11.09.2012

Pecha Kucha Night @ The Stonington Opera House, Maine

Thank you to Jen, Kati and everyone at OHA for hosting the event, inviting us to your wonderful venue and allowing us the opportunity to share our story in this fast paced, highly entertaining format! It was a great time and we really enjoyed meeting so many new people and hearing from the other presenters! This was our second "Pecha Kucha" we have had the pleasure of speaking at (Last year in Blue Hill) and we can't wait to do it again soon! 

~Jen & Trevor

www.operahousearts.org



It has been six years since Trevor and Jennifer left New York City occupied a small corner of Pennsylvania farmland and set about converting two shipping containers in order to safely shelter themselves, all essential belongings and a beagle, Miles. 

Last year they trucked both ARK's to Maine and discovered there greatest journey lay ahead.

The Great suburban experiment enjoyed by our parents generation was one of the byproducts of the United States being the only unwrecked economy after WWII officially ended in 1945. A few generations later and this same nation has been crippled by a corrupt political environment, decrepit infrastructure, and a perpetual war economy saddled with insurmountable debt seemingly on the brink of some major calamity.
We were born at the tail end of the 20th Century raised by Baby-Boomers in the Suburbs and like most of our peers concepts like fresh clean tap water, hot showers, a warm dry bed and a roof over our heads was taken for granted. Certainly this American Dream would last forever? With ever-rising cost of living, exhausted power-grid, global economic devastation, perpetual war, we were compelled to figure out solutions for ourselves.Not because we were experts or had all the answers, but the exact opposite.
Towering to the sky in stacks of thousands in sea ports, industrial parks, military bases, and cities are technicolor monuments to globalism and consumption. We recognized their obvious potential as rugged shelters and a corrugated steel chapter suddenly was delivered by truck into our lives.
Neither of us have architectural backgrounds, we relied on books and what limited information found on various blogs in 2009. We would learn more from our trials and triumphs than any research we executed.
It wasn't until we already constructed the interiors of the containers while in Pennsylvania did we realize our best decision was still 2 years ahead of us. -Moving them to Maine-
We ventured North and purchased a large tract of woods from a logging company along the northern border of Ellsworth. By the time we arrived the forest was well on its way to reclaiming itself in the few years it had been since the chainsaws and heavy equipment moved on.

It was a fresh new beginning for us and for the wild woods we now call home.
When we first decided this piece would be home I proposed marriage and soon plans were under way for us to have the ceremony and reception all on the property Jen bartered her artwork for amazing local food, we hired music friends "The Barstuards"from Bangor, and spent Labor Day weekend celebrating with friends and family from all over the world all within the secluded evergreen enclave fate and our perseverance had suddenly ushered into our lives. 

That first summer we spent here in Maine was an authentic carved in stone, once in a lifetime paradigm shift that only a few years before had been just a vague inclination out of our wildest dreams. 
Dmitri Orlov* speaks of "Four Basic Needs" and for young people today it is critical that we address these needs and emphasize local networks, communities, and self reliance. In 2009 we moved out of our apartment and into the first incarnation of our "ARKHAUS" design. 

Before that fateful day our lives existed in a world where every meal came from a supermarket, electricity and water came from huge monolithic utility companies. But since then our singular objective is to live our lives on our own terms.

*Mr. Orlov was raised in the Ukraine and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union first hand and his salient observations about both the USSR then and the US now are striking and what young people especially should be doing to prepare for a very uncertain future..

His blog: cluborlov.com 
This vast interdependent liquid fuel propelled network faces severe challenges to its existence moving forward in the 21st Century. We wanted to find a way to somehow insulate ourselves from such a troubled, exhausted, increasingly unsustainable system, and focus instead on smaller local networks for goods and services. And more to the point, minimize our cost of living while maximizing our standard of living.
With the help of friends and neighbors we built a concrete & sand "mass heat storage" or "heat battery" foundation on top of which we plan to build a cottage and greenhouse. Consisting of a perimeter frost wall four feet deep. Capped with a 4 inch concrete slab, it is underneath that it gets interesting as unlike most radiant floor systems we added 2-3 feet of sand first at the base of the foundation,
buried low in the sand is the radiant pex tubing which can be charged by solar or any other water heating system. While it takes longer to heat up than conventional designs, by the same token it retains the heat and releases it much slower. Allowing the occupants to enjoy August sunshine in November.
But we lacked the funding to completely enclose the hybrid container-radiant slab before Winter. So with only the containers and slab in place we put together a small 8x8 mudroom with a borrowed woodstove from our next door neighbors. This room allowed sheltered passage from one container to the other and the wood heat supplemented our primary source of propane.
While it turned out to be a very mild winter, we still learned a great deal having lived, worked and rigorously tested the limits of our fledgling homestead's capabilities and not the least of all seriously tested our patience, fortitude and spirit. It was our commitment to each other and our steadfast belief that we are on the verge of achieving something significant that enabled us to ride out that first winter and buy us time to compile all we had learned into a long term vision for the future. Beyond just a home or a property or learning to garden, we are in no uncertain terms attempting to jumpstart as the french Architect Le Corbusier described "a machine for living".
Even with a growing interest in re-purposing corrugated steel shipping containers as shelters like ours they are still vastly underrated, having some really amazing features that set it apart from any other building material. They are the perfect prefabricated freestanding steel structure delivered by truck, rail, sea, or air.
Standardized and manufactured in highly efficient warehouses where waste can be recycled or eliminated. Each container is wind and water tight, resists fire, pests and just about any natural or man made disaster. One container can support over half a million pounds. Our containers, it turns out, weigh just under 10000lbs each. A fact we learned when we hired a crane to replace them side by side this fall. If we were to stack more containers of the same weight it'd be more than three times the height of the statue of liberty before pushing the containers structural limit!
So what have we learned? And what are our plans for the future? First we have rearranged the two containers so they can be centrally heated by a woodstove. Living in New England heating and insulating are critical components we have had a few years now to experiment. By removing the common walls running down the middle those 160 sq ft boxes will suddenly merge into one open 320sq.ft. floorplan. We offset them by 8 feet to create, not just the 12 ft. passageway between each one but also on the one end an 8x8 bathroom and on the opposite side we plan to build a mudroom and warddrobe space.
 
