Pecha Kucha Night @ The Stonington Opera House, Maine

Thank you to Jen, Kati and everyone at OHA for hosting the event, inviting us to your wonderful venue and allowing us the opportunity to share our story in this fast paced, highly entertaining format! It was a great time and we really enjoyed meeting so many new people and hearing from the other presenters! This was our second "Pecha Kucha" we have had the pleasure of speaking at (Last year in Blue Hill) and we can't wait to do it again soon! 

~Jen & Trevor


It has been six years since Trevor and Jennifer left New York City occupied a small corner of Pennsylvania farmland and set about converting two shipping containers in order to safely shelter themselves, all essential belongings and a beagle, Miles. 

Last year they trucked both ARK's to Maine and discovered there greatest journey lay ahead.

The Great suburban experiment enjoyed by our parents generation was one of the byproducts of the United States being the only unwrecked economy after WWII officially ended in 1945. A few generations later and this same nation has been crippled by a corrupt political environment, decrepit infrastructure, and a perpetual war economy saddled with insurmountable debt seemingly on the brink of some major calamity.
We were born at the tail end of the 20th Century raised by Baby-Boomers in the Suburbs and like most of our peers concepts like fresh clean tap water, hot showers, a warm dry bed and a roof over our heads was taken for granted. Certainly this American Dream would last forever? With ever-rising cost of living, exhausted power-grid, global economic devastation, perpetual war, we were compelled to figure out solutions for ourselves.Not because we were experts or had all the answers, but the exact opposite.
Towering to the sky in stacks of thousands in sea ports, industrial parks, military bases, and cities are technicolor monuments to globalism and consumption. We recognized their obvious potential as rugged shelters and a corrugated steel chapter suddenly was delivered by truck into our lives.
Neither of us have architectural backgrounds, we relied on books and what limited information found on various blogs in 2009. We would learn more from our trials and triumphs than any research we executed.
It wasn't until we already constructed the interiors of the containers while in Pennsylvania did we realize our best decision was still 2 years ahead of us. -Moving them to Maine-
We ventured North and purchased a large tract of woods from a logging company along the northern border of Ellsworth. By the time we arrived the forest was well on its way to reclaiming itself in the few years it had been since the chainsaws and heavy equipment moved on.

It was a fresh new beginning for us and for the wild woods we now call home.
When we first decided this piece would be home I proposed marriage and soon plans were under way for us to have the ceremony and reception all on the property Jen bartered her artwork for amazing local food, we hired music friends "The Barstuards"from Bangor, and spent Labor Day weekend celebrating with friends and family from all over the world all within the secluded evergreen enclave fate and our perseverance had suddenly ushered into our lives. 

That first summer we spent here in Maine was an authentic carved in stone, once in a lifetime paradigm shift that only a few years before had been just a vague inclination out of our wildest dreams. 
Dmitri Orlov* speaks of "Four Basic Needs" and for young people today it is critical that we address these needs and emphasize local networks, communities, and self reliance. In 2009 we moved out of our apartment and into the first incarnation of our "ARKHAUS" design. 

Before that fateful day our lives existed in a world where every meal came from a supermarket, electricity and water came from huge monolithic utility companies. But since then our singular objective is to live our lives on our own terms.

*Mr. Orlov was raised in the Ukraine and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union first hand and his salient observations about both the USSR then and the US now are striking and what young people especially should be doing to prepare for a very uncertain future..

His blog: cluborlov.com 
This vast interdependent liquid fuel propelled network faces severe challenges to its existence moving forward in the 21st Century. We wanted to find a way to somehow insulate ourselves from such a troubled, exhausted, increasingly unsustainable system, and focus instead on smaller local networks for goods and services. And more to the point, minimize our cost of living while maximizing our standard of living.
With the help of friends and neighbors we built a concrete & sand "mass heat storage" or "heat battery" foundation on top of which we plan to build a cottage and greenhouse. Consisting of a perimeter frost wall four feet deep. Capped with a 4 inch concrete slab, it is underneath that it gets interesting as unlike most radiant floor systems we added 2-3 feet of sand first at the base of the foundation,
buried low in the sand is the radiant pex tubing which can be charged by solar or any other water heating system. While it takes longer to heat up than conventional designs, by the same token it retains the heat and releases it much slower. Allowing the occupants to enjoy August sunshine in November.
But we lacked the funding to completely enclose the hybrid container-radiant slab before Winter. So with only the containers and slab in place we put together a small 8x8 mudroom with a borrowed woodstove from our next door neighbors. This room allowed sheltered passage from one container to the other and the wood heat supplemented our primary source of propane.
While it turned out to be a very mild winter, we still learned a great deal having lived, worked and rigorously tested the limits of our fledgling homestead's capabilities and not the least of all seriously tested our patience, fortitude and spirit. It was our commitment to each other and our steadfast belief that we are on the verge of achieving something significant that enabled us to ride out that first winter and buy us time to compile all we had learned into a long term vision for the future. Beyond just a home or a property or learning to garden, we are in no uncertain terms attempting to jumpstart as the french Architect Le Corbusier described "a machine for living".
Even with a growing interest in re-purposing corrugated steel shipping containers as shelters like ours they are still vastly underrated, having some really amazing features that set it apart from any other building material. They are the perfect prefabricated freestanding steel structure delivered by truck, rail, sea, or air.
Standardized and manufactured in highly efficient warehouses where waste can be recycled or eliminated. Each container is wind and water tight, resists fire, pests and just about any natural or man made disaster. One container can support over half a million pounds. Our containers, it turns out, weigh just under 10000lbs each. A fact we learned when we hired a crane to replace them side by side this fall. If we were to stack more containers of the same weight it'd be more than three times the height of the statue of liberty before pushing the containers structural limit!
So what have we learned? And what are our plans for the future? First we have rearranged the two containers so they can be centrally heated by a woodstove. Living in New England heating and insulating are critical components we have had a few years now to experiment. By removing the common walls running down the middle those 160 sq ft boxes will suddenly merge into one open 320sq.ft. floorplan. We offset them by 8 feet to create, not just the 12 ft. passageway between each one but also on the one end an 8x8 bathroom and on the opposite side we plan to build a mudroom and warddrobe space.
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