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How To Build an Open Source House?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the mind-the-gap dept.

Hardware Hacking 274

An anonymous reader writes "I'm starting a project that I hope that the engineers, makers and general DIYers in the Slashdot crowd can help out with. The full story's on the website, but the short version is as follows: my aim is to make a cheap, recycled, sustainable building, to document the process fully and to release anything that would help others to do the same. I intend to use an old train carriage as the shell, but the ideas should extend to shipping containers, aeroplane fuselages or anything similar. I know I'm not the first to do this, but I can't see anyone else who's provided a detailed step-by-step account of the build, complete with plans and the rest. Before I start, though, I'm trying to draw on as much collective experience as possible, and to head off mistakes before they happen. My question to Slashdot is simple: what do you think I need to know before I begin?"

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Use a shipping container (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813046)

Use a shipping container, install drywall, utilities.

FP

Re:Use a shipping container (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813182)

The FP from the AC left out an important step -- INSULATE!

Re:Use a shipping container (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813752)

Drywall dose insulate. Not as well as some other materials and yes you can add additional insulation but drywall alone dose act as an insulator.

Know the right people (5, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813064)

First off, build a list of local electricians and plumbers, and the name of whomever is going to sign off on this house with regard to permits and other legal issues. IE: People who know your local regulations.

Get their opinion and evaluate their willingness to work with you, because the last thing you want is a finished project that gets condemned.

Re:Know the right people (3, Insightful)

ngrier (142494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813426)

Right on. Even if you learn enough to be a:
  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • Engineer
  • Architect
  • HVAC installer
  • ...

    you'll still need to design plans, get permits and get the whole thing inspected and approved. And while most jurisdictions will allow you to make said improvements to your own dwelling, they're going to go over everything with a fine tooth comb if you're not licensed in that trade. My parents built their own home, but even still, got help from all the above to do the plans, oversee inspections and help with the trickier parts of each of those aspects. Good luck, though. A worthy endeavor.

Re:Know the right people (3, Informative)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813462)

I'll second this. I'm an architect and have a friend who is also an architect who had a plan to add to his existing house using some shipping containers. After drawing the detailed plans, the city refused to permit (I'm not sure exactly why, but he scrapped the idea). You'll want to put together a fairly detailed set of drawings, calling out the shipping container (or other shell), how it is finished, insulated, how the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems interact, the windows and exits (for life and safety code), etc. I would make sure to have all the decisions made before I started, and consult with the various engineers (MEP, structural, civil) before going to the permitting authority. The biggest deal (depending on your location I suppose) is the insulation. If you can rely on passive solar for heat and you can find some good heat storage mechanism (I'd recommend water) then you may be able to get by with less insulation but it depends on the climate. Shipping containers seem like a great idea (as do A/C fuselage) but are very hard to insulate, esp given the limited interior size which a fur out for any reasonable insulation would make even smaller. I think you'd be better off with using recycled wood products with integral insulation (like SIPs for instance), or even rammed earth or earth block (like adobe) and doing the majority of the labor yourself.

Re:Know the right people (3, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814060)

Yeah, I've only spent a few minutes thinking about it, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a way of adequately insulating a tube car without completely destroying the character of it. Especially if you don't want to spend a fortune on fancy materials. Maybe from the outside it'd still look like a tube car, but on the inside it would feel entirely different.

While I see the appeal in reusing existing containers of various sorts, really the only benefits they offer as a building material is that they already exist and they've got some structural qualities. Other than that, their original design requirements are often rather harsh in terms of long term human habitation. A storage container is a miserable place to spend an afternoon. Just because you can spend a bunch of time and money making it comfortable doesn't mean that that is a good use of resources.

Re:Know the right people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32814110)

Serenity is a +5 Insightful post with 0 replies.

Ha Ha!

Re:Know the right people (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814142)

Or bypass the permit altogether and do it under the table. It's really no one's business what you build on your property.

Re:Know the right people (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814228)

This works great up until you decide/have to move and try to sell the house. Or a neighbor complains about something. Or someone gets hurt on your property (while trying to break in, for example). Once any of those things happens, a city inspector will become VERY interested in ANY modifications you've made to the property without a permit. They need the revenue from those fines, after all.

Re:Know the right people (2, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814222)

First off, build a list of local electricians and plumbers, and the name of whomever is going to sign off on this house

Talk to your wife.

Talk to your bank. Your lawyer. Your real estate agent. Your insurance company.

This project of yours may have no re-sale value.

The equity you build in your home is an important part of your estate planning.

Take the time to get to know your neighbors - otherwise you will be dodging pitchforks from the day you begin.

We all grow older - and "cool" doesn't age well.

Ugly doesn't age well.

