Friday, October 10, 2008

Alternative Housing: From Small to Quirky

Of the two billion or so bloggers posting regularly on-line, I imagine that about 1.99 billion of us recently have devoted a post or two to the near total collapse of the U.S. economy and its collateral damage to the economies of other countries across the world. The root of the problem centers around housing, so I thought it might be interesting to speculate about what would happen if everything continued on this catastrophic path and we were all catapulted into a world that required a radically alternative way to look at housing.

Okay, it's not likely that all the existing homes and apartments will suddenly be abandoned and collapse into piles of rubble, even if the stock market continues to tank alarmingly and the jobless rate hits an all-time high. But many changes in the way we create our homes may be required over time just to deal with issues of sustainability.

Housing is usually a consumer's major expense, whether renting or buying. In the past I've blogged about small houses, pre-fab and modular houses, and other related topics, but I decided to put together a list of links to other websites and blogs that discuss alternative housing in detail. You may be surprised by the many resourceful and interesting choices that are available.

Zenzibar is an alternative culture site that would have had great appeal back in the "Summer of Love." But there is an interesting post from 2000 about alternative housing that suggests everything from camping on public land to living in a school bus. It also mentions nomad or "snowbirds," as they're often called:

"Quartzsite is a town in southwestern Arizona where hundreds of full-time nomads gather together each winter and set up a temporary city where they have potluck dinners, buy and sell items and generally enjoy each other’s company. There are many other places like this all over America although probably none as large. There are regular annual migrations of these modern nomads from the cool north in the summer to the warm southwestern deserts in the winter."

Alternative Housing offers news and information about everything from teepees to treehouses, log cabins to floating homes. If you find the thought of hanging out in Quartzsite appealing, you can investigate RVs and trailers, too.

Alternative Solar Housing explains the advantages of a modified Buckminster Fuller concept, the geodesic dome. Their Cube Octahedron Hemisphere allows solar energy applications.

American Steel Span Buildings touts the environmental and economic advantages of using steel to construct a home or other structure. They even sell kits.

BioHome uses Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome concept, too, and gets you off the grid completely. They call it "closed system housing." The framework of the dome is covered with insulating foam and topped with bubble windows.

Green Home Building is a great site that has information on straw bale houses, a popular type of construction in the southwest. Check out Earthship design, building fanciful lightweight concrete structures, and other fascinating options. Wonderful photos, too. Entertaining, inspiring and my favorite site on this topic!

Finally, just for fun take a look at Pink Tentacle. It offers a post about "Reversible Destiny Lofts," located in Tokyo and designed by NY-based architect-poets and philosophers, Arakawa & Gins.

"In their vision, a home that keeps its inhabitants young and healthy should provide perpetual challenges. A tentative relationship with your environment,they argue, is key to 'reversing the downhill course of human life.'"

Many unbelievable photos and a video are on the site. The NY Times has a recent article about the design here. It's unlikely that this type of design will catch on in a big way, but I have a feeling that art was the motivating force rather than practicality.

[March 24, 2009 update: Arakawa & Gins invested heavily with Bernie Madoff and lost millions. Here's a link to the story in today's Wall Street Journal.]

If you know of other useful sites or blogs devoted to alternative housing, please feel free to leave a comment. Considering our volatile economic situation, an affordable, sustainable, alternative home may start to make sense to a lot of people who had never considered the possibility in the past. And if those homes are as cute as this one, well, that's not so bad.

© 2008 Cynthia Friedlob

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