A 40-year-old web designer from California, USA, has responded to the recession and the potential threat of losing his job by designing and building small houses out of throwaway materials.
Using discarded pallets from skips and building sites, Michael Janzen has designed a range of small dwellings, the first of which he built for no outlay, having gone online to the US website craigslist.org to find free materials.
Mr Janzen saw this first design of the Tiny Free House as a reaction to the modern obsession with earning more and buying bigger house. He told The Pavement
: "I don't currently need the Tiny Free House as a home for myself, but if I were to lose my job, it could become my home. In many ways, it is part of my job loss back-up plan."
He also sees their use for temporary accommodation it areas affected by natural disaster and cities affected by homelessness. "I'm also trying to show that human ingenuity can overcome any obstacle," he explained. "My hope is to inspire everyone, from policy makers to the people who need homes, and show that there is no excuse not to build simple tiny homes for anyone that needs one."
Although Janzen stressed pallets were "not ideal for building anything", they were great for making "walls and floors" - "a pallet house can be built just using a hammer, wood saw, hack saw, and nails," he said.
However, he added: "The biggest challenges with building any alternative housing centres around community and local government acceptance. I'm avoiding permits and approvals with my Tiny Free House project by building it on a trailer and parking on it on rural land owned by relatives. Technically, it's a shed on wheels, but it will be complete with a toilet, shower, bed, and kitchen."
His first pallet house is shown in our centre pages, and his work and those of others he blogs about can be seen at www.tinyhousedesign.com
Michael Janzen advises the following if you decide to build a pallet house:
1. Build your house in a welcoming location. This is also the hardest part and the first step - talk to your local authority as well as the landowner.
2. Your safety is a top priority. Be extra careful with heating methods. Don't take risk s with open fire.
3. It's not easy to test pallets for toxins, so hand le them with care. Most chemicals used to fumigate pallets (and their loads) evaporate and dissipate quickly, but some residue may exist so use a respirator when cutting wood. Don 't burn pallet wood for the same reason. Also be sure to watch for pallets that are clearly contaminated with visible chemical spills.
4. It's best t o use pallet s for the walls and floor and other lumber for the roof. If no other lumber is available, look for long non-standard pallets and cut through the nails with a hacksaw to free the individual lumber pieces.
5. Look into using a saw dust toilet and compost human waste
6. Consider a simple grey water system for your home's drain water.
7. Obtain a simple backpacker-style water filter for clean drinking water.