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How does a family of four survive small home living?

Raising a Family in Tight Quarters

Spartan-style tiny homes are popping up everywhere across the country. Call it what you will: a shift towards sustainable living; a natural response to a recessed economy; a necessary move by a generation burdened by enormous debt. Whatever it is, the movement is real.

There are serious practical considerations to made before committing to living in small spaces. But there are some serious benefits, too. Writer Katherine Martinko lays out some of these in her recent piece on raising her family in a 1200 sq foot home. Not tiny by definition, but still over 1600 sq feet smaller than the average American home.

Some of the biggest takeaways from living small, according to Martinko, are the money saved, increased time spent outdoors and a shift away from coveting possessions.

She doesn't delve too much into the challenges or the negatives, although they must be there. It's harder to shut away a misbehaving child when there simply isn't the room to do so. One would imagine privacy takes on a slightly different definition in such an environment.

For a full account first-hand account on small-home living, check out the full article here.

Is solar worth the hassle?

Solar Panels: Reality vs Expectation

Last month a Fortune writer published a piece that outline his first-hand experiences purchasing, installing and maintaining a 15-panel, 3.75 kilowatt solar system on the roof of his suburban Boston home. David Whitford invested almost $13,000 in a system that promises to payback in less than five years.

Whitford crunched a few more numbers and posited that 25 years of solid production out of his system would cut his home's carbon footprint by 62 tons and save $25,000, or $1,000 per year. Not bad.

That upside comes at some cost, however, and more than monetary. As Whitford explains, achieving payback requires attention to detail, multiple steps and an understanding of tax credits, SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) and the resignation that weather is unpredictable. Which means that solar power generation is unpredictable. And also, snow on the roof becomes a big deal when your roof is home to a solar panel system.

Does the article ultimately dissuade homeowners from making the green investment? Read it and determine that for yourself.

Photo by Clothesline Tiny Homes. Proud Tiny Home owners.

A Home to Hang Your Hat In - Clothesline Tiny Homes

We can't get enough tiny homes here at Renovate Your World. For starters, they require clutter-free living. And we're all about zero clutter. They're also super-green, which is world is in dire need of.

So we turn our attention to husband and wife team Shane and Carrie Caverly, who designed and built a tiny home on a trailer foundation for the ultimate in mobile living. They're calling their creation Clothesline Tiny Homes, and they've shared their design adventure with the world, from the design sketches to final photos.

Some of the features of their home include:

  • Passive solar design
  • Grew water collection tank
  • Incinerating toilet
  • On-demand hot water heater
  • Recycled framing lumber

  • All told this is 204 square feet built on a 5-wheel gooseneck trailer. Simple, small and portable.

    The Caverlys are taking orders on replicas of their prototype home, which will set you back $48,000. They also deal in designs and tiny home consultation.

    A house made from recycled bottles and other materials. Photo by Paolo Gosalvez/Al Jazeera.

    Low-Income Houses Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

    As the world weens itself off of plastic bottles, one woman in Bolivia may have found the ultimate use for those that have been discarded.

    A compulsive collector of empty bottles, Ingrid Vaca Diez of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, had stacked so many on her patio outside that her husband declared it a stack big enough to "build a house."

    Which is exactly what she did.

    The "Garbage Homes," as they've come to be known, are constructed using dirt-filled empty bottles as well as other recycled materials like expired powder mild and livestock manure.

    Check out the Al Jazeera video segment on Vaca Diez's homes. So far she's built 10 and shows no signs of stopping.

    The Bullitt Center. Photo credit Bullitt Foundation.

    Seattle's Bullitt Center Hailed the World's Greenest Office Building

    It gets 100% of its energy from solar panels and 100% of its water from rain harvesting. It's the Bullitt Center office building in Seattle, and with its recent opening it is being considered the greenest office building in the world.

    The 50,000 square foot building adopts principles from the Living Building Challenge, a model for sustainability that demands a building minimize its impact on the planet while imparting a sense of beauty on the environment in which it is built.

