Ideas to Attract Technology & Knowledge Workers to a Small Town

Published Work
  • Draft: In Process: Major work in February 8th through August 2012.
  • By Caleb Clark: Director, Educational Technology Program, Marlboro College Graduate School. Town Meeting Representative, Brattleboro District #2.  cclark@gradschool.marlboro.edu, 917-703-5580
  • About: Results of a survey of 50+ high tech professional knowledge workers from New York City, San Francisco, and Vermont, that asked what would get them to move to Brattleboro, Vermont, USA.
  • Grammar: Responses in quotes are copied exactly from emails sent to the author. These emails were not intended for publication and often contain typos. Bracketed [comments] may be added to clarify.

Contents

  1. My Recommendations
  2. Data

 



Recommendations

  • Embedded Evangelist: Embed a blogger in the digerati as the town’s evangelist. Geeks understand evangelists from their use by software companies. The become the direct person to contact for help moving here. They post in online forums about moving to Brattleboro, like: www.city-data.com (See “Brattleboro, intellectual life?). Find a person that does this naturally (see: www.innbrattleboro.com, and www.brattleborology.com), or use Mondo Media Works here in town. This might even make the news. “Town hires evangelist to attract geeks.” This would be good.
  • CCV VTC: Aggressively support the CCV and VT Tech new campus. Push for more focus on foundation skills in the areas of: technology, media, programming, project management, marketing, and graphic design.
  • Conference: Many small towns attract tech workers with unique conferences that offer great networking, and a chance to have their company pay for them to travel to the country. Consider during leaf season, ski season, or late summer. This could be on a subject that is technical, or a unique Art, Circus, or Burlesque-like subject that attracts the geek culture. Consider heavily backing “TEDxSIT” that already happens here, hosting a popular Maker Faire in the region, doing a geeky version of the http://www.wwoof.org/ farm work program, or combine a new tech conference with the Northern Roots music Festival, and the Women’s Film Festival to make a “North by Northeast” to play off of the famous “South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.
  • “Telecommuter-Ready” Houses: Real estate listing have a “telecommuter-ready house” badge and search parameter that guarantees extra fast bandwidth (5mb/s down and up). Relocating telecommuters need to know before before they buy and the perception is that Vermont doesn’t have good bandwidth. The current information provided by Internet Providers is not nearly accurate enough. If a telecommuter is going to commit to buying a house and moving, they need specific address verification, not area availability.  Direct links to providers would be included. After a local test, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) could be applied to for inclusion of this needed search option in national listings. I have a leading local agency ready to test the idea on their listings.
  • Farmer/Geek: The area is unique in the amount of techies here who also work sustainable gardens, farms etc. And it could attract more. They don’t usually have traditional resumes, and they don’t want full-time office work. A company that could give benefits , and ½ or ¾ time modestly playing work could capitalize on this.  
  • Co-Working: Dedicate a space for coworking with rental desks that are in the $100/mo range with excellent bandwidth. Give the first year free to those who can show how they will help market the town to other tech workers.
  • Fab Lab. Build it and the will build: www.techshop.ws/ or www.fablabhouse.com/en/
  • Satellite Offices: Prove to big companies that they can save money by opening a satellite office here. [a]They save money by retaining their best employees who would otherwise quit when they want to get out of the city and raise a family. See Accelerating Economic Growth through Advanced Telecommunications Infrastructure 6-1-12 – In Progress
  • Former Residents: Find BUHS, Marlboro, and Bennington alumni communities and offer incentives to “come home to nest.”

 


Sources

 

Alumni: NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Interactive Technology Masters Program.

The first generation of tech entrepreneurs are getting older, and maybe they’re realizing that all-night code jams and living in a warehouse with 5 other artists isn’t going to work so well once they have a family and settle down.  If you positioned Brattleboro as a place that was tech friendly and a great place to raise a family then you might get the older tech generation that is as equally concerned about their kids as they are about their start-up.  If I could get a great tech community, fast cheap internet, and I could have a safe supportive place where my (hypothetical) family could thrive then I’d move to Brattleboro, no question.”

“Having spent the last month considering a move to either New Mexico, LA, or Indonesia, I can tell you the following:

  1. Infrastructure.  Have good, fast, possibly wireless connections to the internet.  They don’t need to be free, but they do need to be able to push code from anywhere in town, preferably from a gourmet coffee shop that won’t kick you out, and they do need to be able to have a fat pipe into the home.
  2. It would be *nice* if you didn’t need a car.. esp if you’re pulling people from New York.  So walkability, bikeability to the store for milk is a good thing to point out.  I get that it’s Vermont.  OTOH, driving is a pain in the ass.  How centrally organized are the homes to the center of town?  Is the local store willing to deliver?
  3. There should be a way for people to transition into living there. So, can you get them to come up for 4 to 6 months to work on a personal project and then get them to decide that they want to live there? Studio space on the cheap.  A place with insulation and a window and a bathroom, that’s not attached to your house.
  4. What’s the affordability compared to the city?  If a two bedroom house is two thirds of the cost of a one bedroom apartment, how much more space do you get?
  5. How close are you to getting off your ass and getting out into the woods?  Can you do that from your front door?  Can you light a fire in your back yard?
  6. Gym.  A real gym with pilates and yoga and personal trainers.
  7. Who can you learn from while you’re there?  Is there a knitting circle?  A monthly throwdown?
  8. What’s in the surrounding area to explore?  The city is two hours away, sure, but people live in Jersey and never come to the city. What’s in Vermont / New Hampshire that you might want to spend some time checking out?
  9. Taxes.  What are the taxes like?”
  10. Also, how easy is it to find out information about your town?  I think the real thing here is that you want to make it easy for smart people to imagine themselves having a less stressful and more productive life living in your town than wherever they do now.  What comes up when you search for images of the town?  What does it look like in street view? Is there an easy way to find out how much a rental would be?  Is there anything for rent, for that matter?  How long does it take for you to reconstruct a budget of your life when you google around for local businesses?  Stuff like that.”

“Brattleboro is awesome! I went to undergrad at Bennington and we would drive to Brattleboro sometimes for fun:)Anyway, this is obvious I’m sure but I didn’t see it listed above: jobs. I would move to VT in a heartbeat if a good job was waiting for me. Michael’s (ABOVE) answers are all really great too and I second them”

“Vermont (the whole thing) is one of my absolute favorite places.  I haven’t been in a few years, but I would use virtually any excuse at all to go there.  So… invite us, we’ll come.”

“I currently work for NYU as a web developer (Ruby, Javascript), but if I could find IT work in VT, I would seriously consider this.”

“Organise a really cool conference/workshop/event there. People go, then fall in love with the place. One of those almost got me to move to Switzerland. Example: http://designinquiry.net/archive/01-2/”

“My brother went to Putney.  I too would move to Vermont in a heartbeat if there was a decent job.”

“Maybe a video to show them how beautiful it is up there?”

“I am sure you can convince ski and snowboarders to move up there and have the best of both worlds!”

“Organize a geeky conference there, which will get geeks in the front door. Attend geeky conferences and tell people how awesome your town is.”

“But my question is: do you need a car to live in Vermont? how is public transportation?”

