fifth to check vertical alignment and tighten a come-along if necessary.

We pumped the bottle jacks within half an inch of their highest setting and positioned them inside the cribbing towers below the truss ends. Then, all together, we pumped the jacks a little higher, loading them with the entire weight of the structure.

Each jack has a nifty little dial on the front that releases air pressure. You can control the speed of air release, and therefore the speed at which the jack descends, by how far counterclockwise you turn the dial. (Lefty loosey.) To stay together, we measured the gap between our new floor and the timber frame’s four outer posts. We agreed on the next measurement (i.e. from 7 inches to 6½ inches) and lowered our jacks to that point. We repeated this process until the jacks had fully descended.

The next step was very similar to lifting: we rearranged the cribbing towers and used scrap lumber to support the truss ends at their new elevations. Then we released the jacks, reset them to their highest point, and repositioned them. We iterated until the timber frame landed gently on the floor.

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This post didn’t QUITE land where it was supposed to.

Not done yet. Two of the posts had spread while the timber frame was airborne, so they didn’t land in the right place. Using Timberlok screws to pin the rest of the frame and The Persuader (our resident sledgehammer) to move the posts by force, we got the timber frame squared up like it used to be. Now on to actual construction!

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Disassembling one of the two trusses, with the timber frame back on solid footing.

Tiny Tuesday: Plug-and-Play Architecture

Moving would be so much easier if you could take your house with you. That’s one appealing thing about a tiny house on wheels… although we’ve seen how even a tiny house is pretty hard to move, with a major concern being where to park it (legally) when you arrive. Jeff Wilson has a solution: the Kasita.

This All Tech Considered article explains how under Wilson’s model, you’d live in a stackable micro-apartment that fits on a flatbed. Every city would have a “rack”, a tower with plumbing and electrical hookups for maybe 6 to 9 Kasita units. When you move, a truck picks up your unit and drives away… so when you arrive at your new home, your home is waiting.

This seems like a pretty big investment for an infrastructure that relatively few people would use – highly transient singles and young couples, and maybe retirees who’d move frequently just for the fun of it. The units are well designed, but tiny-house small. A lot of questions come to mind. Who would do the actual transportation and hookups – a team of on-call employees in every city? What if the rack where you want to move is full? If you’re on the bottom of a rack when you move out, do all the units above you need to move too (turning one disconnection into six)? Given the huge cost-of-living difference between (say) Cincinnati and New York, how would the pricing work?

The Kasita is a great thought experiment, but only a small fraction of the population would consider it practical. For urban dwellers who don’t city-hop, groundbound micro-apartments work just as well, with far less overhead.