Spring lot update

Since summer is here now, thought I’d review some updates on the lot from this rather cold but busy spring. Pictures below!

-I planted a medlar tree, a damson plum tree, comice pear tree, three varieties of currants, a strawberry bed, asparagus bed, and jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke) bed to the garden. Also built an additional two new garden beds, and spread a small mountain of compost and woodchips, 11 yards in total.

-I ordered a lovely used wood fired oven (Fontana Forni Gusto), which has been happily baking anything you can throw at it (at up to 750 degrees)- pizzas, bread, pumpkin stuffed with fondue, roasted veges, yum.

- Jay and I dug a huge deep trench and planted a bunch of nearly full grown bamboo around the hot tub, to add some desired privacy.

- I salvaged a truck load of alley bricks (dating to the ’20′s) that DC was removing while repaving the alleys near the lot- destined for the landfill. A little cleaning and they got repurposed into a new garden patio.

- Tony and I have been working hard to put up the new 288ft2 Studio Shed on the lot.  Exterior is now completed and looking quite fine. Interior is fully insulated and drywalled, with just the final paint remaining.

- In the Studio Shed I put together a table- a custom milled 7’ slab of 2.5’’ hickory butcher block on a 1650 lb foot operated hydraulic lift- height adjustable for a coffee table, dining table, work table.

- To have a functional woodshop in the shed I found a great used Shopsmith (a classic American machine which must be one of the most versatile shop tools around).  Also put in a welding table for the new MIG welder that’s about to get fired up.

 

take action: final comments on DC zoning changes

DC’s zoning has not been comprehensively updated since 1958. After 6 years of drafting and public input, the Office of Planning is about to finalize a new set of zoning regulations that could transform the city by allowing accessory dwelling units (ADU’s- carriage houses and microhomes behind an existing house, or basement apartments), as well as development of residential structures on alley lots.  If done correctly, this would be a huge boon for affordable housing in DC, and allow smaller housing units across town.

BUT! While the current draft is ok, it could be even better. There are conservative forces that would love to do away with any new affordable accessory dwelling units in the city, and the current rules are rather restrictive. So DC Residents, we need your help, this week! Once these final comments are in, the Zoning Commission will vote on the final package.  Please help by:

A: Signing the Petition from the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
They have been on the forefront of advocating for progressive change.

B: Submitting written testimony to advocate for specific changes we need. Here is an easy testimony template with specific language changes we need (note these are my (Brian’s) views on ADU’s and alley lots).  Zoning Commission will only accept emailed comments in PDF format, which must include your signature. Email signed PDF to: zcsubmissions@dc.gov .  Subject line of email must include the case number (08-06A) and the subtitle or subtitles that your testimony refers to (Subtitle D).

C: Testify at the Wards 1-8 public meetings around town this coming week. It’s easy, and the Coalition folks can support you.

Thanks- zoning is the DNA of a city, and it’s a rare moment when we can act to positively affect the character of our city for years to come! With thousands of us connected through Boneyard Studios, we can really make a difference.

Showdown: $55K DC micro house vs $525K 1 bedroom DC apartment

It occurred to me as I’ve toured a number of 1 bedroom apartments around DC just how little additional functionality one gets for 4x the space (and 10x the price) of a decent micro house in this town.  Just for fun, I developed a matrix comparing the $55K, 210 ft2 Minim House to a fairly hum drum $525K, 923 ft2 Georgetown 1BR apartment.*  Just to check that I wasn’t cherry picking an exceptionally poor design, I also looked at similar floor plans in brand new ‘professionally designed and built’ apartments for rent at AvalonAvaGables, and Equity, all of which have 750-800ft2 one bedrooms (for $1700-3300/month), with roughly comparable floor plans.

I will let readers be the judge of the relative tradeoffs of both living spaces. In this case, functionally, it seems an additional 713ft2 (and $470K) buys two more oven burners, a dishwasher, a bathtub, and bit more closet space.  One might think professionally trained architects and builders could do a bit better with quadruple the space of a micro house.

Minim vs 1br apt

*the obvious caveats here are that the micro house price does not include land value or any building amenities, and that much of housing prices is reflected by location. This post is a basic comparison of functionality of a 210 ft2 space vs a 923 ft2 space.