“I went to Middlebury and would love nothing more than to further cultivate the geek scene in Vermont. As an added bonus, I’m a Brattleboro baby (my folks met there!).  If I can be of any help, let me know. I’d be more than happy to brainstorm some ideas, put you in contact with some people in other parts of the state that might be beneficial, and participate directly in any way I can! One idea I had right off the bat was some sort of incubator funding? I have a couple of friends from VT originally and we all dream of being able to move back up north and start up a company together. I mean, I’m being selfish, but as they say necessity is the mother of invention :)….[post 2] I forwarded your thread to a couple of my friends that grew up in Vermont that dream of moving back up there but expressed many of the same concerns discussed on the alumni list. We’ve all wanted to move back for quite some time, so we’d love to keep up with what’s happening on your end.” [Ari Joseph ari.l.joseph@gmail.com]

“I’d suggest research grants or residencies which are well funded from the city or local universities.. a really nice fabrication lab perhaps where you bring in great artist to teach workshops and people come as a sort of retreat/workshop etc setting.. sort of pitch it like a ‘rural retreat’ (think Anderson Ranch but built in VT). I assume real estate is cheap? Another option would be incubation programs which fund artist/start ups to come to the area but again the money would have to come from somewhere.. “

It would be nice if there were a cheap bus (Mega, Bolt, Fung-wah) that stopped in town and if the train station had park-and-ride and some bike racks.  Transportation would be my biggest hesitation and I would want to know that I could get down to the city whenever needed.  I was able to survive in Western Mass for a few years because the public bus system was very good (PVTA) and free (paid for by the schools in the area); that really helped those of us who didn’t have cars.  A couple of a nicer bars and a small club helped too. Another thing that helped in Northampton/Amherst is that they have a couple solid music venues, so it was always a north-east tour stop for popular musicians.  A lot of the time it as more fun to see people play up there because the venues were less crowded than they would have been in NY. Would it make sense to work on getting a company or two to set up shop there and be a draw? Perhaps there are tax incentives already on the books that would help start-ups or maybe provide a grant from the town to cover some costs?  Make sure that ppl know that Gay marriage is legal there now..Host screenings of Baby Boom in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Once you have Ari Joseph signed up you’ll be all set.  If you hire him, we will come ;)”

“This is a really interesting question. This is more of a roundabout way to attract the workers you need, but keep working on make it a great cultural scene. You could start a great artist residency akin to Eyebeam out there, to draw tech-geek artists to come to your town on a regular basis.  Some of them might stay. One of the expenses and difficulties you have in setting up a new business is not having a workspace. You also miss  being around other entrepreneurs, being an artist is off course similar.  So take a large, older building in town, set up high fi internet,  renovate it a bit.  Then offer work spaces for with low rents to starts ups, artists, and designers.”

“I have an artist friend who lives in Brattlebro. She’s a performer and a choreographer and is able to scrape together some teaching gigs and performance opportunities there because it seems the economy is cheaper there (easier & less expensive to rent studio space, housing is less expensive, etc.). She also comes to New York often to meet with a little artist support group we have through Creative Capital because she doesn’t have anyone peers nearby with whom she can work through things like grant proposals or ideas for new shows. She seems to be simultaneously frustrated by the lack of opportunities but also too comfortable in a less competitive environment to leave. She’s also married, and I think her and her husband are committed to staying there. This is all to say that many people come to a certain point in their life/career where they want to leave a booming metropolis such as New York or any other major city because they want to escape the noise, the expense, the stress, the competition, etc. Jobs are obviously key to luring those people to your town as opposed to any other lovely town, but it seems you also need to find a way to target those who are looking for that type of change. I lived in the Hudson Valley for a good part of last year because of my job, and while I love it up there, I’m personally not at a point in my life or career where I’m ready to abandon city life and move there permanently.  I think getting “geeks” to VT is less about acquiring gourmet coffee, grocery delivery and Pilates. (No offense, Michael. I enjoy these things, too.) It’s more about figuring out how to make your town known to those who are already in a transition in their lives and who are looking for a good opportunity or incentive to move your way. A couple of people suggested residency-style project spaces, and I echo those suggestions. If people come there, fall in love with the place and know there’s a way for them to keep working in their field and moving forward in their careers while living there, you’ve nailed it.”

“+1 on this paragraph, well said [Refers to last part of above paragraph that starts with “I think getting geeks to VT…”]

“This thread is fascinating. I think the revitalization of small towns in America is a worthy collective design challenge for this group to tackle. Riffing off some of the other suggestions in this thread, it makes sense perhaps do some research to create some specific personas (like in the UX sense) of the types of geeks you would attract, so you can be more targeted in your messaging     and be more specific than just “geeks” in general. Also, what are your towns competitors, and what makes your town unique? Some sort of comparative analysis would be helpful too.  A festival or event seems like a good place to start depending on the infrastucture of the town. I have never been, but it seems that a conference like PopTech puts Camden, Maine on the map each year. I live in a small (population ~50K) town in southern Japan for 3 years after college. A group of my friends, mostly expat musicians and artists, put together an annual summer music festival that attracted people from all over. Thinking about my own life, living in that small town in Japan, or a place like Brattleboro, would make sense right out of college, when cheap rents and relative isolation was good for developing myself and my creative endeavors. At this point in my life (early 30s), with my job in NYC and my teaching gig, small town life makes less sense for me to do so. The location between NYC and Boston is attractive though since my partner is based in Boston for his work. In a few years down the line in our careers, if we have more flexibility over our work schedules, it would make sense to move to a small town and commute in to NYC or Boston once or twice a week and perhaps keeping a pied-à-terre apartment in one of those cities.  Who knows, but just trying to create some scenarios for you to explore for your personas.”

“Agree with those who have said that there is always a demographic in New York that’s ready to bail.  [http://youtu.be/5lS_hNUhGnk] One of Vermont’s biggest selling points in my mind is its social safety net. At least when I lived there a few years ago, they had a great state-sponsored health care system, and a tax code that redistributed real estate taxes to improve schools across the state, instead of just keeping the money in the high tax bracket towns. Not having to worry about healthcare or insane private and/or public school admissions processes are huge draws for the young family person. I think you could definitely highlight these benefits to make the argument that while lots of places have open spaces, Vermont offers real quality of life.”

“What’s a knowledge worker? And why does that immediately mean “geek”? Maybe there’s another group that you could more easily attract than “geeks”. On another note, here’s some stuff that I’ve enjoyed out of the small towns that I’ve visited or lived in: Nice exercise/hiking trails, parks, and outdoor spaces. Other small towns to easily visit – for instance the next town is know for that specialty craft/food/liquor/animal/scenery…etc. General attractiveness of the town and friendliness of the people Semi-frequent access to “big city” amenities – i.e., theater/dance/movies/festivals – and that not all shops that close at 9pm. Good, authentic food – it can be done! even if it’s only one type, like good sushi. Stuff to keep visitors/tourists happy – something entertaining when your big city neighbors come to visit and will make them want to come back. A good nearby university and community college – and by extension, good public schools.”

 


Professional Technologists from San Francisco Bay Area

Responses from old time geeks on the San Francisco NoEnd Group, a technology email list since the mid 1990s.

“Infrastructure- you need to have some serious bandwidth to allow folks to telecommute.  And maybe some sort of shared office space type area where startups/small business can make a home?”

“I agree … Serious Bandwidth and a Tech Hub space …Doesn’t even need to be a dedicated spot.  A hackerspace or some hacker events might get people together … Think the current version of Homebrew =) What big local tech companies can you tap into?”

