Our parents teach us lots of things throughout life, including, we hope, some useful life skills. One father in Oregon decided to take that to what some might view as an extreme, and others might view as pretty amazing: he’s teaching his sons how to build their own home, from the ground up. Well, actually, the water up, because they’re constructing the home on a barge so that once they’re done, they can take it from Oregon to Alaska on a journey of self-sufficiency, outreach, and education.
The carpentry skills required for a project like this are considerable, especially when you consider that the men are milling their own lumber and doing as much of the work as possible themselves. Their work echoes back to an earlier time where when people wanted to build something, they were responsible for every component of building, and couldn’t simply run down to the hardware store for a quick fix. With room for twelve, the barge home will contain everything the family needs to be cozy at home.
Speaking about the house, dad explains that his motivations aren’t so much survivalist-motivated as community-oriented. He describes himself as “the guy people come to for help,” and by building the home, he wants to show people that building your own home and living self-sufficiently doesn’t have to be a solo journey. In fact, his goal is to show other people how to survive in a variety of conditions, spreading the knowledge of a greener, leaner lifestyle.
His generosity doesn’t just extend to knowledge. The family has adopted children (that explains their large ranks) and plays an active role in the community. For them, it would appear that the point of having resources is to share, rather than hoard them, which is very much in keeping with a green lifestyle and philosophy. Teaching his sons carpentry, roofing, and other skills will help provide them with useful talents when they move on from the family home, and it’s likely that they’ll pass them on to others as well, creating a ripple effect of knowledge.
The home runs entirely off-grid, allowing for complete mobility and energy independence, two important features in self-sufficient construction. The Ebel family won’t be dependent on variable or potentially ecologically unfriendly energy sources, which is an especially good thing when you consider that their home travels with its own lumber mill, so they need a stable source of power! The sons have even become their own Portland electricians, laying out the electrical system on their own with guidance from their father, who has experience in both the military and the private sector.
The design of the structure is intended to be expandable by adding barges, allowing the home to grow, which is a smart design decision even when you don’t have a growing family. Homes that flex with the needs of their occupants are ecologically sound as well as more valuable, allowing people to age in place by adjusting their homes in the future. Their “Pacific Iceberg” can also break up, with the family likening it to a “LEGO set,” allowing the family members to move sections around as needed to reconfigure the home.
This innovative project may be based in survivalist roots, but it has potential for other green designers, as more and more eyes are looking toward the potentials of water-based living. Water represents tremendous potential in terms of unused space, and fully configurable barge homes could be immensely useful on the canals, locks, and other waterways of the world for providing housing to those in need, or those who simply want to enjoy life on the open water.
Barge construction isn’t just for homes! Google has been attracting considerable speculation in the Bay Area with its offshore construction near Treasure Island. Some suspect it may be a floating data center designed to take advantage of seawater for energy and cooling.
Photo: Liam Moloney/Flickr.