Leslie's Website!

Safe House Project

20 June 2011

My apologies, folks.  My website administrator recently changed servers, and completely scrambled (or lost) all the photos on my website, and laid waste to much of the formatting. It might be a little while before I have time to try and correct the damage.  The text is intact (though not always in the right place) and I've restored a few of the photos--so if you're feeling brave, you may continue.  Or, for  a less squirrely viewing experience, you can also visit my other website, www.SafeSpotCottages.com.  Thanks.







Bedroom/study unit on it's maiden voyage. 

Interior shots of bedroom unit.
For more up-to-date pictures of this house, please visit my other website, SafeSpotCottages.


                                                                                                                                                                     The side porch, where the porch swing will go. (You gotta have a porch swing.)


                                                                                                                                                                                                   Smaller(bedroom/office/bathroom) unit, as of October 30, 2008.  No plywood is being used at all--hence, the skip sheeting on the roof.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                TINY SAFE HOUSE PROJECT

I'll soon be leaving my beloved little straw bale  house (see "Safe House 4 Rent" page) because I'm building an totally non-toxic house--on wheels.

My initial inspriation came several years ago from  www.tumbleweedhouses.com.  The houses built by Tumbleweed have plywood sheathing and knotty pine interiors, and therefore aren't suitable for the chemically sensitive.  So, I'm just using them as an inspiration/starting point, and am building my own.  Building techniques have been culled from John Bowers' and Paula Baker-LaPorte's books, as well as from a number of on-line sources and personal consultations with others who've built a safe home, and I'm doing the design myself.   (Though I did get many invaluable tips from the master, himself--Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed  Tiny  Houses.)

Construction is slated to start in April 2008.  If it turns out well, I may build more for other people that need them...let me know if you'd be interested. (I'm trying to assess the need/demand for something like this among the MCS population.  If there appears to be one, I'll get together a business plan and see if I can't start producing these things. Not  sure yet what the cost would be...you could use the prices at tumbleweed as a ball park, though my guess is that building them non-toxically will be more due to the cost of special materials and labor-intensive building techniques.  I'll know more in a few months when mine's finished.   I sure would have been happy to buy one--there's so much research and time involved in building one.  It's definitely been a bit overwhelming; it's took me three years just to get everything lined up to start building...but I just couldn't find anywhere to buy such a thing. So, I'm taking matters--and hammers, and screwdrivers--into my own hands!)

I figure the mobile nature of this little house-on-wheels  will be perfect for dealing with MCS.  Eventually--sooner the better--the goal is to buy land in one or more places, and have communities of MCS people living there in these little movable homes.  (The homes could be moved wherever the owner wants to put them of course, but I'd like to develop one or more pieces of land for that pupose.) Wouldn't  that be great?  I don't know about you, but for me, the isolation is one of the hardest things about MCS...if I had safe housing that I could afford, and unstinky people around to commune with...well, that sounds like a pretty good life to me--MCS, or not!  Living in community, we could share the expense of all sorts of helpful things--like FIR saunas, and vehicles, and hiring someone to run shopping errands.  Maybe everyone could have their own tiny house on wheels, but we could have a larger space of some sort built on the land for community space...sound good?  Now that I've found work I can do from home, I'm finally in a position to actually start making some of this happen.  Next month..building the first safe tiny house on wheels.  Next year... the world!  Contact me if you'd like to get in on the brainstorming!

Though my main focus right now is getting the houses built, we are already starting to look for some land where a community of these houses could be parked, and where we'd like to do extensive gardening and some animal husbandry, in order to have clean, sustainable, humanely raised food.  If you've done research on which parts of the country are least toxic, or have leads on any specific pieces of suitable acerage (either for sale or for rent), we'd love to hear from you.  Places currently of interest are the Pacific Northwest (including northern California) and Belize--but we're open to all sorts of possibilities!



Here's a picture of the trailer with the toxic treated-wood deck removed, and some insulation being installed (with Dasi the Aussie for scale):

It has three axels (which are hard to see here; I had to remove the wheels for now because the new rubber of the tires was setting me off).  We don't know yet what it will weigh, but, this trailer will hold up to 17,000 lbs, so I'm sure we'll be fine!

30 April
Awaiting delivery of the special wood products we'll be using for framing. (There's been a lot of "awaiting delivery" so far in this project!)  Timbersil is conventional framing lumber that's been dipped in a sodium silicate solution, making it something akin to petrified wood.  It's impervious to wood rot, and completely unappealing to termites.  This is a big plus, since those are problems that are almost impossible to recitfy if you've got MCS.  I was about to go with steel framing when I learned about this stuff, which has better thermal properties, and will be easier for our contractor to work with--while still meeting my need to have something that's chemically safe (barring the natural terpines, which I'll isolate from the interior with a hermetically-sealed vapor barrier), and unappealing to pests and microorganisms!