Maybe explore partnering with with Google?  They’ve been championing high-speed internet. Also, you should get in touch with Tom Evslin (ex-AT&T broadband, Vermont tech czar).  He’s be a powerful force on your side. <http://blog.tomevslin.com/>http://blog.tomevslin.com/

“Brad Feld’s blog has some good thoughts about how to get critical mass for Internet Entrepreneurs, at least, and how he thinks they achieved it in Boulder: http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/tag/entrepreneurial-communities-2”

“It would seem that “outdoor lifestyle” and “families” are two of the big draws.  Even in the North Bay of California, one of the challenges is attracting younger single knowledge workers because of the pull of SF Also, see http://www.netjeff.com/humor/item.cgi?file=DeveloperBees  how can you create a hive that will attract developers. Who do you already have in town that fits the bill?  What attracted them? What cities would you like to emulate?  Can you contact the people who made it happen there?”

“+1 on bandwith/infrastructure. [means they are adding their support to bandwidth infrastruture mentioned by a previous post]

“One idea is to target some folks who might give useful input like this and if they pay to travel to Brattleboro, find funds to cover the cost of the rest of it. It was just a long weekend, not a week. It will probably be a great learning experience and it could end some debates because when folks from the outside come visit and all tell  you the same thing, it’s hard to reject that information.”

“i’d find a way to show you have a vibrant community — one of the advantages of “silicon valley” or any other hub is the human/ real time possibilities… you have to show that they will find a community that is worth participating in — beyond their own work, although that is important too. i’m not sure i’m being clear… but the idea of a summit or focus group or the trips (not one at a time)… and then introduce them to your local “relevant, forward thinking, knowledge” movers + shakers….”

“Whilst looking for workspace while in Melbourne I came across HubMelbourne.  They at first glace I thought were tech related but as it turns out were much more about sustainability and ethical businesses. Anyhow it didnt stop me joining the party. Possibly worth capturing more than one audience for the sake of profitability and longevity. There is certainly symbiosis. And act as some lubricant between multiple sectors.”

“Here in Australia they are building a “Fast Network” titled NBN aka National Broadband Network …The politics and technologies aside, they are rolling it out first in Tasmania which happens to also be a huge source of renewable energies, and makes it appealing for the likes of Google etc who want to offset their carbon footprint by staying green … Probably mentioned already, but another thought and selling angle. Seems like you are a good slot … Reminds me of Silicon Motorway …So titled because of the M4s quick access into Heathrow … and the companies peppered along it all the way to South Wales which would be a 4 hour drive from London. What are the airport links like?  Int he US they always seem to be awesome … The tech hub in Denver practically had it’s own airport right next door … Perfect for the Sun execs and their private jets.”

“The trick is this for Brattleboro too – you need to sell the town and not just the state. Everyone’s heard of Vermont and you can brand around that, but then you need to pitch Brattleboro. Why there instead of Burlington for example? You gave some reasons … proximity to Boston and New York. Is it less significantly less expensive? The more you understand your unique selling points, the more likely you can build a marketing and PR plan around it and know who is best to target. Boulder does a good job of getting articles in the national press about it. A lot of smaller cities are effective at doing this … the kinds of articles you read in the Sunday NY Times magazine. Getting on any top ten lists and stuff like that is good. Boulder’s always coming in high on those kinds of lists. So a PR person who knows how to do this well and is current on social media as well could be helpful in reaching your town’s goals.”

Tie in with the college/education infrastructure (& with the proposed Hub Space)[b] to develop a kind of entrepreneurial degree &/or “MediaLab” type program. Have the usual promotional contests, endowments, “visiting fellowship awards” etc. where you attract people for the day/events/workshops/festivals, semester (to teach or learn) &/or for years to graduate. Just created prestigious sounding awards & programs (& maybe affiliate with MIT, etc. or other big name programs – that won’t steal your talent) to attract people. Any Healthcare or education “anchors” should be leveraged to the hilt (& connect in any other art/media/tech/science resources you can.”

“How about a geek conference? Either in the summer to get away from heat elsewhere or in the fall to enjoy the colors? NXNE ? combine the geek conference with a bluegrass festival and choose a genre of film to focus on and have a small film festival Take Ashland OR … small town compared to Portland but it also near the southern border of California. It has had a Shakespeare Festival for many years. Think big!”

“But not too big – I live in a rural area, which has great appeal to me because it isn’t too big. I have great internet connectivity, and can order most of the necessities of life online. As a lifelong Californian, I’m dismayed at how driving has turned from an adventure to sheer misery and anxiety, as even the freeways have become parking lots. And its not that big of a tipping point for this to happen anywhere. If things got too big, the community would lose much of its charm, and many of its advantages. So this is a rather delicate balance. Part of the infrastructure planning discussions must include transportation. It does sound like you’re well served with train and bus, but keeping things from getting paved over for more cars will be a challenge. Many communities (Davis, CA comes to mind) have worked hard in including this in their planning. For much of California, this has been an expensive aftersight, which has reduced the quality of life here. Darned physical world! I like what I’m hearing, and Brattleboro sounds like a wonderful place. Maybe I’ll swing by sometime and check it out. Good luck with all this.”

“As long as there was an affordable place to stay, and I didn’t need a car, I would totally come up for a mini-fall-festival with fall leaves, a geeky movie or two, games, and crafting/making/fooding.  Think Geek Jam Session.”


Vermonters

Matt Dunne Head of Community Affairs at Google Inc. “I highly recommend the research Richard Florida is doing for a start. The second is modern infrastructure. Broadband being key, but so is the ability to get to business hubs by train or plane fairly easily which probably means ensuring the rail service between Guilford and Springfield, MA is significantly improved. Authentic places to work and live are also important to attracting tech business. The final piece is more difficult.  People want other tech companies or tech types to collaborate with, hire and provide options in case one job doesn’t work and/or to have a job for a spouse.  Burlington is actually getting to a critical mass because of a few anchor tech companies (first IBM then MyWebGrocer and Dealer.com) but as much as anything Champlain College starting to churn out people who can program and design for HTML has created a pool of talent to support a cauldron of start ups, interesting bar/coffee conversations and the ability for companies that hit a good stride to staff up quickly.  Marlboro is a start and SIT offers an interesting complement, but there may need to be a new source of that pool of talent to allow the community to turn the corner.”

Jed Leslie: West Brattleboro homeowner and 100% telecommuter for the technology wing of a small Boston based finance company. “First thing off the top of my head – Lowest hanging fruit is remote workers (like myself).  It’s paradise here.  Many many web people would work here if they felt secure about bandwidth, etc.  I have another friend who works on the web who also moved back to VT to work remote.  This wasn’t possible a few years ago because of bandwidth.  I’m not sure if remote workers actually help VT (tax wise), but they certainly help local businesses.  Promoting the “remote lifestyle” in VT (coupled with bandwidth improvements) could go a long way. 2nd thought is a collection of offices for these remote workers.  Perhaps an old building that is developed to be a meeting space for remote people to have access to phone services, print/fax, bandwidth, meeting rooms etc.  Many remote people would welcome working in an “office” with others even if everybody is working for different companies. Notice I’m clearly avoiding the “get tech companies to come to VT” option.  I’m not sure If I see this as a possibility for a variety of reasons (and also don’t like the idea of small economies being propped up by a large corporation who can choose to leave at any time).”

Higher Ed program director at Marlboro Graduate School. Excellent wifi, public transportation, 4G cell. Good meeting spaces like The Works. Coworking, Coop.

Kate Jellema. Marlboro Non-Profit Management Program Director. “Get them here to visit, so they can see the quality of life”. 

