August 2009 will mark the end of six years living in my small (10′ x 7′) home, the Mobile Hermitage. It’s been a great experience, but now I’m at the point where I want to take things to the next level of small, simple, and sustainable.
In general, it’s true to say that people just don’t need the space at home they once needed for books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, photographs, and other items that have now been digitized. In the workplace, many people are working in digital information based professions that don’t require a lot of space. Software programs such as Apple iLife combine photography, video production, and music composition all inside the personal computer.
While new tiny home construction is an option for a few people with money and access to land, we still have sprawling suburbs and urban infrastructure that was all built for an age prior to the current age of technological miniaturization. Imagine a world where people no longer wear XXL and XL sizes. What would you do with all of those old clothes? The same is true for housing. Fewer people need or want XXL size homes. So, creative solutions need to be developed whereby large homes can be downsized.
Consider that an empty room in a home has value that is untapped. For example, wind and solar power generating systems need a relatively climate-controlled area for electronics and battery storage. A neighborhood home could be converted into a sustainable power station that is collectively owned.
For people who need office space, and don’t have it in their current home (house or apartment), a local home converted over to shared office space would be ideal and save people in the area from a longer commute if all they are doing is driving to a cubical or small office. Homes could also be converted into fitness centers, community centers, guest houses, and coffee shops. The general idea is to allow some, limited, commercial use of homes in larger sprawling suburban areas. Larger homes could also be converted from single family to multiple occupancy. These are just a few examples of how existing wasteful urban sprawl can be recaptured an used practically.
In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed it is common in many neighborhoods to have a home fully or partially converted (perhaps the garage) to be a small grocery store, coffee shop, or business. The mixed use of spaces is commonly referred to as New Urbansim, yet the ideas has been around for a long time.
Beginning in August 2009, I plan to start a new endeavor of researching, developing, and implementing simple, small, sustainable solutions in response to some of the above strategies. The idea is to develop and showcase technologies for retrofitting apartments, homes, and businesses for greener and smaller living.
So, that’s a little bit about what my future small plans are.