    The building's most prominent feature -- its roof -- spans far out from the building itself in order to house the many solar panels needed to harvest power in Seattle's less-than-ideal climate. The roof performs double-duty, too, by capturing enough rainwater to send 56,000 gallons to a cistern in the basement. According to the building website, the Bullitt Center is the first one in the US to use only harvested water to meet all of its water needs. As the water gets captured, it runs through an advanced filtration system that first treats the water with chlorine (per federal regulations) but then filters the chlorine out.

    Will the Bullitt Center design inspire a new generation of homes? We can certainly hope.

    The building currently houses the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental foundation run by Earth Day founder Denis Hayes. Additional tenants are in the process of moving in.

    Get handy(er) in 2013!

    3 Steps to a Better Home in 2013

    Are you looking to make some positive changes around the home in 2013? Why not start here?

    1) Stay Organized. Was 2012 a year of accumulation? You're not alone. Our consumptive society values materialism but doesn't seem to encourage making space for the new acquisitions. The result is a home better fit for Hoarders than for Beautiful Homes. But we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, so we're offering these de-cluttering tips for 2013.

    First and foremost, identify your storage space. Basements and attics are the two top contenders here, but those without both or either will need to get creative.

    The entry way and mudroom are areas of the home that visitors see first. Keeping those tidy is a must for 2013. Why? Because we're saying so. Get yours in order.

    Lastly, get serious about the kitchen space. You're in there everyday, so take a day and make a New Year's effort to organize the kitchen once and for all.

    2) Lower Bills. No beating around the bush. Your home has a leak. An energy leak. All that hot air is escaping, and it might as well be dollar signs. Take these 4 steps in the first month of January and use the money you save to do something nice for your family.

    Get an Energy Audit. This will ultimately save you significant time and will give you the best information on where you should be addressing leaks, cracks and energy loss locations.

    Weatherstrip Doors and Windows. This will take you all of 2 hours, give or take. And the upfront cost is infinitesimal.

    Add some more Insulation. Specifically, insulate your water heater, your pipes and attic spaces. There's heat being lost in those areas all winter long, and only you can put an end to it!

    3) Be Handy (er). You can do it! Pick up a hammer. Rev that drill a couple times. Okay, now put them both down and come back to the computer. We're going to give you 3 DIY projects that will set you down a path of empowerment and home improvement. If you've done all 3, good for you! Are you available Sunday? We're putting up drywall.

    Install a Below-Counter Water Filter. There are very few tools and steps involved in this one. In fact, a sharp mind could probably just follow the instructions and get 'er done. But the visual tutorial can help, too. Bonus: you get to help the planet by eliminating bottle water in your home!

    Inspect and Repair your Gutters. In truth, this project isn't that difficult. But the height factor makes it deserving of a more moderate rating. Whatever you, practice safe ladder climbing and consider doing this one with a partner.

    Install Crown Molding. This projects can frustrate even the experienced, so take is slow, forgive yourself for little mistakes, and measure twice!

    Have you made some improvements already? Tell us about them!

    Built of plywood in four weeks.

    The CNC House

    The architects at 1:1 Arkitektur would like us to believe that they have built a home of the future.

    And we may just believe them.

    It's not so much the home itself that is futuristic but the manner in which it was built. And that manner itself does not involve futuristic technology -- it simply takes existing tools and materials, accounts for challenges presented to our current method of building homes, and completely changes the game.

    The firm has built what they call a "Printable House" using little more than a CNC machine, a computer and many sheets of plywood. A design fed into the CNC machine tells it to make cuts in sheets of plywood that then get assembled in a specific order, sort of like a puzzle. Except at the end of this puzzle you get a house.

    And it's a house that goes up in very little time (four weeks), requiring very little in the way of cost and labor and producing very little in the way of construction waste. Additionally, there is not much else besides the plywood that goes into the construction process. No concrete, no nails.

    Sustainable, inexpensive, quickly-erected. Sounds pretty futuristic to us.

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