Adam Provost. Marlboro College EdTech alumnus, VITALearn board member, EdTech K-12 teacher. “Here’s an approach Dartmouth UK tried…(Search “Firms urged to relocate to beautiful South Hams”) sales pitch for ‘move to the area’ sort of thing. If it’s businesses… Brattleboro, often threatening to secede from the VT Union, could offer some serious, non-traditional Vermont tax incentives to entice some industry to move in. Not sure… but rumors were moving that Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was looking for a new base. That’d be a coup. The trick for the survival of the full-time job based locale is to avoid big boxes… home dept, Walmart, etc. Revitilazation of the local school programs… better marketing… give it a brand. That’s a great way to attract folks to move their. An unorthodox approach would be to build a ‘green community / neighborhood.’ Some areas have had some luck with that sort of thing. It’d be a series of initiatives I’d think… unless it can be expedited with a ‘fell swoop’ sort of business moving in…GE stock is way up and they are still struggling for space in Burlington ; ) Some other revitalization threads: University of Richmound: http://www.solutionsforamerica.org/viableecon/downtown-revitalization.html Community Revitalization Guide from PA: http://www.newpa.com/strengthen-your-community/redeveloping-your-community/community-revitalization-guide Article: “Rebuilding a School, Revitalizing a Community: School Improvements Enhance a Desire to Learn”  – Edutopia

Michael Roberts.I’m in my late 20’s, works in nonprofit new media communications at World Learning and as a musician (folk, rock, honky tonk, experimental, jazz), and music promoter. renting in brattleboro, building a house mostly unassisted with wife in Guilford. Came to southern Vermont (Jamaica) 6 years ago for a job in international education, moved to Brattleboro 4 years ago – met spouse here and decided to stay. interested in building/supporting community through performing arts.”

Ben Riseman. “I am an aspiring entrepreneur and light-weight techie with aspirations for sustainable living and making a sustainable living. Early 30s homeowner and dad-t0-be who has high hopes for a robust technology-entrepreneurial community taking root in Brattleboro – my motivation being that I want to have a strong, local and sustainable economy in the area. Also, I see an underutilization and an under-developed potential within the artistic and creative communities in the town. I also see a lot of growing potential in the groundswell of farming and agricultural movement and possibility of a new-agricultural paradigm taking place here. I think technology and knowledge work can play an important role in assisting and facilitating these (seemingly unrelated) developments.”

Joan Bowman.  “Woman turning 60 years old looks up from her desk one day in Connecticut and decides to pack up  her entrepreneurial skills and move her talents and insights to the work she really loves in a state where she wishes she had been born: Vermont.   She finds a partner with great knowledge and awareness of Prevention and health care that is focused on ‘self-care’ and the two create Vermont Wellness Education (VWeD). This  start up, with a mission to bring Wellness Education to all members of the community regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, teaches the importance of self care utilizing a Wellness Model that is an effective tool for teaching Prevention .  She gives spirited talks about surviving the stresses of daily life with resilience, sustaining with a positive attitude, properly feeding the body and nurturing the space inside your mind, which is essential to feel released from the stressful energy that drives our unhealthy habits. You learn from her writings and workshops that stress- and fear-release  is achievable for every person in our market driven culture. Businesses and non-profits alike experience pressure to perform at or above “market expectations.” This motivation, however, produces a deeply unbalanced view of productivity; it may also assume that everyone on staff is resilient, while ignoring what is sustainable for long term health and compatibility.  Being on ‘ The Bridge’ with its collegial atmosphere is a perfect place for my professional ambitions for VWeD to be nurtured in the company  of professionals who come  together at different times of the day with different needs to practice self-care for their own work.  This  group, however loose the connections among us, offers a feeling of respect, enthusiasm and kindness that encourages the growth of VWed in the Brattleboro community.”

Maggie Foley. “I am in my early-30s and self-employed as a nonprofit development consultant.  I have worked with local nonprofits on staff and in consulting roles for nine years.  I live in Guilford w/ my husband (self-employed stone mason) and two-year-old son.  I am a Windham County native who intended to return just “briefly” after college, but found a terrific employment opportunity and a unique and fun town that was much, much different from my high-school perceptions.  So I chose to stay.  When I started my business working out of my Guilford home in 2010, I quickly began missing Brattleboro as a part of my day-to-day life, so I rented space in The Bridge.  This allows me to keep some boundaries between work and home, be close to my clients and meetings, utilize conference room space for meetings with clients and colleagues, and look out over downtown while I work.  Maggie Foley 802/579.6528  word by word writing and consulting services 218 Bullock Road Guilford, Vermont 05301”

Debra Loevy-Reyes:  “I am in my early forties and work as a civil rights appellate attorney out of an office in Chicago.  I moved to Brattleboro with the intention of telecommuting because the pace of life in Chicago felt too hectic and I wanted to raise my children in a progressive, small town community someplace beautiful.  I still travel back to Chicago regularly, but the proximity of several airports has made that easy.  In Brattleboro, I have found excellent schools for my kids, a wonderful community, a great home that is rural, but close to town, and a surprising number of other telecommuters.”

Christine Takacs. “I am a one-woman creative agency, Rapt Creative, focused on a small group of clients. Shares hats with local subcontractors to provide full suite of agency services. We chose Vermont over Manhattan as a great place to raise a family. Somewhat isolated, I miss opportunities to brainstorm with passionate, ethical, smart and dedicated people. Perhaps monthly odysseys up Mt. Wantastiquet would keep ideas fresh and motivation high.”

Meeting, May 29th, 2012

Added from meeting at grad school May 29th, 2012.

Andrea Livermore. Building a Better Brattleboro. Moved here because (notes coming)

Idea: Use the River Garden! More coming…getting notes from her.

Aaron Michal. Co-owner, Green River Software in downtown Brattleboro. Moved from Boston for the country farming life with Geeking as well. Ran t! to his own house at his expense.

Idea: Someone help people who want to move here how to tap into the local word of mouth community that it takes to find jobs. They are not on Monster. Geeks are here, but they want to work part time in tech, and part time usually in some area like farming or sustainabilty.   Likes Burlesque conference idea.

Brant. Owner, Logic Branch Productions, Brattleboro. Grew up here, came back for lifestyle and family.

Idea: Go for getting more higher end programming jobs here

Caleb Clark. Director, EdTech program at Marlboro College Graduate School, downtown Brattleboro. Was looking to move and for jobs with girlfriend in favorite towns of Brattleboro, Portland ME, and Burlington VT. Brattleboro happened first.

Idea: Embed an evangelist for the town in geek culture online. Move CCV/VTC to more basic technology/media curriculum. Have a conference that attracts  geeks who are ready to settle down and have kids, either as telecommuter or to bring their business here.

Erik Cooper. Industrial Design, fabrication, theater tech, solar technician by day. Farmer.  Moved from NYC.

Idea: Get a well-run Fab Lab here.

Joan Bowman. Brattleboro. Rents a desk on The Bridge, Coworking space at Grad Center. An active Marlboro College parent and since graduating with an MBA in 1975 has been a, consultant, dotcom worker, and is now a turnaround specialist.

Idea: Housing and transportation has to be affordable and effecient.

Junio Anthes-Moody. Brattleboro. Energy auditor by day, self-taught techie by night. Family connections in town. Moved back with his wife because tired of Brooklyn hustle. Wife is a full time telecommuter.

Idea: Attract geeks by having a conference on an non-tech subject they like, such as a “Circus, Burlesque, Gastronomy Conference.”

