SUSTAINABLE LIVING... ON WHEELS!
With his green mobile living space, complete with off-grid electrical systems, Andy Thomson fulfills his enviro fantasy
as a child, andy thomson wanted to be a different kind of space explorer – not like Captain Kirk with his dramatic pauses or the sleek and refined, Earl Grey-sipping Jean-Luc Picard. He wanted to be an “econaut,” an explorer who wandered the universe in a tiny self-sufficient off-grid green spaceship.
Fast-forward to 2006 and Thomson has fulfilled his childhood dream of building a “lunar lander, but for Earth,” as he likes to describe it. It’s really a trailer made entirely of sustainable, green materials, with a sleek, colourful exterior, living green roof and selfcontained, off-grid mechanical and electrical systems.
Virtually no hookups are required to run it. Yet the Trailer Park Boys ain’t lining up to buy one of these suckers. Some folks don’t quite know what to make of Thomson or his alternative living spaces.
A full-time architect, Thomson started Sustain Design Studio with partner Dan Hall not only to indulge an obsession with small spaces, but also to provide housing options for those who can’t afford a mammoth Muskoka cottage and want to do more than pitch a tent.
The Sustainable Home offers an alternative that’s eco-friendly and self-contained. Oh, and affordable, too. The price ranges from $100,000 to $135,000, depending on various options. With a life expectancy of 50 years (twice that of a conventional trailer or modular home), a Solo unit can be a wise investment for those who want to lead a more remote or nomadic life.
This compact unit with built-in furnishings, appliances and well-planned storage has only 350 square feet, but it can accommodate four people. It comes with a convertible double-size sofa-bed in the Dream Zone, or bedroom, and a queen-size futon in the sleeping loft.
There are plenty of clever spaces overhead and under the floor to stow away your stuff, not to mention a bedroom closet and linen closet. My own home doesn’t boast both of those.
The Bathe Zone’s decent-size tub (full-size would be a stretch), composting toilet and wood finishes actually make it more luxurious than many a cottage john. The Cook Zone has good-sized cupboards and sleek appliances that look like they’d be at home in a downtown loft. The final zone, Entertain, consists of a flip-up birch desk or table and a storage/seating bench. It can function as a desk, but there isn’t much room for euchre tournaments.
When it debuted at the April 2006 National Home Show, the design got an overwhelmingly positive response, though some folks did balk at the size once they got inside.
“People either loved it or needed to get out right away,” Thomson says quickly, as if waiting for me to get the punch line.
Since then, 350-plus people have applied to Sustain Design Studio for more information and/or sales appointments. Thomson and Hall recently sold their prototype, and a sales rep is ready to take more
orders. They’re also preparing to hit the road for the Dwell Design Show in San Francisco later this fall.
Thomson spoke at The Shape Of Space, held at CasaLife in Liberty Village, about his views on new ways to look at living. Bewilderingly, Thomson and Hall’s application to exhibit at this year’s Cottage Show was turned down.
Penny Caldwell, editor of Cottage Life magazine, spends summers in her own off-grid, solar-powered cottage, and though she’s a great supporter of green power, she doesn’t quite get the Sustainable Home.
“I don’t consider it a cottage or an alternative to a cottage,” says Caldwell, who goes on to explain that cottaging is all about spending time with friends and family and that Thomson’s design can’t accommodate many people.
“This unit is more suited for use as a bunkie for guests,” she says. Nevertheless, Caldwell says she’s done some initial research on Sustain Design Studio and applauds its efforts.
With little to no marketing budget, the creative duo rely on editorial, word of mouth and online marketing to spread the word. Their target market is the urban dweller who owns a piece of land in cottage country or in a wilderness setting and wants an all-season getaway.
Then again, the retired snowbird is also a good candidate, since the Solo unit needs no police escort for transit on federal and international roadways.
California, here we come!