20 MAY
Wood's here.  Framing starts tomorrow--then it will finally start to look like something!  (More pictures once that happens.)

Framing's mostly done.  (See picture below of Tony looking out of the dining room window of our impending abode.)  Finished unit will have cathedral ceilings and french doors--this ain't no travel trailer!  There will be a little greenhouse-like structure built on the tongue (which is an equilateral triagle about 5 feet on a side) that will house a shower and composting toilet.  I didn't want a shower in the main unit because of the need to pay very close attention to moisture management in a space of this size.  (Especially considering our love of the soggy Pacific Northwest.  We're in the high desert of Central Oregon now, but a move to the misty side of the mountains is quite likely in the future.)  This way, the shower will be in an entirely separate air space from the living area, and, being made of metal and glass will itself be impervious to mold.

The plywood you see on the left is just tacked on temporarily, to stablize the framing.  The completed unit will be 100% plywood free! I have ordered some "Strong-EnviroBoard" in which to sheathe the house.  This is a relatively new product that is made from Magnesium Oxide. (MgO itself is not a new building material, however; in fact, the Great Wall of China is made of it!) It's water- and mold-proof, and very inert.  It'll be great for exterior sheathing, and may even prove suitable for use as the interior wall board and flooring substrate, among other things.

Floorplan.  The couch at the right end of the house folds out into a bed.  If our budget holds out, we'll be building a second unit with a dedicated bedroom and some more storage.

JULY 20.  Our friend, neighbor and contractor Greg Burke crafting the overhang/porch where the porch swing will go.  Greg's place is off the grid, so our house is being built with solar power, which is kinda cool.

In the foreground is the smaller trailer on which we'll be building the auxiliary unit, which will have 15 feet of enclosed space, and a 5 foot porch.   It features a Japanese-inspired design (picture will be added soon), and will have two rooms: one with cathedral ceiling and nothing in it but a bed and a small meditation nook (to maximize air quality in that most-important-of-rooms), the other a combination an office with a clothes closet, and a sleeping loft above for guests.
(Note: as of October 29th, I've decided to enclose the porch on this unit and make a nice bathroom with a claw foot tub that I found for free and a composting toilet.  I'm also going to put the washing machine there, rather than under the kitchen counter as formerly planned.  I'm looking forward to venting my frustrated artisitic energies by going nuts on the tile work, as time permits.  I.e., after the rest of the project is completed.)

These two units, which are designed to function as one house, will be parked at right angles to one another and connected by a deck.  The combined square footage of the two spaces is only 343; however, I worked very hard to fit everything I've ever wanted in a house into that space.  It took me three years at the drawing board, but I think I actually got it all in!  The house will have all this:  a very workable kitchen (this was a high priority, as we eat whole foods and are into cooking and canning, etc.), a dining room that can seat four people easily, or as many as six, provided they are all both nimble and determined; a living room with a couch and full-size keyboard (with enough room planned in to acomodate a "real" spinet piano in the future); a bathroom, an infrared sauna, a loft with a double guest bed, a pull-out futon couch in the living room (for guests who can't negotiate a loft), a walk-in closet, and a small, private office  (we both work from home, and one of us is on the phone a lot so this will be really nice to have).  There are cathedral ceilings throughout (except over the office), lots of windows, a skylight, and one set of french doors in each unit to engender a sense of airiness, space, and connectedness to the outdoors.  (The MCS makes me very light-sensitive, so I've planned for plenty of windows on the north side, where glare is not a problem, so I don't end up living in a curtained cave.  Not the best plan as far as energy efficiency, perhaps; but that angle is addressed by the fact that the space is otherwise very well insulated and is tiny!)

In addition to the enclosed spaces listed above, there will be a 5 by 8 foot porch on the small unit, and a 4-foot wide covered deck running along the entire back of the main unit.  And, of course, there's the piece-de-la-resistance: the small covered porch for the impending porch swing, pictured near the top of this page.  Small or not, all that sounds like way more than enough for two people, doesn't it?  I can't wait to move in!!

Once we've gotten land, would like to build a garage/workshop, so that Tony has a place to resume his woodworking hobby, and there's storage for things I don't want in the teeny, tiny house.

13 October

This is the smaller unit, now well underway.  It's being wired for both 12 volt and 110.

29 October 2008

The sheathing's on (Look, Ma--no plywood!) and the windows are in.  As I recently wrote in an email, this thing's finally starting to look more like a house and less like a pile of building materials and invoices!  Hooray!

This is the front of the smaller (bedroom/office/bathroom) unit.  You can see the framing above the front door for a 21" porthole, which will serve as a functioning window.  Both houses will have these over the front door. (The bedroom porthole will have a half moon etched on the glass; the main house, a sun with rays.) The portholes are a fenestral nod to my years as an oceanographer; and--more importantly--they are going to look wicked cool!

Note:  I've about reached my size limit on this page, so for the latest, please go to the Safe House, pg.2 page.