Matthew Flego: Industrial Designer, fabrication, mechatronics. Moved from NYC to add sustainable farming to geeking.

Idea:

  1. Supports town blogger idea.
  2. Having a well-run Fab Lab here for more experienced types of fabricators, such as (http://www.techshop.ws/) or (http://www.fablabhouse.com/en/).  
  3. Host a Maker Faire for this region.
  4. Work with Farming / Living programs such as (http://www.wwoof.org/) in order to help geeks live an inexpensive, part time agricultural life style while providing farmers intelligent labor.  

Michael Knapp. Co-owner, Green River Software in downtown Brattleboro. Moved in 1994 to be a geek farmer type. This was as far as his wife would move from NY family.

Idea: Use our existing strengths of Art, Gallary walk, theater, circus, food and especially sustainable technology to market a “Green Valley” as in Silicon Valley.

Pete Biolsi. Principal at Mondo Media Works in downtown Brattleboro. Grew up in the area. Went to UVM. Returned to be nearer snow and outdoor activities.

Idea: Supports conference, blogger, and part time work ideas by others.

Timberly Hund. Architect/techie. Brattleboro Planning commission member. Inn keeper on weekends. Moved because?

Idea: Co-working space, leverage that there are great part time workers here already. Work with Brattleboroology and InnBrattleboro.com folks to have them blog for the town.

/end

boing boing traffic for tiny house post

The Tiny (ish) house project has been Boing Boinged

General

My tiny (ish) house blog made it on BoingBoing.com, It was quite a rush to see my blog go from about 50 visitors a day to more then 20,000! BoingBoing is top 5 in the world for blog traffic, so it makes sense.

boing boing traffic for tiny house post

BoingBoing.net traffic for tiny house post

Here’s what went down when the post went live:

  • The tenant of the tiny house, an IT guy, emailed me in in about 14 minutes since he happened to catch the post on an RSS feed on BoingBoing. He said it was surreal to realize he was looking at the house he lived in on a blog he reads every day.
  • On Facebook, a friend posted that they’d seen it within minutes as well.
  • I watched 30 to 50 people on my public Google spreadsheet for a couple of days.
  • I resisted the temptation to respond to flame bait comments on the BoingBoing post.
  • I approved a score of comments that came in on my blog.
  • My server hit it’s 40GB limit of bandwidth about three hours after it went live and refused more visits. I called my sysadmin and had it tripled to 150GB and it held.
  • Reddit was surprising as a traffic source.
  • I made $5 on ads.
  • A couple of cool people asked to blog my page and use a photo or two.
House, from the side. It's about 19' high at the peak.

Building a rental/guest tiny house in Vermont that is green, energy efficient, and passive-ish solar.

Tiny House Construction
Winter 2015

Winter 2015

StatusBefore. Plan. After.

  • February 2015. Our second tenants, a young couple who are planning on building a tiny house someday and wanted to experience it, are moving out June 1. My mother is going to take it for two months at full rent (sorry mom, my salary isn’t that big).
  • November 2014: Installed a high end Panasonic ceiling fan.
  • 2013, fencing.
  • November 2012. Completely finished, for at least a few minutes.
  • November 2011, tenant ready. Our tiny house took project took 1 year to be tenant ready. Rent $825/mo
  • March 2011. Permitted, designed done.
  • October 2010. Start of project with design and garage demo.

Clog (Construction Log)

What: We built a large “tiny house” in our Southern Vermont backyard and documented the process, including:

Who: We are not professional carpenters, nor will we be quitting our day jobs. Laura is an elementary school teacher at The Neighborhood Schoolhouse. I’m the director of the educational technology program at Marlboro College Graduate School. I also worked as a carpenter in my youth, and have always been interested in real estate. In November 2010 we bought a house on tiny 1/8th of an acre lot, 1/2 mile from downtown, Brattleboro, VT. (200 miles North of NYC).

Why: I created this Clog because when I was doing research on small house construction, this is what I wanted to find on the Web. We also wanted to have a record for ourselves, and blogging is somewhat job related for me. My wife Laura came up with the “Clog” name and we loved it. We are “clogging” the project in the spirit of open source information.

The idea to build came from a childhood spent in a “back to the land” community in southern Maine in 1970s an the Tiny House movement.  Building your own simple house was common place and everybody seemed to be an amateur carpenter. When we bought our house it had an old garage that begged for help. I convinced my wonderful wife Laura it would be a good to invest our savings in something that could provide extra income.  We also both like guest house possibilities, and enjoy being around people. In addition we wanted to shorten our needlessly long asphalt driveway and park near the road to reduce shoveling. Then we found out that our town offered $3000.00 grants to build second units, and we could get rebates from Efficiency Vermont if it was efficient. Our journey had begun!

Goals
March 2011. Permitted, designed done.
Reality
November, 2011: Tenant happily in and paying rent. Nov. 2012. Shed and fence done. Rent raised to $825/mo not including heat/dryer/gas stove.
  1. $30,000 including $4,500 in rebates.
  2. 15%+ yearly return on investment including 10months/yr avg. occupancy, expenses, water/electric, increased taxes.
  3. 16′ W x 20′ L x 19′ H. 9′ by 15′ sleeping loft (About 400 sq. ft.) plan.
  4. Passive solar. Super-insulated. Energy Star. Double stud wall, 10″ thick.  Ceiling 12″ cellulose.
  5. Separate metered 100 Amp service with electric heat, washer/dryer and stove.
  6. Shared sewer and water through our basement walls.
  7. Save money by: An efficient design. DIY general contracting. Salvaged material whenever appropriate.  Painting, staining, fixtures, floors, siding, trim, research/buy appliance, rigid foam, site clean up, landscaping.
  1. $54,000 including $3,000 in rebates. Materials were much higher then expected, and we hired people for more then we expected. Efficiency Vermont rebate didn’t happen due to changes in regulations.
    See our costs in our public spreadsheet.
  2. 12.37%+ yearly return on investment including 10months/yr avg. occupancy, expenses, water/electric, increased taxes.
  3. 16′ W x 22′ L x 19′ H. 9′ by 15′ sleeping loft (About 400 sq. ft.) plan.
  4. Passive solar. Super-insulated. Energy Star. Advanced 2’x6′ framing with 1.5″ of rigid foam on entire envelope. 6′ cellulose walls. 12″cellulose ceiling.
  5. Shared electric 100amp service with tenant paying propane for Rinnai 11,000 BTU heater, used gas cook stove, and used propane dryer.
  6. Shared sewer and water through our basement walls.
  7. Saved money by: An efficient design. DIY general contracting. Salvaged material whenever appropriate.  We painted, stained, but paid for folks to do floors, siding, and trim.  We researched and bough appliances, installed rigid foam, and did site clean up, landscaping.

House, from the side. It's about 19' high at the peak.

Floor PLan

Floor Plan. Bob has put the the plans for this tiny house on Houseplans.com

Dream Team

We’ve found that if you ask around, the best contractors become evident. They may be a little more expensive, but they will usually end up saving money because they are the most professional. They listen to your goals, only commit to what they can really do, and don’t make costly mistakes. It is also essential they can work together well if  you are acting as your own general contractor.

