April 19th, 2003


Living Well in Just 380 Square Feet of Space


Can we ever solve our housing crises? Easy question! I know the answer is, “Yes, we can!” Tougher question: “... but will we?”

Would you believe we can create housing for 2 adults and 1 child at unsubsidized rents as low as $206 per month (per home)? And, for no more than $575 per month (including taxes and insurance) the ‘tenant’ would instead become a mortgage-free owner within only 10 years!

Design, Engineering and Construction are the easy part, the hard part is our culture. For one thing, as conservatives will rightly claim, piggish behavior is as firmly rooted in the poor as it is among the affluent sectors of U.S. culture... so won’t such “low cost” homes inevitably devolve into public-housing slums? Another (quite related ) major obstacle is our affinity for “$tuff” (first studied in accurate anecdotal form by comedian George Carlin, and, based on my own observations, it can be argued that one-third to one-half of all U.S. “housing” space is now dedicated to storage): Storage of furnishing (for cooking and dining, bedding, lounging, working, cleaning, maintaining, etc.), clothing (especially specialty, i.e. ski, scuba and “church-going”, apparel), recreational items, and the other god- knows- why- the- hell- my- uncle- gave- me- that- crap- but- I- better- save- it- for- his- annual- holiday- visit- since- I- couldn’t- dare- tell- him- to- stop- wasting- his- money- on- mindless- consumption- because- just- giving- me- a- hug- and- his- love- is- enough collectibles. But I made it work, and I think many others could make it work as well... with a little help from a tolerant and open-minded culture.

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Building Her Own Earthship


Building Her Own Earthship
by Becky Kemer

In 1995, 26-year old Christina Sporrong moved from Seattle to Taos, New Mexico in search of sunny weather. Having experience in residential construction, Christina went to work for local architect and builder Mike Reynolds.


Mike Reynolds’ buildings, known as Earthships, use earth-filled tires for the exterior walls and mortar-encased pop cans and glass bottles for interior walls. The tire walls are built into U-shaped rooms with the open side facing south. The walls are earth-sheltered, which helps maintain a constant temperature in both winter and summer.

The south side of the Earthship has large plate-glass windows set over indoor gardens, creating a greenhouse. Winter sunlight warms the tire walls and earthen floor which then release the warmth during the night. This is the essence of passive solar building.

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Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)


Leftists, but probably some good ideas here. [Edit: Ugh, now that I've read more, I'm not so sure. There appears to be few regulations, or taxes that this group doesn't like.] From their home page:


Because the old ones don't work any longer. They undermine local economies, subvert democracy, weaken our sense of community, and ignore the costs of our decisions on the next generation.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics. The rules call for:

* Decisions made by those who will feel the impact of those decisions.
* Communities accepting responsibility for the welfare of their members and for the next generation.
* Households and communities possessing or owning sufficient productive capacity to generate real wealth.

These are the principles of "new localism." They call upon us to begin viewing our communities and our regions not only as places of residence, recreation and retail but as places that nurture active and informed citizens with the skills and productive capacity to generate real wealth and the authority to govern their own lives.

All human societies are governed by rules. We make the rules and the rules make us. Thus, the heart of this web site is a growing storehouse of community and local economy-building rules - laws, regulations, and ordinances - because these are the concrete expression of our values. They channel entrepreneurial energy and investment capital and scientific genius. The New Rules Project identifies rules that honor a sense of place and prize rootedness, continuity and stability as well as innovation and enterprise.


Via the Global Ideas Bank


More available info is available from the book Gaviotas A Village to Reinvent the World

by Alan Weisman

Paoli Lugari, a Colombian environmentalist, has worked since 1971 to develop Gaviotas, a self-sufficient community in the nutrient-poor savanna grassland of Los Llanos, the huge eastern plains in Colombia.

As he puts it: "They always put social experiments in the easiest, most fertile places. We wanted the hardest place. We figured if we could do it here, we could do it anywhere. The only deserts are deserts of imagination. Gaviotas is an oasis of the imagination."

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