That is why the home buyer avoids the awkward, the eccentric, the physically demanding. Why he pays for comfort even at the cost of some efficiency.

architecture: turned upside down [blogspot.com]

 

Lean-to, sod house, log cabin (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813068)

You could live in a lean-to or a sod house or a log cabin might also work, depending on what you are using for fasteners.

Or didja mean within City limits that may enforce certain structural requirements beyond your control?

What you need to know? (1)

Jeoh (1393645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813070)

Aerodynamics, thermodynamics, architecture and interior design!

Re:What you need to know? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813276)

Cheetos are tasty.

Re:What you need to know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813568)

To the moderator who modded parent as "Offtopic":
He totally needed to know that Cheetos are tasty!

This comment, however, is definitely offtopic.

Open source? Avoid the GPL (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813072)

It's my understanding that if you GPL it, Richard Stallman can come and stay there for free.

IANAL, IAAT.

Re:Open source? Avoid the GPL (4, Funny)

The Flymaster (112510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813894)

Please. RMS has no problems staying for free under an MIT license, either.

habitat for humanity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813084)

If this guy lived in North America I would suggest he instead look to help Habitat for Humanity. Blogging about that experience and posting all the details would be more helpful than building a lightly insulated, metal house.

Re:habitat for humanity (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813162)

[...] to document the process fully and to release anything that would help others to do the same.

Yes, because his documenting everything and making it available to everyone won't help people that don't live where he lives. Right?

Re:habitat for humanity (5, Insightful)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813226)

[...] to document the process fully and to release anything that would help others to do the same.

Yes, because his documenting everything and making it available to everyone won't help people that don't live where he lives. Right?

I believe that the point the AC was trying to get across is that helping others learn how to build poorly insulated homes out of materials that aren't really suitable for home construction, isn't really helping at all.

Re:habitat for humanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813364)

Actually, I was not aware of Habitat's activities outside of the western hemisphere and did not want to assume anything. After a quick web search I now realize that Habitat for Humanity is active in Britain. With that in mind.... I humbly suggest that this person lend his hand with a group that is already organized there and helping people.

Re:habitat for humanity: No (2, Informative)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813868)

The only thing you do with Habitat is frame, plant, siding, roofing and painting. That's it. They don't use any special techniques or materials and there's plenty of information and websites that describe how to do that.

Secondly, Habitat work sites are horribly managed: they're dangerous. You have way too many people running around who don't have a clue and it's too easy to hurt someone or get hurt. I as doing my job hammering and someone decided to stand behind me and help and I almost took out his face with the framing hammer. And because there's so many people, you end up BS'ing with other folks - there's just not enough to do. The best build I was ever one was this church that needed an extra hand. It was just a dozen folks including the homeowner, we worked really hard and you felt like you were doing something. Unfortunately, with this economy, they don't need the extra help and I refuse to work on other teams with more than a dozen people; which means, I don't volunteer anymore.

No biggie. They have so many people wanting to volunteer that it's hard to get a spot as it is.

Experience Required (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813096)

If you don't have personal experience, find someone who does to help you. Especially where code is involved.

Get the blessing of whoever signs your permits before you choose a site.

As an engineered structure if you want to use it in your design you might have to have some kind of plan for the tube car. ISO shipping containers can probably sometimes sneak around this because they are designed to spec, but your tube car was designed for something wholly different and if it's not getting grandfathered in then you may well need its blueprints. But this goes back to the previous point; you may not.

Make sure to use a shared water wall so that you need as little plumbing as possible. You probably want an on-demand electric water heater. It's popular to mount such a thing to the wall inside the house as near the kitchen sink as possible, and to run all hot water lines outward from that point.

Insulate, insulate, insulate. And at the same time, ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. In your situation I would want to install HEPA and carbon filters on an intake fan, but I'm a country dweller, all I have to worry about is spray days. Seems like if you need a heater an underfloor unit will be easy.

I have many grandiose plans for shipping containers but first I need someplace road-accessible to site them.

Re:Experience Required (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813600)

I have many grandiose plans for shipping containers but first I need someplace road-accessible to site them.

And I thought I was alone in thinking shipping containers would make a very durable house shell.

Re:Experience Required (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814178)

I've though about it and really they are not a great material. The costs and maintenance vs a 2x wall sheathed with t1-11. Stained the T1-11 lasts a lot longer between paintings than the container is a better insulator and a well built 2x wall will stand up to anything but a tornado and a shipping container after you put a lot of holes in it will not do much better. Florida does the concrete revetments for big class a rv's that's about the only thing that can stand a direct tornado strike and be undamaged (foot thick concrete and re-bar with the metal roll down security shutters that stand up to a riot). I've built houses and tilt up construction is very fast and strong if you go over the minimum code.