  • Architect: Bob Swinburn. bob@swinburnearchitect.com   (802) 451-9764.
  • Excavating: Jim Herrick, Marlboro VT.  348-6336. A mentor, teacher and pro. A invaluable nexus from ground breaking to foundation done. Helped us stay under budget. Could crush a wall, or safely transplant a flower petal with his machines.
  • Concrete: Brad King. Putney, VT: 387.5732. Total pro. On time and under budget. In and out quick with good communication.
  • Framing to weather tight (frame, windows, doors, siding, trim, subfloor). Gabrial Hulme. 254-7662. Local who’s work we’ve seen and like. Knows all the other contractors.
  • Electric: Victor Johnson Electrical. (802) 254-8747. 483 Cemetery Hill Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301
  • Plumbing: Dale Temple. Temple Plumbing and Heating,  Putney, VT. 387 5540. 25+ years with Jim.
  • Suppliers: Renew Salvage (Used lumber, windows, doors, toilet, sinks, paint…).  Perkins Home Center (New lumber, windows, doors…). Kerber Farm and Mills (siding).

Photos

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=109615

Videos

Dense  Pack Insulating

Sketchup Tour of early plan

February Sun Simulation

Lessons Learned

  • Labor: We rushed in the end and hired people to work since we had a tenant ready to pay rent. This cost us a lot more then if we took our time and did more ourselves.
  • Professionals: Find one honest, experienced, professional and they will hook you up all the others in the area. A good team of people who have worked together before saves time and money.
  • DIY. If you want to save money, get ready to be flexible. Surrender your entire driveway for months so they can leave machines and lumber close to the site. Say goodbye to a nice lawn this year and let them work. Be flexible on the schedule. Let workers use your bathroom to save portapotty charges. Offer to back fill by hand to save an hour with an expensive crew. Offer to clean up the site every day after work. Listen to ideas your contractors have to save time and money and do them. Provide water. Buy donuts!
  • Architects vs. Contractors: There seems to be an endless war here. Architects work on paper and the screen. Contractors make it a reality on the ground. Contractors are constantly complaining that architects don’t get the little details right, and don’t realize how much time their designs can take. I’m sure architects complain about contractors. If you’ve got a big budget, you can make any design happen exactly, but if you’re on a budget, listen to the boots on the ground and roll with the reality of what might be quicker or cheaper.
  • + 20-50%. As our budget went over we noticed none of the contractors were surprised! This is a big clue. My dad, who was a carpenter and home builder remarked, “You’ll know you’re half done when your money’s all gone.” If you want to be on time and under budget, budget at least 20%-50% more than what everybody tells you for every cost and every date.
  • It’s a process of slowly moving forward to points of clarity. Chaos is normal. Answers are difficult. The unexpected adds days to every schedule. Don’t get angry or panic, just endlessly push forward step by step.
  • DIY General Contracting: Clear communication and documentation are your best tools. There are no assumptions. You are the nexus of information. Try not to change your mind, it costs money. Do not be a high maintenance client unless you are rich.
  • Get a plan.  Buy it, make it, or hire an architect. Plans allow for estimates that mean something. Every site is unique. Existing plans may not work for where south is and where you want a door to be to keep a tenant from walking in your sight lines all the time.
  • Talk to the town – a lot: Permits and zoning will decide what you can build. Move gently. Ask questions. Make friends. Go in person when you can, it helps people connect a form to a face. Do not push the Town. They have the power.
  • Web Research. There’s a lot of work you can do by surfing free house plans and articles. But it only goes so far. Eventually you will need to talk someone’s who’s actually a professional in your area.
  • Sketchup. An amazing program with which you can build models, walk around them, and see how the sun behaves in your location all year. But be careful, Sketchup can be like online dating, it can be so entertaining that you can forget to go on an actual date!

Construction Journal

Nov. 8th, 2011: From the third week of Oct. until Oct. 29th, it was a big push since we had a tenant. We hired Rick and Dylan even more. Rick built a great railing from the left over yellow pine 2″x6″ salvaged wood. It had to be to fire code, so it looked huge. Rick also did the window frame, in of course…pine! We found some excellent low grade boards with few knots, but we like knots anyway. Rick really understood our “cabin” astetic and “done is better than perfect” mentality along with “use used whenever possible,” credo.

We decided to buy at least one new thing for ourselves, a gas stove! This way we could put our used gas stove in the tiny house. We got a good one for $520 with a real broiler and different sized burners. The gas guys came and hooked both up. The Danby Engery Start bottom freezer fridge arrived and Laura and I picked up both the stove and fridge in the Subaru Forester, in two trips. The gas guys came, all in a rush since their company had new owners. But they hooked everything up and it all worked!

I got everyone out three days before the tenant was arriving and with Junio’s help, sanded and put two coats of water-based poly on the floors. I didn’t sand between. But I did vacuum and mop very carefully. Laura and I cleaned until late at night on the 28th. We also touched up the paint, bleached the cabinets, and put a second coat of marine varnish on the shower and kitchen wood.

The tenants moved in just as a VERY unusual snow storm of 14 inches hit us that night. He was only able to make one trip. But he was warm, even if he only has some of his stuff. The week since he’s been in we’ve managed to clean up the hard, build a basic walk way with all remaining scrap 2″x4″s, and have Rick sneak in and build a bathroom door out of , you guessed it, shiplap! We used scrap wood on the crawl space cover, and have very little scrap left. I hooked up an CAT6 Ethernet line in the extra PVC I ran to our modem in the big house and upped our Internet speed so we can share. When I did, I found that the crawl space is already wet on the wood and side walls. I do need to put down a layer of 6mil plastic, but it’s only about $38. Speaking of money, we’re hitting close to 50K on the house. Mostly labor driving us over by continuing to have others work so we can move fast, and by doing things like the fan, washer dryer, etc. with expensive electricians and plumbers.

On Nov. 2nd we had our Efficiency Vermont inspection. Jenn did a blower door test and took all kinds of notes on every appliance and light. She took measurements and then did the blower door test. She said, “188CFM 50 on the ‘C’ ring, I’ve never had to use the ‘C’ ring before!” so it’s TIGHT.

On Nov. 7th our check came from the town for $3000.00. We expect Efficiency Vermont’s check within a month and we’re exploring federal tax breaks.

Done-ish

Done-ish

October 21st, 2011: I’ve not posted mostly due to being too busy! We’re down to the wire. A week ago I couldn’t sleep after I made a list of what was needed and how much time Gabe and Scott had. I had one night of fear and loathing that involved several trips to my laptop after failed attempts at sleeping. I would go over the lists and the budget and the person-hours. It just wasn’t possible to finish. Then Gabe and worked out that he could leave his tools and his carpenter friend, Rick, could take over. Then I found a local guy named Dylan who needed some assistant type-work. Both of their hourly rates were fair and lower then Gabe and Rick due to having less tools and doing it part time.

Dylan and I were able to finish the second coat of paint. Dylan reminded me that you can mix paints if they are all latex. We mixed four different gallons of salvaged paint and some paint from the basement, all white, antique white or similar. It worked like a charm.

Dawn came and later that day I called Gabe and we worked it out. He’d come for 1.5 more days, and work on he all important stair railing to fire code, and kitchen. Monday came and it all worked out! By Tuesday we had a floor and kitchen in enough for me to finish.

So last week I was running around between my day job and the lumber yard picking up shiplap pine. The entire house, framing, studs, joists, floor, interior walls, loft is ALL pine. And it’s on Pine Street even!

Merrill Gas came with heater on Tuesday. It’s a Rinnai 11,000 BTU jobby for about $1000. It’s wonderful! Small, quiet and when it reaches temperature it just slows way down and keeps a trickle of heat coming out, vs turning off. This makes for a very quiet heater! Of course the used gas stove didn’t work! Maybe it was broken, maybe it was the hose I washed it with? Or the month outside? What to do? Laura and I mulled online.