 
 
 
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9.27.2012

Fall Update!

For three years our two shipping containers have been independent of one another.

In a weeks time that will no longer be the case.

In a bold move we will be completely overhauling the two boxes, joining them at the hip and upgrading every major system.

Kitchen space will be more than tripled, bathroom will be tripled in size and externalized from the containers.

Additional space in the form of a "Mud Room" on the forward end of the containers will be instantly useful and more so in the future as other phases are implemented into the design.

Ultimately more containers could be stacked on top of these two with access via the Mud Room.

A multi-level combination of sod, hard foam insulation and corrugated steel will be used for roofing to cover the containers, the bathroom, and mudroom taking advantage of the reinforced corners or "knuckles" of the containers for the most support.

The mud room and the outside of the containers will be framed with timber, lumber, and modular SIP's or "Structural Insulated Panels" that I am fabricating on site and sheathing with cedar shingles and boards.

Inside we plan to use a lot of forestry certified cedar boards for walls and floors while also exploring other mediums like plaster, tile and stone.

Electrical system will primarily derive its power from the current solar array (125 Watts), although in a few months we will be increasing the system's size to 600 Watts, a five fold increase! This, in conjunction with a 24 Volt battery bank that can last at least three days without any sun light whatsoever. Providing enough electricity for all lighting, recharging electronic devices, fans for ventilation and air circulation, and even potentially a "SunFrost" refrigerator.

There is also rumor of a pond/micro-hydro-electric project "breaking ground" yesterday...

Many more updates to come!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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9.10.2012

September Update!

So here's a quick run down:

September 4th was Jen and my first wedding anniversary! Some of our closest friends and family visited us from Pennsylvania and New York City and we were so thrilled to have them all "upta camp" with us again!

To ring in our first anniversary Jennifer's parents, sister Lynn and her three and a half year old son Joey visited us for just a few days but it was great to see all of them. They didn't have much time last year when they came up for the wedding so it was nice that they could explore the area more and it was a good excuse to take them to a few of our favorite places to eat! My Mother and her fiance Henry joined us at 66 Steak & Seafood in Blue Hill for a big feast with everyone. 66 catered our wedding last year and the food was just as good this week as it was the day we were married.

Our friends Jon and Amber brought their amazing four year old daughter Aida and their new baby boy Riley! They also brought their awesome dogs Taboo, Denali and Matilda. They are expert campers and do all sorts of cool stuff like rock climb and raise chickens and ducks. And while they brought the same tent they had used last year when they last visited, we set them up with a great tent we had just recently acquired from a neighbor that had been damaged by wind a few months ago. It only required minor repairs and we soon had it assembled and ready for the family of four (plus three dogs) to move in for the week. It was funny to us that the tent, at 225 square feet, is larger than one of our containers (160 sq. ft.). Amber and Aida spent a few days collecting blackberries and made a few jars worth of jam from their modest haul. It is delicious!

Another old friend of ours, Dahlia, went to college with Jen in NYC and is visiting us for two and a half weeks, working out on the island for a pottery studio. Like Jen, she is an amazingly talented artist and has really been learning a lot working alongside this master potter in Bar Harbor as his apprentice. She also brought her own tent but on cold damp or rainy nights we have insisted she stay indoors on our guest bed/futon. She made us a beautiful wild flower wreath that is now hanging on the one side of the container and is helping Jen paint a banner for the first annual "Happytown Hootenanny".

We were also visited one evening this week by our neighbors and friends, the Fox girls! Nikki and her two lovely daughters Willa and Netti. Aida, Willa and Netti had lots of fun running around our camp, painting rocks, and dancing with sparklers in the cool night air.

With the generous help of our friends we have begun building an alaskan slab that will be the eventual resting place for the containers where they will then be joined together. Possibly as early as next week if all goes well. After three years living in and working on the containers we have learned so much and now we feel we are ready to make some fundamental changes and improvements to the interior design and the overall layout and composition of the shelter these two containers have afforded us. The final design layout for the two boxes in conjunction with this monolithic alaskan slab is going to be a game changer here and I am sure it will garner attention world wide among container house enthusiasts and fans of The Arkhaven and our Arkhaus Initiative!

We hired our friend and trusted excavator operator, Andy, to do the site prep work. He did an amazing job as always! Carving a ditch along the north side of the pad for run off, leveling off the pad itself, digging a perimeter trench for the footing, plus he extended our driveway out another 75 yards or so to meet the pad. We will be bringing him back over the next few weeks to build a pond (more on that in another post). Jon and I built the form for the slab and placed all the rebar and mesh so now it is ready for concrete.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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