As someone with an architecture background... (5, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813098)

know I'm not the first to do this, but I can't see anyone else who's provided a detailed step-by-step account of the build, complete with plans and the rest.

That's because every building, no matter how modular or factory-built, is very customized due to local building codes, site-specific issues, and the personal tastes of the owner or builder.

What you're doing sounds cool (London Tube train car into a home) but it's such a niche idea that of course you're not going to find step-by-step how-to guides. It's admirable that you want to share every step of the process online, but truly "open-source" doesn't really make a difference in this situation. Oh, and btw, there are legal issues with releasing your construction documents for others' use. Architects and contractors are licensed because they are taking on liability for the specifications and buildings they produce.

Re:As someone with an architecture background... (2, Funny)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813432)

know I'm not the first to do this, but I can't see anyone else who's provided a detailed step-by-step account of the build, complete with plans and the rest.

That's because every building, no matter how modular or factory-built, is very customized due to local building codes, site-specific issues, and the personal tastes of the owner or builder.

What you're doing sounds cool (London Tube train car into a home) but it's such a niche idea that of course you're not going to find step-by-step how-to guides. It's admirable that you want to share every step of the process online, but truly "open-source" doesn't really make a difference in this situation. Oh, and btw, there are legal issues with releasing your construction documents for others' use. Architects and contractors are licensed because they are taking on liability for the specifications and buildings they produce.

Just build a house that meets every building code in the world!

*snickers*
-Taylor

Re:As someone with an architecture background... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814280)

What, like a mobile home?

This is actually some good inspiration: http://www.designlaunches.com/furniture/mobile_homeless_shelter_by_paul_elkins.php [designlaunches.com]

Here's a yuppie version: http://www.microcompacthome.com/ [microcompacthome.com]

I'm sure there's plenty of room in the marketspace for something in-between.

Re:As someone with an architecture background... (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813596)

Architects and contractors are licensed because they are taking on liability for the specifications and buildings they produce.

Architects are licensed for that reason, yes. Contractors -- not so. Contractors are licensed not because they are "taking on" liability. Quite to the contrary -- the problem is that some would not feel liable even if they were. They are licensed so that they can be held financially liable for money owed to subcontractors, suppliers, and customers. In many US localities, all it takes to become a licensed general contractor is to post a bond and fill a form. The bond is a financial instrument that will have the bond issuer pay your obligations, up to a certain limit. The issuer can then try to get the money back from you via usual processes for that.

Re:As someone with an architecture background... (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813922)

While the stuff you said is true, you're implying that contractors don't bear liability for their work, but they in fact do. If a foundation collapses because the drawings didn't have enough steel in the concrete, then you sue the architect. If it collapses because the contractor put less steel in the concrete than the drawings called for, then you sue the contractor. Well, in reality you probably sue everybody, but the contractor does have obligations to build to the drawings and can suffer legal consequences for failing to do so.

Re:As someone with an architecture background... (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813864)

I just spent 10 minutes on one of those

There is no way I want to live in one of them!

High-cube Containers are a better base... (2, Interesting)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813144)

A high-cube container is 9' 6" tall, which gives about 9' internal vertical space to work with, which means that even with 6" in the floor and 6" in the ceiling for insulation, electrical, plumbing, etc, you have an 8' vertical space.

Normal containers are a foot shorter, which means it will feel more claustorphobic, and train carrages are even shorter.

The biggest challenge is the width, with only less than 8 feet of width, you pretty much HAVE to mate containers side by side and remove the interior walls to get nice space.

Re:High-cube Containers are a better base... (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813988)

Train carriages differ between countries. Pretty standard CSX (north american) rail boxcars can be bigger than studio-sized apartments. Think 60'-9" long, 9'-6" wide, 13' tall -- that's 577 square feet, or 54 m^2. Presumably you would install insulation on the outside -- at least in Europe there are plenty of exterior-grade acrylic-finished styrofoam systems, that are easy to install.

Records (1)

U8MyData (1281010) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813150)

Keep meticulous records, notes, and everything else. Not only are housing prices, at least for now, through the "roof" so is land the last time I checked around where I live. There is also the tid bit about permits and such that always seems to cost more than it should. It will be interesting. If you blog about it and it gets enough attention, you might just catch a break or two. Good luck!

That depends (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813156)

Can I answer "You need to know how to build a cheap, recycled, sustainable building"?

Heh, had to get that out of my system.

I suppose the questions I would ask have to deal with legal regards? I don't know what its like in London. I don't REALLY know what its like in the states either, I'm Canadian, but I hear news stories about Americans in various states who run into issues with the law when they don't have the 40% plant coverage on their lawn, or homes that use solar powered get in scuffles with the electric and heating companies because the house isn't capable of heating itself proper in the winter.