A workshop designed like a tiny house

We believe tiny house workshops should be like tiny houses: small, intimate, and designed to your individual needs.  That’s why a couple of the professionals involved in building houses at Boneyard Studios put together a tiny house design workshop for the DIYer who wants more technical information and planning materials for their tiny house build. Our first workshop this past fall was a success and a lot of fun to put on, so we are redoing it again this Spring at Howard University.  Find out more details about the workshop and watch a video from our past workshop.  Check out our photos and materials from the past workshop below and see why I, Lee, was motivated to help design a workshop with these professionals after my experience building a tiny house.

Throughout my tiny house project, I have realized how much building requires project planning, understanding major decision points in the process, and a knowledge of building code and materials.  I didn’t fully understand how one decision impacted another or what building decisions and techniques were unique to tiny houses.  I had naively bought into some of the promotional materials in the tiny house world that claim you can build a tiny house with just 14 tools or that make it seem like building a tiny house is simpler and easier just because it’s smaller than a regular house.  Our experience has been the opposite: a tiny house actually requires more planning, and a pretty thorough knowledge of building science, health and safety, and codes (International Building Code, RV code (ANSI/RVIA), and city code and zoning) in order to build a structure that is safe, durable, and is an efficient use of space.  Come learn with us again this spring!

 

Studio Shed coming to Boneyard Studios

garage-5B

The newest structure planned at the Boneyard Studios lot will be a 12′x24′ Studio Shed, coming in Spring 2013.

Conceptually, it made sense to have a larger common gathering area for folks at Boneyard Studios, and hopefully the wider neighborhood of which we are a part.  So the Studio Shed is planned to serve as a beautiful community and workshop space, with a bit of bike storage on the side.  It will replace the 8′x20′ shipping container, which has never been too much to look at, is quite narrow, and has no windows or insulation.  Unlike the micro houses on wheels currently here, the Studio Shed will be foundation built.

The Studio Shed will also be an important part of the Boneyard Studios showcase.  We think this company makes some of the most attractive storage and garage structures around, and they also have a finished ‘lifestyle‘ line that are perfect for foundation-built micro homes, backyard accessory dwelling units, art studios, guest rooms, etc.  The company also shares our values about re-envisioning what our space needs are.  So we’re very excited to be able to have one of these unique pre-fabricated buildings alongside the three tiny homes as another type of small, affordable, green, and quick-to-construct housing option.  Stay tuned for the foundation pour and wall raising- they come pre-built so with the foundation in the finished structure should be up in a week or two!

The shed will look very similar to the one above.

 

Al Jazeera America airs a documentary and specials on Tiny Houses Nov 22-24

Update on dates/times for Al Jazeera specials on tiny houses:

Watch the documentary Tiny: A story about living small on Al Jazeera America station on Sunday, November 24 at 9pm EST  Details here. This is the television premier of the award-winning documentary by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith about their experience building a tiny house in Colorado with no previous building skills!

In addition, you can also check out two Al Jazeera shows on tiny houses where you’ll get to see a tour of the Boneyard Studios lot and our houses and an interview with Christopher (the filmmaker).  The Stream airs on Friday night, November 22 at 7:30pm EST and America Tonight will broadcast their special at 5 pm or 6pm EST on Saturday night, November 22.  If any of our supporters have cable and DVR and want to record these shows for us, we would greatly appreciate it! None of us subscribe to cable and Al Jazeera U.S. doesn’t post their shows online, so make sure to catch them live if you can!

aljazeera

Al Jazeera America crew at Boneyard Studios

West Coast versus East Coast: Tiny Houses

Okay, in all honesty, that title was just to grab your attention.  There’s really more collaboration than competition, and Portland has some great tiny house action happening! Indeed, part of what inspired the founding of Boneyard Studios was to show folks on the East Coast that tiny houses aren’t just a West Coast thing even though it’s where the majority of tiny houses seem to be (up until recently that is…North Carolina now has a whole tiny house organization!).  Having lived for 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, I make a goal to visit often and I just returned from a lovely week in Oregon.  While there I was able to visit with some folks active in the tiny house community, including PAD Tiny Houses, Lina Menard, and Kol Peterson, the founder of the nation’s first tiny house hotel – the Caravan and a great advocate on small housing and accessory dwelling units.

