Friday, January 16, 2015

The Van Dwellings: A Planned Intentional Community.

Once I find a place and a way to make the payment, I am going to create "The Van Dwellings." If you don't already understand, it's like cave dwellings, but with vans. "Vandwelling" already means to live in a van, usually nomadically, but not in this case: In this case, the vans are stationary. "The Van Dwellings" will be a planned intentional community. Decisions will be made using the consensus method, with each person attending a workshop to be trained on how this method works as a prerequisite to joining the community and having a vote at meetings.

There will be part-time folks and full time folks, but all of the dwellings themselves will be full time. Visitors with vans will be welcomed to park on an absolutely non-permanent basis. A sense of community pride and an agreed upon aesthetic will reign. Wacky-but-tidy, I think, hits the nail on the head. Colorful: in all senses of the word.

There comes a time in a van's life when the cost of repair exceeds a logical limit. Those are the vans we want. Vans which look great, but are no longer roadworthy. Once they reach this point, we will acquire them inexpensively, and drag them to The Dwellings, where they will begin a new chapter. First, they will be assigned an area and supported on a foundation of cement pillars, and bolted down - perfectly level and sturdy, a couple feet or more off the ground. The interiors will be completely gutted. All the seats, including the driver's and passenger's seats will be removed. Wall-to-wall wood flooring or carpet will be installed.

The interior layout and design will be up to each owner. Personally, I'd insulate mine pretty well and install some big casement windows on the side. Big casement windows might not be a good choice for the road, but that's not where the van is anymore. See where this is going? The goal is to create a dwelling that uses the skeleton of a van-based vehicle, but is not constrained by the need to remain road-legal. Mine? I am going to cut a hole about the size of the entire roof, and build a big wooden upstairs area with more windows and storage. The raised roof will overhang the sides, and the additional headroom will make the interior feel much more spacious. You will clearly see that it started out as a van, but now it is really something else altogether - windows popped out the side, a big roof, no seats clogging up the living area. A bigger structure is possible by splicing together two vehicles, or using more wood framing. But it's always van-based at the core.

"The Van Dwellings" will have an onsite drive-in movie theater with permanent car seating. Old cars will be raised on dirt mounds and cement pillars facing the screen. The interiors will be rehabbed, and the seating improved. The speakers will be hooked up directly to play the audio track of the movie - there will be direct wiring for speakers and lights in each vehicle. And an ashtray full of doobies, to be sure.

Making a Van Dwelling is similar in spirit to building a Pinewood Derby car. Each scout is given the same block of wood, but the final cars are as different as each builder's skills and imagination allow. The Van Dwellings work on the same principle. The only vehicles allowed will be based on a van chassis. The classic vans we think of first definitely fit the bill. You will also be allowed to use a box truck with a van body, like the Ford E-350 U-Hauls, etc. Many decommissioned shuttle buses are built on a van chassis, and some of them can be plenty spacious with lots of windows. Finally, a step van can be used - like an old bread truck or ice cream truck. RVs based on a van chassis may also apply, but no 40 foot busses, or big trailers, or large body trucks - there will be a single common denominator, and that is that each dwelling will be based on what was formerly a van. No stretching the rules on this point. Everybody gets an equal ball of clay to work with. Friendly competition and camaraderie, I imagine, will lead to increasingly innovative and interesting designs.

The Van Dwellings will have a common area in a large, centrally-located vehicle conversion. The common house will be constructed of several box trucks spliced together side-to-side, with all the pop-outs and raised roof areas we can muster. It'll have couches and a larger kitchen area capable of cooking meals for a larger number of people. Next to the common house will be the only building that might not be a van - a shared bathroom and shower area which will resemble a nicer and cleaner version of what you would expect to find at a KOA or campground. Everyone is welcome to install a personal off-grid bathroom and shower setup in their own private van dwelling, but there will also be this shared-use one, where proper showers and flushing toilets exist. Personally, I'd have a Dry Flush in my van, but I'd use the shared bathroom most of the time. Clean, well lit, private showers.

How will you zone this? Let me handle that. It'll be zoned similar to a trailer park, or a campground with cabins. If we are right with the Earth, and friendly with the public, then the chips will fall in our favor.

Do you want to move to The Van Dwellings? Let me know all about it, and I'll save you a spot.

I'm here: chrisharne(at)

Talk to you soon,


DS CLARK said...


Pixy Stoneskipper said...

Well, we have one taker. The first thing to figure out is location. You know what they say about location. They actually don't say anything - they just repeat it three times, but that makes me assume it's important.

I will be honored to have Mr. DS Clark at the Dwellings, and relieved that we're off to a good start, people-wise at least.

heath said...

This sounds like a lovely place to live. If the shower/toilets were in a shipping container, i'd be all in. Love the shipping containers. My van might have to be earth-bermed, to allow the Hobbits to feel comfy as well. So many ideas...