I mean, all that stuff aside, you'll need the land, and I don't know how you plan to do water and heating hookups, especially without a basement.

Re:That depends (1)

eastlight_jim (1070084) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814062)

Just a quick question: what has a basement got to do with water and other service hookups? I ask out of genuine curiosity. I'm sure basements are convenient places but the vast majority of houses here (the UK) don't have them. My electric and gas come straight up out of the ground into my hall way by the front door (there's a little 20cm squared cupboard up the wall) and my water comes into my kitchen under the sink.

Always know the law before you begin (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813158)

You don't want to be sued out of existence *before* you could begin with the engineering...

Building codes (2, Insightful)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813198)

You need to know the building codes in the area.

You may have lots of great, cheap but illegal ideas.

Inspectors can be your friends, helping you do it right, or a real pain.

Re:Building codes (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813422)

Plus since he said cheap, I assume that means he isn't factoring in the kind of cash bribes that are required to get codes changed or exceptions granted in most US localities.

-Steve

The traditional trilemma - you can pick two! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813230)

Cheap, sustainable, and recycled - I suspect you can have any two.

Some of the most sustainable buildings are monolithic domes (http://www.monolithic.com) but they are neither recycled nor cheap - they are about average construction cost, but VERY efficient.

I can't see an airplane fuselage or a railway car ever becoming energy-efficient.

Whatever you know, it won't be enough (3, Insightful)

dtml-try MyNick (453562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813248)

What do you think I need to know before I begin?

  • It's going to take a *LOT* longer then you anticipated.
  • It's going to cost a *LOT* more then you calculated.
  • If half of the complete construction goes according to the original plan you have done a great job.
  • You have less friends then you thought you had.
  • You overestimated your own skills and knowledge. Not even a little bit, a lot.
  • If you have the guts, stamina, willpower and cash to complete it. It most likely will be one of the most fulfilling you will ever do in your live.

Building your own house from scratch is not for the fainthearted. But if you succeed you will have done something most people dream of their entire life.

Re:Whatever you know, it won't be enough (3, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813504)

So, it's just like a software project.

Re:Whatever you know, it won't be enough (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813604)

Yes, except that when you screw up, you've not only wasted some time, but you've also damaged a bunch of expensive materials that you have to pay for again.

I know software isn't easy, but when the costs for prototyping and experimenting are so much less than in the physical world, it's amazing how much software still doesn't work well.

Re:Whatever you know, it won't be enough (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813516)

Building your own house from scratch is not for the fainthearted.

Building your own house from scratch is easy. Building your own house from scratch that meets all your needs, is durable, will withstand harsh conditions, stays within your budget, is built within the timeframe you need it, and complies with all government building codes; well, that's much harder than it looks. :)

Re:Whatever you know, it won't be enough (1)

grazzy (56382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813892)

You made a small error:
done something most people never dreams of in their entire life.

Re:Whatever you know, it won't be enough (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814002)

It's going to cost a *LOT* more then you calculated.

If the permits are available for such a project, this is going to be the next big hurdle. Land in London is expensive, there's no getting around it. A cheap shell and lots of custom work inside it will leave you with a moderately priced dwelling on very expensive land. In many areas, that's what you call a teardown. ;) I've been wanting to build an LV (http://www.rocioromero.com/) modular home for a while - not relevant to you in London, but an example of a fairly moderate priced structure with the potential to be quite environmentally friendly. Finding where to build it is the big problem.

Re:It's going to cost a *LOT* more then you calcul (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32814246)

Take your best real estimate.... Take your partner's best real estimate.... add them together and then double that. Oh, did you say unconventional building materials? Triple the estimate.

Two Word Answer: (1)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813282)

Zoning Laws.

Doesn't matter what you're building, you need to know what's allowed for your area.

Great source for info (1)

jeillah (147690) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813288)

Try Mother Earth News (motherearthnews.com). They have lots of articles on that subject. You should be able to locate what you need online although their search engine sucks. You can even buy their archives on CD is you want.

check out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813290)

Architect Samuel Mockbee's work for some creative inspiration.

Make an igloo like in the cartoons (5, Funny)

syntap (242090) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813304)

A bread pan and some water is all you need; fill, freeze, stack, repeat until you have a house. To recycle, add heat. Freezing water hasn't been patented by Amazon yet, so do it while it is still an open technology.

There's a reason... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813340)

" can't see anyone else who's provided a detailed step-by-step account of the build, complete with plans and the rest"

For the same reason you don't see much of that for more conventional houses. There's just too much that's unique and individual to a given climate, microclimate, regulatory environment, local customs, materials availability, individual preference, zoning, building lot, etc... etc...