I used the nail gun Gabe left to put up more shiplap on the bathroom walls so the plumbers could do their final installation.

Then by Friday the plumbers got the little “low boy” water tank in. It was delayed due to the truck that was bringing it here breaking down. Victor the electrician could now wire for it. I had forgotten that sequence of events was the only way to do it! It was a little chaotic.

Near the end of the week Laura’s mother came up to help and visit. She was great in helping us with all the house chores that we’ve neglected. Laura and she did all the yard work, cleaning and small jobs in the tiny house that they could.

And on Saturday my brother David came from Portland, Maine to help and to DJ our Tiny Dancer House Party. It was a blast! Pics. We danced on the unfinished floors in shoes! Oy…the dents might be a problem.

Basically a blur of a few weeks.

Tiny Dancer Party

Tiny Dancer Party

Dance!

Dance!

Sept. 27, 2011: Gas powered tankless how water heaters are so sexy! But alas, finding a direct vent one (since I don’t have a chimney), worth a damn for anything close to $800 with installation is hard. For now I believe I’ll settle for a 20 gallon traditional style at under $300. I’ll wait for their cost to drop, then maybe get them for both houses.

Sept. 25, 2011: Power is on. Things are getting comical, fast and cool.

  • Comical #1: The poor fiberglass shower stall. It has sat patiently watching construction from its back yard perch for the last 6 months since we bought it used for $100. The shower stall being one, it was brought through the front door – but wait, it didn’t fit! Gabe and Scott were shocked. Andrew and I tried it that night, upside down even, angled, sideways, and no go. The next day the plumbers tried it. No go. It’s THAT close, but no close enough. We could take the trim down, but it’s all pained, leaded, and in. Labor would cost to take it out and put it back. So we’re going with a new shower, $300.00 and will sell the old one.
Shower won't fit

Shower won’t fit

  • Comical #2: Renew Salvage actually called Friday after all these months of having our supply lists and said a stackable 24″ wide washer dryer just came in. I drove over after work. It was a Whirlpool in great shape and the dryer is run on propane! This means the it can hook up to the system for the heater and cook stove, and that means the tenant will pay the bill. It was $400, about $700 cheaper than a new one. So while were not planning on buying one this year and letting the tenant either buy one themselves or use ours, we bought it. Installing it, now that of course turns out to be hard! The conversation with Matt at the excellent Merrill Gas went like this:
    Me: “I scored a great stackable W/D with a propane dryer!”
    Matt: “They are great, but I bet you want it in a bathroom right?”
    Me: “Is that a problem?”
    Matt: “Usually. Unless you want to cut a hole in the floor, or have levered doors to let more air in, but who wants levered doors in a bathroom?”
    Me: “I do.”
    Matt: “Really?”
    Me: “Really, it’s a great W/D. If the tenant has gas, and happens to have a date, they can send them outside for minute.”
    Matt: Lots of laughter, “Okay, we’ll hook it up with the stove and Rinnai.”
Stackable washer dryer

Stackable washer dryer

  • Fast: The loft and stairs went in very fast. We’re keeping them raw wood, maybe with something like Poly on the loft floor, Tung oil on railings and such and maybe nothing on the stairs for now. The stairs seem like they will double as a closet and storage and are not a big as we thought.
  • Cool: The metal from the roof of the garage looks great all washed up and on the ceiling. We were four sheets short, so we put new metal in the loft by the bed. The tenant came over and likes it.
Loft, stairs, metal ceiling

Loft, stairs, metal ceiling

September 11th, 2011: Moving fast now. Gabe and Scott jammed this week and got the sheetrock, loft, and some other little stuff done. Time for us to start mudding. We also did a test of using the old galvanized metal roofing from our garage on the ceiling. It looked cool, but stained. I washed each sheet today with a hose first on both sides. Then with sponges and a hard brush I used Bon Ami powder with pure vinegar, and bleach for the tough spots – all quickly rinsed off. It got rid of the mildew and rust from them sitting out covering our lumber. We’ll need a few more sheets of new metal roofing since we don’t have quiet enough to for the whole ceiling, but we’ll use those in the loft at the back.

Sheetrock and Loft done

Sheetrock and Loft done

September 8th, 2011:

  1. We got a tenant! I posted to my work community and someone responded. We met and they are into moving in Oct. 28th and even helping finish little details. They even said they’d by a washer/dryer we could buy off them when they leave. It’s a good fit and we’re excited. I think we might have been able to get more then $775.00/month (tenant pays heat, we pay electric/water), but having a happy tenant is better then a few more dollars right now. Perhaps when it’s all up and running after a year, we’ll reconsider cost.
  2. We’re over budget! And we made the budget a public Google spreadsheet. Long live open source! No wait, that’s bad. We’re finding that our busy lives, and having a good tenant, means we are more willing to pay to have things done. We intend to mud and paint the sheetrock and put down and finish the pine floors. We’ll see.
  3. Dense pack cellulose is done! Fascinating how they staple up the netting that allows them to pump the cellulose in tight, then they add a second set of huge staples that tightens the netting down even further. The place feels very warm, quiet and smaller.
Cellulose dense pack done

Cellulose dense pack done

August 30th: 2011: Gabe and Scott got it all buttoned up weather tight a day before Irene hit. Now, the inside starts.

Weather Tight

Weather Tight

August 24th. 2011: A week ago we were almost framed to weather tight! One door and two back windows short.  We are not in the productivity doldrums. August in New England. Carpenters on summer break. Subcontractors stopping by when they can. We practice being a low maintenance client, part of which is not being in a hurry. We’ve been cleaning up the site, painting trim slowly after work before it gets dark, etc.

August 3rd, 2011: Gabe and Scott are framing away. The 2×6 Advanced Framing Technique seems a very efficient and an elegant use of lumber. The metal bands that take the place of wall sheathing are particularly interesting (see photos on main post). In general, there’s a lot less lumber, less scrap, and the 24″ stud bays make for better insulation. The roof should be on this week and trim and windows/doors next week. Then we’ll tackle the long process of finishing the inside. Laura and I are foam insulating the floor joists this week. This weekend we’ll install the ridged foam on the walls and gable ends, as well as prime the trim board to be all ready next week for siding.

Framed

Framed

July 21st, 2011. While we are road tripping in Nova Scotia we just got a text and a photo from Gabe that the framing started Thursday. He’s a pic from his phone. Going to do some hiking, so we’ll be offline for a week most likely. Back the 31st.

Framing Starts July 21st. (Photo from Gabe’s phone)

July 16-31st, 2011. We’re on a delayed honey moon in Nova Scotia lounging, camping and hiking. Gabe is framing to weather tight while we’re gone.

July 11th, 2011. Foundation is insulated to r20! It basically sucked as a job,but Laura and reminded our selves when we got cranky and fought that we were saving money,and that hard work feels great for many more days then it takes to do.  It was a two day job during brutally muggy 85 degree plus. We impact drilled holes in the concrete to hold the two staggered layers of 2″XPS foam. We decided against a nail gun because we wanted to make sure to not destroy the foam,and so we could tighten the force of the screws to just the right tension. We used another drill to put in the the concrete screws with large sheet metal washers we hand punched holes in. And we glued the two layers together as well.  One day we were so spacy from the summer heat that we kept forgetting things at the lumber store,like what we needed,our credit cards,etc. The hardware guys laughed at us. Laura became an expert foam cutter (score and punch) and I rediscovered my impact tool grip and old shoulder injuries.  This foam will not be coming off that wall anytime soon. The framers is starting this week,hopefully,so  it had to be done.