It was wonderful to meet with such engaged people working on code, zoning, building standards, design, and education around tiny houses.  I even was put in touch with a guy who started up tiny house shows in Portland (as blog readers know, I started up a tiny house concert series here on the Boneyard Studios lot this past Spring), so look for some bi-coastal collaboration on tiny house shows sometime soon as well!

Below are some photos from the visit.

Learn how to design & build a tiny house with Boneyard Studios!

We are excited to offer a tiny house design and build workshop in Washington DC this September.  We have designed a workshop that includes everything I wish I would have known before starting my project.  I took a tiny house workshop before starting my project, but I still left wanting more technical and design information.  We want you to leave this workshop with all the technical knowledge and the planning tools to start your project!

We will be giving you the tools to effectively and efficiently get started on your own tiny/small house project, including an online project plan with major key decisions and technical resources and a base set of plans from which to design your own house. In addition, the workshop will allow you to tour and learn about different design and construction options from the builders and architects of four tiny houses on the Boneyard Studios lot, the nation’s first tiny house community.

Big Ideas, Small Spaces: A Tiny House Design Workshop

Sept 14-15
Washington, DC

Workshop location is just two blocks from the convention center metro stop and at Boneyard Studios.  We will help workshop participants to get to Boneyard Studios via public transportation or car share.

*Limited to just 30 participants to allow ample time with architect and builder on your technical and design questions

Detailed Workshop Schedule Here

Register Here

We are emphasizing quality over quantity and limiting participation for that reason. You will not be in a workshop with 80 participants but rather 30 participants maximum. This is to allow ample time for each participant to get their technical and design questions answered by the architect and builder.

Questions?  Please enter them below.

Frager’s Hardware, friend of Boneyard Studios, could use a little help

Boneyard Studios is all about construction and community, and for the past hundred years, Frager’s Hardware of Capitol Hill has been big on both of those things. Thus, we were absolutely devastated to hear about yesterday’s tragic fire, which left most of the store and its surrounding businesses in ruins.

Frager’s isn’t merely a hardware store; it’s a DC institution, a place where even the most novice DIYer can find exactly what they need, aided by the store’s wonderful staff and seemingly limitless inventory, to get the job done. Indeed, we at Boneyard Studios have relied on Frager’s for countless materials in the construction and furnishing of our tiny houses, from herbs and plants to paint and hinges to, well, the literal nuts and bolts keeping them all together.

When I needed help building my first compost bin, Frager’s was there. When I needed advice on which bracing was best for a bit of framing, Frager’s was there. And when I went poking about the store looking for a small swatch of mesh for a particular project, the staff at Frager’s didn’t try to sell me a large chunk of it that I’d never be able to use; they let me into their back room to pick through their abundant scraps and keep whatever I needed at no cost. Frager’s does business the way business should be done, and always with a smile.

Thankfully, Frager’s has vowed to rebuild, to come back bigger and better than ever, but they could definitely use our (and your) help. If you’re a fan of local, ethical, community-focused business that allows people like us to do things like build tiny houses in the heart of Washington DC, please consider donating whatever you can, if only a few dollars, to this terrific and invaluable member of our community by clicking this link, hitting the Donate button on the left, and writing Frager’s in the dedication section.

Thank you, and thanks to Frager’s Hardware for serving the DC community so well for the past 93 years. Here’s to a speedy rebuild and 93 more.

image

June 5 Frager's fire

tiny cool kitchen

SlickBoil_Silicone_Kettle_02

We spend a lot of time writing about building our tiny houses, but in truth, we spend just as much time talking about what we are going to put in them, over beers, on the lot, etc.  Well, some of us anyway.  Jay has managed to get super minimal, but I have found something even he might covet.  A great collapsing kettle and the matching coffee maker.  Super cool. The SlickBoil and SlickDrip by Cuissential seem like a good fit for any compact space. I have one on the way, so updates to follow on just how good they really are.

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