A house properly designed for Miami will have to deal with heat and hurricanes. A house properly designed for Seattle will have to deal with cold and earthquakes. (And yes, dealing with heat and cold require different strategies - it's more than just insulation.) And that's just the big items... Here around Seattle there will be considerable detail differences depending on whether you're on a slope in the hills or down in the flats of the valleys. Get up into the mountain passes and you have a different environment, cross the mountains into the dry side of the state and you have something much closer to Miami than Seattle climatically speaking,

Re:There's a reason... (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813514)

What I love is all the jet-skiing bikini babes just East of the mountains in Seattle.

Re:There's a reason... (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813620)

They weren't in bikini's, but there were babes jet skiing on the Snoqualmie river this past weekend.

Re:There's a reason... (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814042)

What I love is all the jet-skiing bikini babes just East of the mountains in Seattle.

You're either:
1) Making an ignorant joke
2) Aware of all of the beautiful lakes east of the Cascades which do indeed have jet-skiing bikini babes in them (in the summer)

But I'm not sure which one!

Re:There's a reason... (2, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814196)

1.
Thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Re:There's a reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813956)

This is exactly why it needs to be open sourced and build a database by zone. The hard part would be updating new/changed regulations but this is where crowd sourcing comes in.

Sourceforge (4, Funny)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813350)

There's a Sourceforge project for this already. The developers have done a wonderful job on the home theater and kitchen, but nobody's worked on the plumbing and foundation yet.

Domotic system (1)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813354)

Perhaps you will want to integrate lights and sensors for scenes (manual or automatic) and alarm system.

You need to find out which standard to use, as there are several out there.

Unless you are going for a wireless protocol like Zigbee, and even if you do, you can't have too many tubes going to windows (for opening sensors), radiators (if you use them, you want to control the hot water feed to them), the outside (temperature, light, humidity sensors at least), the middle of a wall on each room (or coach!) (temperature and movement sensors).

Finally, if you are going to integrate the alarm system with your home automation system, you will need to find a provider that will interface to your house.

Re:Domotic system (1)

Dexx (34621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813566)

What about a focus on making the house upgradeable? Designed in such a way that when you need to move the wiring around when you need it. Maybe removable wall panels that attach with magnets or something?

Re:Domotic system (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813578)

He asks for advice on building an open source house and you start with his home-automation wiring.

Classic open source.

"How come your doors don't have any doorknobs? How do you open them?"
"Oh, that's a user interface issue. Nobody was interested in that part of the design."

Re:Domotic system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813990)

> How do you open them?

Open-source house is already open and stays so. It's what the GPL requires!

Rebut Global (5, Informative)

Massacrifice (249974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813362)

We had a french TV show here in Quebec called "Les citadins du rebut global" (loosely translated to "Citizens of the Global Trash"), which is part home building show, part junkyard wars. They have four seasons up to now, each in which they build a house in a different setting and from different found materials. It's quite a good show actually, it won a few TV industry prizes. The website also has a few interesting blurbs of video sprinkled in the "reportages" section.

http://www.citadins.tv/ [citadins.tv]

In one season they have to build a house with only 15000$, in another they renovate an abandoned industrial space, in the third season they build a house supplied only with alternative energy sources.

I dont know if english subs are available for it, but the process of building a house being very graphic by nature I assume you could grasp quite a few concepts just by watching it. They used to sell the show in boxset format, but it might be obtained from "other sources" too. Just sayin'...

reusing building materials (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813688)

That show should be the direction of which way to go.

Train tubes or aircraft fuselages were not intended to live in. They will be energy pigs: little insulation, drafty (caulk? Hah!) the metal will conduct heat, etc... Any environmental "savings" by using material like that will be eaten up by wasted energy.

Now going the path of the parent, you'll have a much better chance of being energy efficient, complying with building code, and reusing building materials.

One of the biggest wastes in building is demolition: folks just throw old homes into landfills. Tear it down. Put the crap in dumpsters. Haul it away and dump it into a landfill.

At least here in the states, there's a growing trend of recycling homes: disassembling homes and reusing wood, copper, wire when they can. You'll have to look around or disassemble some old houses yourself.

Try here for ideas on materials Green Building Advisor and FineHomeBuilding.com. [greenbuildingadvisor.com]

To all the building code replies... (5, Interesting)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813412)

I am in the process of building my own eco-house. The first step is to get some land outside the "rubber-stamp" "where's your permit" world because when the inspector shows up he will take one look at your creation and since it will not fit neatly in one of his stacks redtag it until it does. What we did was buy unimproved land a few miles from an unincorporated city of a few hundred people. The only regulations we are under are county which deal with water and septic, which is good all the way around. As for anything else.. I could build a match stick house on a gasoline foundation with a blowtorch door bell and no one would say squat.

