Images unless noted: Findhorn Foundation
While following the development of small green prefabs, It has become increasingly clear that you cannot separate the home from the context, and that what we really need is a sort of green trailer park, where people can own their unit but share common resources. It turns out that it exists, and has since 1962; Dr. Graham Meltzer just built his own home, the ecomobile, in the Park at Findhorn, a "growing eco-village and spiritual community." in North Scotland. Existing caravans (British for trailer) are being replaced with everything from yurts to eco-mobile homes.
Image: The Blended Lifestyle
Graham Meltzer's ecomobile is designed to legally be classed as a mobile home under the 1983 Mobile Homes Act; by doing so it comes under the existing zoning for the property and doesn't need new permissions. This is a strategy used by Jennifer Siegel and Andy Thomson in North America: design within the legal criteria for different housing models. but they started with the unit; Findhorn demonstrates that to succeed, you have to start with the park.
Among the virtues of the mobile home is a very light footprint, as it just has a couple of pads as foundations. Graham Meltzer describes the construction:
The Ecomobile is a lightweight timber-framed building, the structural timber being mostly recycled. The sub-floor structure comprises a reused caravan chassis aided at the perimeter by load-bearing columns on pad footings. The 200mm thick 'breathing' walls5 and 300mm deep roof are insulated with Rockwool, whilst the 150mm deep floor contains Warmcell, granulated insulation made from recycled newspaper. The exterior cladding is untreated locally grown Larch, an extremely durable and beautiful plantation timber. Interior walls and ceilings are of plasterboard, finished with odourless, solvent-free, organic paint. The flooring, kitchen worktop and window- sills are of bamboo. The building has no carpet or curtains in order to minimise house dust.
The exterior form architecturally expresses the functions of the interior spaces. The two habitable 'pods' (main space and bedroom) are clad with tactile, warm-hued timber whilst the link containing the services is more utilitarian in appearance. It is sheeted in smooth fibre cement panels painted white. The main space will soon have a living 'green' roof of sedum4. The flat bedroom roof will be utilised to harvest rainwater. The building is approached across a bridge and under a pergola that will eventually carry climbing roses. An entry porch constructed of reclaimed doors and windows and lit at night with colour-changing LEDs, provides a space to gently arrive and deposit coats and shoes. The entire progression from street to interior is intended as a series of experiences that encourage a subtle energy and mood shift from that of the outside world to a more relaxed and tranquil state.
click on plans to enlarge
The unit doesn't need much electricity; it's only 55m2, (~550 SF) there is no television, washing machine, dishwasher or microwave. Heating is by woodstove burning locally harvested firewood, passive solar and electric backup. Dr. Meltzer explains the benefits of living small:
Small dwellings require fewer materials to construct, less energy to heat, and can be filled with less material 'stuff'; at 25 m2 per person, the Ecomobile is about half the size of the average UK dwelling. Beyond material considerations, however, the Ecomobile offers a supportive setting for 'voluntary simplicity' - a less consumerist, more environmentally benign lifestyle characterised by thoughtfulness, ease and beauty. A place where the soul may find peace!
Findhorn Community Centre
But the most important message is that it does not stand on its own, but is part of a community. The electricity comes from Findhorn's wind farm; daily life revolves around "practicing spiritual principles in everyday life, including co-creation with nature and the interconnectedness of all life." It is a bit touchy-feely; one visitor noted:
I'm not in love with the central focus of healing and spiritual development: it's too intense and a bit icky. And a bit boring.
More on Findhorn
More on the Green Trailer Park:
Thoughts on Clayton's i-house
Beyond the Trailer Park: New Exhibition at Field Museum
Park Model Prefabs Go Modern
takehome: affordable modernist prefab
Trailer Trash? Not a Scent of It.