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Tiny Houses for Forest Fire Recovery?  RSS feed

 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I just posted this in another part of the forum -- not sure where is best to put it. But since tiny houses may be involved....

Our community just suffered a forest fire which destroyed sixteen homes and an at-this-point unknown number of other structures. Because this is a largely low-income very rural community, quite a few of those 'other structures' had people living in them. Some of the structures actually counted as houses didn't have any homeowners insurance on them. Many of these people are living on retirement income or disability, or are self-employed. One of my friends didn't lose his house, but did lose his mechanic shop with a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of tools and equipment (he is one of the few with insurance that will cover most of his loss).

I have some ideas on helping people rebuild quickly and cheaply (it's already the middle of July, and winter comes somewhat early here, as we are at 4,500 feet elevation). The biggest problems are going to be 1. the county building department, since some of these structures were not approved as habitations (and a lot of the lots don't have wells or septic systems, which are required here), and 2. labor, since most of the inexpensive alternative forms of construction require a lot of labor.

So, I'm looking for ideas and assistance. I'll be talking to some people today and see what the needs are, see how many people actually plan to stay and rebuild and how many will be giving up for now and going elsewhere, and see what other ideas local people have. We do have a strong community here, with people looking out for and helping one another. But this is likely to be too big a job for just the local residents. I think our biggest need may be for support from someone powerful enough to cut some red tape with the building department. But if people want to come help put small houses up, I believe there will be work for them. Camping spots can be supplied, and some meals, places to take showers and do laundry, as long as the people who come are 'good neighbors'. We have a lot of older vets with PTSD, some retired folks on small incomes, people taking care of handicapped adult children (I fall into that category, with DD), disabled, self-employed, and a sprinkling of both old and young hippie types. A lot of good people here (some jerks, too, but you'll find them anywhere). Don't just jump in your car and come -- we've got to do some planning and organizing first. If you are interested in helping a community rebuild, PM me.

Oh, you may have seen something about the fire on the news -- I guess it made national news. Sprague River, Oregon, if you want to look it up.

Kathleen
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Well, the good news is with media attention more people will know your area is in need of help. Also, the news seems to indicate Red Cross has already arrived in your area. Is that correct?

Here some ideas about housing:
Adobe and cob are similar with slight differences. The main one is that cob is cobbled together and adobe is put together with mud bricks.
Earthbag homes are essentially homes that are made of bags of earth, and they are primarily known for their quick construction cost and good durability. The website that it is linked to has a ton of low cost house plans online. For a regular earthbag dome house, there is an online supply calculator.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Thanks, Dave. I'm pretty sure we can get permits for earthbag construction (there's an engineering company in Klamath Falls that advertises that they do engineering for earthbag construction -- it has to be stamped by an engineer before the county building department will approve the plans, since it isn't 'standard' construction -- we are going to see if they'll donate at least part of the cost for one set of plans that we can re-use for several homes). Cob would be more iffy, as the soil here may be okay for cob in one location but too sandy or rocky in another location (mostly volcanic soils). Earthbags will use just about any soil we've got, and since we know we can get permits for those, I think we'll go that route if at all possible. My big concern is that people get something -- even if they later use it for an outbuilding -- that won't burn the next time there is a forest fire here!

The supply calculator link will be very useful -- thanks for posting that! A friend here, and neighbor, who is also a member of this forum, has a contact for sourcing bags. We just need a set of plans for, I think, a 20' dome with loft, and one smaller attached dome. That seems like it would be useable whether it's a single retired person, or a small family. I can draw the plans, but I'm hoping to find a set already drawn up, to save time. Just started looking on line -- I'm sure I can find something.

Kathleen
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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If you are doing a bunch of houses at once, you may be able to rent/buy automated machinery--very similar to sandbag equipment used for flood control. That would help get things done before winter sets in at a very minimal cost per unit.

http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/earth-home-builder-mechanized-earthbag-construction/

http://www.unitedearthbuilders.com/#!earth-home-builder/c1bkm

http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/reader-feedback-earth-home-builder/

http://earthbagbuilding.com/articles/bagmachine.htm

Call them, they may just show up or drop off a machine for the PR potential.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I hadn't seen either of those systems before -- thanks for posting that! Don't know if mechanizing would be feasible for our community, but we do have people with heavy equipment (although I think one backhoe probably burned with the owner's house), so it's something to look into.

I've sent a message about earthbag construction to one of our community leaders (he's the head of the local Oathkeepers group, which, here, is basically emergency preparation and management). Will see what he thinks. I'm not a leader, I'm just an idea person, so someone else is going to have to see the value and convince people.

Kathleen
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The machines are not cheap, but spread out over 20+ houses they are a good investment for a contractor or charitable fund to invest in. You can work a partnership to pay him enough to cover costs from whatever community funds you get and he donates the rest of the time (tax write off) and gets some machinery when done.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Dusty, the guy I e-mailed, has forwarded the information on to about thirty other people, so we'll see what comes of it. I'll add any more info. I get here.

Thanks!

Kathleen
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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An update: as best anyone can figure, seventeen people/families lost their homes in the fire. A few have insurance and are already starting to rebuild. There was a meeting with country officials this morning, and one of the topics to be discussed was waivers for building permits for the people who were burned out. I should hear soon what the results of the meeting were. Also, we have a retired architect in our community, and he's got some plans for very small (about 500 s.f.) houses, and I'm going to share one of my plans with him, also. The ultimate goal is to get one or two sets of plans approved and then whoever wants to can use them.

Kathleen
 
leila hamaya
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Location: northern northern california
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heavy!

well you may have seen this before but i will put it out there for browsing and exploring. theres a large number of earth bag house design plans on these sites

http://earthbagplans.wordpress.com/tag/free-house-plan/

http://earthbagplans.wordpress.com/category/free-shelter-designs/

http://earthbagbuilding.com/plans/plans.htm
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Thanks, Leila, I think I've looked at all of those sites, but will check them out again.

The county meeting produced negative results. Disappointing, but not unexpected. Donations are already coming in to help people rebuild, both funds and materials. So, hopefully, everyone will have shelter again before winter!

Kathleen
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Thanks, Leila, I think I've looked at all of those sites, but will check them out again.

The county meeting produced negative results. Disappointing, but not unexpected. Donations are already coming in to help people rebuild, both funds and materials. So, hopefully, everyone will have shelter again before winter!

Kathleen


Negative, as in no waivers or no common plans or no earth bag at all?

 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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R Scott wrote:
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Thanks, Leila, I think I've looked at all of those sites, but will check them out again.

The county meeting produced negative results. Disappointing, but not unexpected. Donations are already coming in to help people rebuild, both funds and materials. So, hopefully, everyone will have shelter again before winter!

Kathleen


Negative, as in no waivers or no common plans or no earth bag at all?



Negative as in no waivers. There were two other things they were hoping to get, but I can't remember what they were and they didn't have anything to do with housing. The common plans will work, no question about that. The idea of using earthbag construction has been tossed out there, but I don't know yet how receptive people will be to that. I'm not too concerned about getting building permits for it, if we can get an engineering stamp, and since there are several counties in California that do approve earthbag construction, getting a stamp seems like it shouldn't be too hard. The biggest difficulty that I can see is that it's not something most people are familiar with. It sure does have a lot of advantages, especially for an area like this which is prone to fires; the amount of labor it takes is probably the next biggest difficulty. I'm going to be talking to our retired architect tomorrow after church, and will see what he knows about it, and if he'd be willing to consider working with it.

Kathleen
 
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