Re:To all the building code replies... (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813528)

I could build a match stick house on a gasoline foundation with a blowtorch door bell and no one would say squat.

God, I want to live here. Or at least send out party invites.

Re:To all the building code replies... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813936)

Where he lives "Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms" is a convenience store.

Re:To all the building code replies... (2, Insightful)

b0bby (201198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813858)

He's in London. There's not going to be any escape from regulations and permits.

Re:To all the building code replies... (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813862)

How useful is an open source house when it's not up to the average building code?

Re:To all the building code replies... (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813938)

He's in the UK. Even if he goes outside London, that type of environment simply doesn't exist there... unless he wants to move to a western US state and build there, but then he'd have to ship the tube car.

Re:To all the building code replies... (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814260)

>> I could build a match stick house on a gasoline foundation with a blowtorch door bell and no one would say squat.

I wanna party with you next 4th of July.

what you need to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813420)

What you need to know befofe you begin is......

Your local building codes!

Carlos

This could be useful: (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813442)

You are going to have to comply with things like building and fire codes, unless you want to exist in legal limbo. On the plus side, because rail cars presumably had to follow DOT regulations of various sorts(and are only one story tall) code compliance isn't going to be the biggest hurdle in the world; but you'll still have to do it.

http://bulk.resource.org/codes.gov/ [resource.org] is, by a fair margin, your best bet for free access to building, fire, and similar codes(run by one Carl Malamud, something of a hero in the "open public access to government documents" business). It might be less useful to someone of the Limey persuasion, which you seem to be; but many US municipal and state codes simply incorporate wholesale various industry-standard codes, many of which are of international reach. Depending on your location, you may still need one or more licenced people to sign off, for it to all be legal, and you might be able to get a copy of any local codes from some local authority.

More generally, If you want this project to be "open source" in a useful sense, you'll likely want to focus on two things: One is obvious: documentation. You want documentation anyway, just to save your sanity; but that is what you will be sharing with others. Second, slightly less obvious but more important, is modularity. An "Open Source" project that beings "Obtain 1 model XYZ-FOO-123 underground train car. Follow the following steps precisely to convert it into a house." That's a build log, which is fine; but it is of rather limited re-usability. Train cars(and probably other things you will end up incorporating during the course of the project) are the sort of item that is cheap to free(depending on the scrap/collectors market at the time) if you get lucky, uneconomically pricey otherwise. Some people will have them, some won't. Those who do have them will pretty much be stuck with the model they have.

What you will want to do, if you wish to make this a useful "OSS" project, is build it out of a bunch of documented modular components that fit in your environment; but could, possibly with some adaptation; be used in all sorts of other contexts. "Design for platform with sliding wall-mounted pivots that can be unfolded as either a sleeping surface or a table" is useful for anybody who has a flat wall and not much space. Various things of that nature will add up to the solution to your specific problem; but will also be generally applicable.

Coming back to code, and general applicability, and legality, you might also wish to explore minimizing your dependence on things like gas lines and mains electricity in your design. These are the most dangerous if a n00b fucks them up, the most likely to be code/legal-requirement encumbered, and the most likely to differ between nations. 12/24 volt electrical systems, for instance, will allow you to tap the experience of the camper/RV enthusiasts, and may well subject you to far fewer regulatory headaches. Trivial integration with solar is fun also.

regulations, laws, and code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813468)

Tons of info regarding using shipping containers. http://www.shipping-container-housing.com/

The "open source" idea is novel, but state, municipal, and local laws and regulations regarding residential housing code and habitability are fairly particular and the least "open source" aspect of the project.

My experience with open source projects (2, Funny)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813526)

Well, based on my experience with open source projects,... I imagine you'll generate a lot of interest, the blueprints will look great but in the end, you'll end up with a shody foundation and maybe some framework done but your workforce will abandon you before you put up the drywall...

a house from new TV sets (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813548)

I live in a large city. The price of an apartment or a house here is so high that I could built the same size apartment from new LCD TV sets.

I mean walls and roof from the flat TVs.

The plumbing can be done nowadays practically with bare hands from metal-plastic tubes, which are not that expensive. In the past such things had to be welded on the spot and it was long and expensive.

A phone cable I do not need, I can use wireless 3G network for Internet and telephone.

I do not understand why the housing keeps being that expensive.

Re:a house from new TV sets (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813736)

You see that new guy outside walking into the Super's office? He's willing to pay the rent the landlord is charging. that's why it keeps being that expensive. And in a big city, the rent is determined by the value of the land far more than the value of the building materials.

3 words... (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813810)

I live in a large city. ... I do not understand why the housing keeps being that expensive.

Location, location, location.

Re:a house from new TV sets (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813980)

Because the people that build the houses want to be paid in proper money - the same goes for the ones selling you the stuff it's made of and the guy that used to own the land you wanted to build on.

