Note: I first met Colin Reedy about 12 years ago. He had just returned
from studying design in Milan and I had just returned from Rio de Janeiro.
We found ourselves stuck in Portland, Oregon, I as an owner and designer
of artist lofts, he as a struggling designer of furniture who happened
to end up living and working in one of my lofts. It was apparent from the
first moment I saw Colin's designs that he was a maverick genius. A lot
of artists passed through those lofts over the years. Some of them went
on to a great deal of fame. I can think of few whose work was as
immediately exciting as Colin's. Colin Reedy carries with him an enthusiasm
for creativity and for his work.
He has had
a good deal of success, all of it deserved. He travels frequently and has
lived much of the past 20 years outside of the United States. He first
presented the idea of a nomadic house to me several years ago. I've been
pestering him for the past two years to put the concept into a written
form for EscapeArtist.com Here's the second installment in what we
hope will be an ongoing series.
A House To Roam The World
Part 1 of this article I introduced the idea of a portable dwelling based
on a standard international shipping container. As a housing
alternative to renting or buying, it's one that offers a high degree of
portability, customization, and security. In the second
half I want to get specific and lay out plans for moving the idea closer
how many containers make a suitable "home"? After walking inside
several and imagining the possibilities, I¹ve long thought two 40
foot containers would be good. I foresaw one container as a
living space and another as a work studio with tools and storage.
But I now think just one container would be an appropriate challenge.Perhaps
a second container could be acquired locally at new destinations and used
for additional space as needed. I still want to discuss arrangements
with more than one container, but I see a different level of customization
for each container. For instance, the primary container might
be equipped with plumbing for bathing, a toilet, and a sink.
It would also
have electrical outlets connected to a fuse box and a propane system for
a stove, refrigerator, and heating/cooling.
container might only have basic electricity (maybe just an extension cord
running through the wall) for lights and a few appliances. So how do we
start with a huge metal box and not end up feeling like we're living in
a huge metal box? For a true rugged global nomad, this would
not be an issue, because they've learned to sleep in stranger places and
live out of backpacks for weeks and months on end. I've been
there. But I want to create a level of comfort and security closer to "home",
just without the mortgage or rent to tie me down. Ideally,
this container home isn't just a cheap place to sleep, but a place you
enjoy spending time and can live comfortably. OK, here goes,
To run lights, tools, some appliances, computer, and a stereo.
The idea when planning all utility systems for the container home is to
be flexible and prepared to handle as many diverse situations as possible.
Obviously, broader flexibility and or adaptability will create more opportunities
for locations. Access to a local electricity source would be
the easiest solution. A small opening on the outside of the
container to accept a heavy duty extension cord would allow the whole plug
inside and secure it so no one could accidentally or easily unplug you.
Two or three of these plug-ins could create different circuits to keep
the computer and stereo power separate from tools or charging batteries.
and a power converter are basic electrical accessories to include.
A small fuse box with 2-4 breakers would be great if you planned to have
a more direct power source. But I think well-placed standard
"power strips" (multiple socket rack with a built-in fuse) and extension
cords can offer just as much function.
from local power means generating your own. This is where you
realize which appliances suck up power and which don't. I'm
not going to recommend specific solar power systems because a huge array
of products exists. There are options from reasonable to expensive
that will keep your lights, music, and computer running.
Power tools and
any heating or cooking appliances will probably demand more than reasonably
priced photovoltaic solar power will deliver as far as I'm aware.
Gasoline or propane powered generators might be considered if your situation
really needed the electricity and you had the space and could tolerate
the noise. My choice is to be ready to plug into local power
and also capable of solar powering the necessities like lights and computer.
Television is not a necessity.
arguably the most important utility and one of the main factors determining
the placement of your container home. Any decent water system
requires a source, pressure, maybe storage, heating, and the plumbing to
deliver it where needed. The easiest situation would allow
you to hook up to a municipal water source. All that'd needed
is a range of fittings and a hose, and the fittings could be purchased
locally since they'll undoubtedly be of local size standards.
That'll give you the source and pressure you need, but not a hot shower.
Storing large amounts of water and continually heating it for immediate
use is amazingly stupid no matter how much space and money you have.
I can¹t believe this is the standard in the United States well, maybe
I can. I once lived in an apartment in Milan, and we had a
box on the bathroom wall with gas and water pipes running thru it.
jumped to life and heated the water pipe immediately upon turning on any
hot water faucet. I was amazed. So smart.