Then there's all the hassle with getting permits etc.

And in the end, people compare that cost against buying one that's already build, and actually pays more, because they can move in in a couple of weeks.

Options (1)

Zimmel (1803270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813624)

One thing I would consider wherever you are is a composting toilet. You can also compost your kitchen scraps in it. After a year, you can then use the compost in a garden. If you're going to be off the grid, you might consider trading in your TV and PC for a large laptop that is more power efficient.

Re:Options (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813840)

In London, there might be problems with using composted human waste in a garden. Living off the grid would seem to be unnecessary, since grid power is likely to be more efficient than the alternatives.

Re:Options (1)

Zimmel (1803270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813898)

I forgot to mention, I'm working on a similar project with shipping containers.

Interesting... (1)

gabereiser (1662967) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813680)

While I'm not at all opposed to the idea, I can't help but think this is unnecessary. If you can't afford housing in London, isn't there something like welfare or section-8 that can help you? Here in the states, if you can't afford housing you can get a subsidized place via section-8. The idea here is sound but in the end I think the only persons it will benefit is you sir, because you can't afford housing in London why do you stay?

A Train Carriage? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813684)

My first question is regarding the choice of starting materials - in particular how do you plan to transport said piece? A train carriage is large and heavy - and hence not even remotely cheap to move around. Your Ford Mondeo will probably not be able to tow it, and I'm guessing the odds are slim that your site has easy railroad access to have it driven there.

In other words, while said carriages may be plentiful in availability, they might not be that great in practicality.

You sound hipstery (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813710)

While its all charming and cool to come up with an "open source house" - there are many pitfalls/roadblocks to just coming up with your own home design. Most of us call that "The Real World".

SoCal Acid Test (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813760)

If you can get your plans permitted in Santa Monica, you should be golden for the rest of the planet.

/Adam Carrola

Are you really going to do this thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813776)

Or is is just an interesting and politically correct idea you thought you'd toss out?

Because for every project like this that is actually built, about 1000 are talked about and proposed and first steps are taken. I presume from the phrase "railroad carriage", you're not in the US, so I don't know much about your local issues, but here, land will be the first issue. Before you do anything, either own the land or go to the bank and ask about a loan. Chances are "computer says no". If you can secure the land, then worry about getting your carriage, zoning, and all the plumbing, fire code and electrical issues.

There's a reason why most houses in the US are built balloon style with 2x4's. It works, it's well understood and the labor isn't nearly as expensive as you might think.

Trailer Park (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813806)

If you're going to build it in an old Railroad Carriage, you're basically talking about a Mobile Home. Why not just try to find a Trailer Park that will allow you to haul it and dump it on one of their spots. You should be right at home there, because trailer parks with low standards are pretty permissive.

Re:Trailer Park (2, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814210)

People have done some nifty things with trailer and container houses...

http://www.greendiary.com/entry/20-amazing-homes-made-from-shipping-containers/ [greendiary.com]
http://26.media.tumblr.com/9cyPFQbgCnxj7a2aELgniTn8o1_500.jpg [tumblr.com]
http://renaissanceronin.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/shipping-container-treehouse.jpg [wordpress.com] (OK, OK, it's just a CGI :P )

I've been leaning more toward things like FlatPack houses, since the shipping effort is much lower per sq ft.

Thing to know (1)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813848)

A recycled tube train is tough, weatherproof and small enough to fit into a plot of land in a crowded city

I am not a backyard architect, but even if this modular or prefab home was cool looking like a Rocio Romero and was able to meet laws and deed restrictions, if this is any sort of nice urban place, you would probably be instantly hated by all of your neighbors. I like these kinds of houses though and also took an interest to tiny houses [tumbleweedhouses.com] and some of the modern designs at freegreen.com. I unfortunately just can't build one in my neighborhood, and would have to build it in the local trailer park, which is a low class area I would not want my child to grow up in. As much as I dislike having my cookie cutter home, there are other factors to consider.

F/OSS CAD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813914)

It would be most beneficial if there were a viable F/OSS CAD package you could use to document your efforts, but there is not. The best you can probably do is to use a proprietary package, and export the drawings to an open format. It is difficult or impossible to produce even rudimentary 2D mechanical drawings with any efficiency using F/OSS software. The biggest F/OSS hole there is, IMO.

Use Bi-wings (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813932)

They make for a wonderful elevated deck area with a built in awning

There are accounts out there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32814020)

This is an account of an echo friendly house. Not exactly what you're looking for, but you might get some ideas.
http://www.simondale.net/house/

barto (1)

nairatinu (777293) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814040)

I would avoid the word "recycled" in your concept formulation, as most items are not "recycled" but "down-cycled" which, insidiously, promotes the green-washing of ill-designed products and product packaging. "Recyclable" would be a much better idea/framing to incorporate, that is, use of items that are completely truly recyclable once they have met their design life (metal roofing, hay bale construction, etc.). A much tougher standard to meet, of course, Just my $.02

Green Housing (1)

Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814086)

If you're really and truly sincere about reducing your footprint, and want to buy a "green" house, buy a pre-existing structure. ALL of the costs and impact has ALREADY occurred, while ANYTHING that you build new is going to generate trash. If you want to get something that's really going to reduce your impact buy a much older home (pre- 1950s), since they usually have a ton of passive heating/cooling techniques built into them. (Porches, large shade trees, thermalmass) OTOH, if you're just interested in the smug factor, there's nothing like building a house that's Green, and attracts a lot of attention, before being abandoned a few months/years later when the obvious problems become overwhelmingly painful.

Re:Green Housing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32814256)

Yeah, there's nothing more efficient than a house built with no insulation, single-pane windows, and ancient appliances!

And don't forget, those large shade trees eventually die and/or come down in storms.

dom

go with shipping containers (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814092)

Your website isn't specific about why you've dismissed shipping containers. Let me explain why they're your best bet compared to the other modular materials you're considering.

Shipping containers are cheap and easy to transport and arrange. They can easily be modified with standard cutting and welding tools. No pre-existing windows or other openings than the doors on the end, so it's a sturdy, stackable modular material.

Airplanes are made of high-grade aluminum and are not cheap, easy to obtain, or convenient to transport if the plane is of any size worth using. The shape doesn't lend itself to stacking, so you don't have many options for architecture. Aluminum is also not very easy to weld, so good luck with that. Because aluminum is a valuable metal, airplanes are more prone to recycling than re-use.

Train cars- same thing as airplanes except that they're also rife with windows that will need to be covered and they are extremely hard to move to a location away from train tracks. There is a lot of high-grade aluminum and steel in their construction, so if they're transportable, they're also likely to be recycled rather than re-used.

Shipping containers really are the way to go. Don't sweat that they're too short or narrow. Simple cutting and welding can fix that. Different locales frequently collect a surplus because shippers don't want to spend the diesel to return an empty one. So you're helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the container if you can re-use it at its one-way destination.

Seth

I built 4 houses - materials costs not the issue (4, Informative)

boristdog (133725) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814292)

I have built 4 small houses/cabins, a couple barns and other structures. Your main expenses will be for utility hookups.

I have a ranch, so my experience is somewhat different since I don't have to pay much heed to local permits and regulations. I just make sure I build above code so everything works well.

Building costs are not much for a simple structure. Your major costs are going to be a septic system or sewer hookup, water and electric hookup. I can build (and have built) a small cabin with bedroom, bathroom, closet, living room, kitchen and porch for under $5000 in materials. But a small septic system, a well and electric hookup will cost over $10,000 in my area, and that's if I build the septic system myself. Just sewer hookup in a city can cost anywhere from $5000 to $20,000 or more. Electric hookup can be between $500 and $3000. Not sure about water hookup, but a well ain't cheap.

So first concentrate on the utilities. That will let you know if you can afford it.

Cheap housing is vital. (2, Informative)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#32814300)

When many, many people spend an enormous percentage of their energies in paying down mortgages and similar, there is little time left over to work on the self.

This is a huge problem, and if the housing/energy problem can be effectively solved, then you are on your way to freedom. And there ARE solutions.

Buy cheap property and build on it. There are going to be massive regulations on house building; the government has a vested interest in preventing people from growing strong, so you'll have a million and one obstacles thrown in your way. I don't know what to suggest there except perhaps keep your head down and stay off the radar, or wade in and do the paper work. It depends on your personal strengths and personality type.

As for train cars. . . Why not an old school bus? Train cars are hard to move, but you can DRIVE an old bus to a location and it provides a similar kind of of weather-proof shell to work with.

Another idea is that a simple shelter of two by fours with a tarp on raised shipping pallets, along with a propane heater can get you through the winter if need be, and provide general shelter while you build your other projects.

I know one guy who did this, and ran 150 meters of power cable from his neighbor across the property and just paid him whatever the extra cost was on the meter. Eventually you can put up solar panels to service your basic needs.

There are lots and lots of ways to do this and hundreds of web sites which have info to help you out.

The main tricks, though, are getting property where you can drill a water well. If you can get some land near farmers, then you can learn how to feed yourself also. Not a bad idea considering the way the world is turning. Though, England is kinda screwed for weather. No matter what climate change does, England is pretty much fsked, so perhaps moving somewhere warmer is a good idea. . ?

Anyway, good luck and have fun! (And

-FL

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