Done Insulating Crawl Space To R20

Done Insulating Crawl Space (2 staggered layers of 2″ XPS foam)

June 28th, 2011. We found two brand new 24″ octagon windows at Renew for $60 each! And a 3′ x 3′ used shower stall in good shape. We’re going to put the windows in the north side, with one that opens in the bathroom, and one that is fixed in the kitchen. This means we save a couple of hundred dollars and get an extra window in the kitchen.

June, 18th, 2011. Work at home weekend. Breaks from end of school year evals were sifting dirt in a homemade sifter. When we sifted the dirt I was reminded of how in the industrial revolution we invented so many machines, like giant gravel sifters, to do manual labor jobs. And the ideas came from watching how we did it manually with our bodies and making a big machine that did the same movement. Amazing how advanced we got using such simple ideas. Anyway, we used the dirt to level the site more where water was pooling, and the gravel for the new dirt part of driveway now that we need to be able to park side-by-side.

DIY Gravel making

DIY Gravel making

June 15th, 2011. We have final plans with the new stairway up to firecode. We  did a walk though with our framer Gabe yesterday.  He came over and we went though the plans. He also had bad news. He got sick, which pushed his other job back, which pushed us back to July 15th for him to start. Not much to do about it. We’ll be traveling then for a week, back a week, and then gone a week again. Over the last few weeks we have got a $35 low-flow toilet, a $10 stove hood, .50 a board foot 2x4s at Renew salvage. We’ve also paid the excavator who was on budget.

New Stairs to fire code from the side.

New Stairs to fire code from the side.

May 27th, 2011. After three estimates around the same price, and some negotiation, we’ve picked a framer! Gabe and crew will start end of June. It’s about 1/4 of our budget to get the house to “weather tight.” We feel this is crucial to be done quickly by a crew, so rain doesn’t damage anything. With the subfloor, roof, walls, windows, doors and siding on, we can work inside slower.  We’ve seen Gabe’s work before in a friends house, and we liked it. He’s a local boy who knows the other contractors well. We’re now gathering salvaged supplies. Laura and got a $35 low flow toilet in good shape from Renew, and 40, 12′ 2’x4’s for $80! We’re stacking them in the back yard. We’re going to keep looking at Renew, until a week before framing starts, and then order everything we’ve not got new. This saves Gabe’s time trying to find salvaged materials. Time is money for sure in this situation. Also today, we found a kitchen! A friend is taking down a small galley kitchen in our neighborhood and we can have all the counters and cabinets if we help him take it down and give him a little money.

May 18th, 2011. A crowbar smashes through our foundation saving hours of work with an impact hammer, and our bushes are donated to neighbors. Jim the excavator returns and we talk after he’s done we Laura and I return from work. As usual, he’s not only a mentor, but a pro. He calls ahead and coaches us on buying Schedule 40, 2″ and 3/4′ Conduit for water and misc. XPS 2″ foam, what stuff we need to move from the edge of the house, and raking the bottom of the foundation until it’s clear of rocks. All before 8am when they arrive.  This is because the two trenches for water and sewer are to be dug and the plumber will be on hand as well. This is a high dollar day if thing takes too much time. That night Laura and I move things in the rain from the edge of our . We wake up at 6:30am to do the rest and it starts pouring rain as soon as we’re dressed and out the door. Laura valiantly decides she’d rather rake the rocks and concrete out of the foundation, and have me drive to Perkins for the supplies. Jim arrives and we go to to work. I get a call at noon that we need more PVC conduit and if got it it would save me money. I arrive at the site with the supplies to find a most excellent thing has happened. Jim was able to use a crowbar to punch a hold through our foundation! This saves me doing it with a rented hammer and backfilling by hand. The slate rock and sandy soil made it possible. And the bushes are gone and he found folks he knows who want them. Full post here.

Bushes Be Gone

Crowbared hole in main house's foundation

Crowbared hole in main house’s foundation

May 12th, 2011: Our alternate tread stairs looked have fallen on hard times! But the pouring part of the foundation is done! After a few mis-steps we have achieved an approved fire code construction permit, in addition to the zoning permit. But, the stairs are not up to NFPA 101 – 7.2.2, never mind section 7.2.2.2.3.3 on hand rails. Bob? Help…

Foundation Pour Done

Foundation Pour Done

May 9th, 2011: They are pouring the walls today. The plumber Dale has talked to Brad (their kids are dating) and knows where, and how high, to put the hole for the toilet. We spent a few hours over the weekend discussing, calling Bob, and strolling around the site mulling with my friend Junio, the different approaches to electrical lines to the house. Our maybe electrician was nice enough to check in over the weekend, even though we’ve not settled on an plan with him – as was Bob. We’re poring this morning, so it has to be decided. The variables were where to come into the house through the foundation wall, since they have to put a hole in before they pour, or in a separate trench around the outside of our house, from the point where electric enters our house. Or through our basement in a pipe above the water pipe. And if we want a separate meter, which is 2-3K!. And that has a lot to do with if we want electric baseboard heat, which takes more load, or if we go gas heat/stove we can maybe avoid a separate meter. These variables feed into the long term costs for the tenant, and how we make sure they pay for their heat and electricity. We like gas heaters and stoves but it’s about 2-3K more then simple baseboards. We’ll have to do a spread sheet on actual costs and benefits…

May 3rd, 2011: Jim Herrick arrived today to break ground. He’d taken care to call the Town utilities office several times, so a couple of guys from the Town arrived shortly after he did. All was well with them and they left. Jim then destroyed the garage foundation is a matter of minutes. The best part was when he stopped destroying and gently dug up some flowers near the foundation. The steel jaws of his machine set the flowers down in the lawn unbroken and with roots intact and ready to be transplanted. He’s a pro.

Ground Breaking

Ground Breaking

April 30th, 2011: The garage is no more. Glenn showed up right at 10am and helped me sawsall (with respirators due to lead painted clapboards) the walls in sections while Laura started on the dumpster and moving our garden to the front of the house. Mo, Jill, and TJ came by after lunch when Glenn left and we all filled the 22′ dumpster to the rim.  We now have a huge open space in our back yard, giving us momentary thoughts of just having a big back yard and no house at all. But financially, not so smart. But we are going to move the shed roof of the tiny house to the other side, so we gain 4ft of lawn.  Main post with photos.

The garage is gone
The garage is gone

April 26th, 2011: Dirt will be spilled Tuesday May 3rd. We’re getting a dumpster for about $500 (total cost) on the weekend and doing a lot of throwing of naily wood. We’ve been reconsidering the framing design to reduce the budget. Specifically going from two, 2″ x 4″ stud walls filled with dense pack cellulose to make a 10″ thick wall, to “Advanced Framing” built 2″ x 6″ walls with rigid foam on the outside of the sheathing. Advanced framing techniques seem to save materials and time and are different in that they “2×6 frame at 24 inch centers with single top plates, two stud corners, no jack studs, no cripples and single headers (and in many cases no headers at all).” Details: Advanced Framing | 2×6 cellulous/foam walls | Double Stud Walls.

April 24th, 2011: A neighbor, Glenn Letourneau, saw the story in the paper and offered to help. He works at Integrated Solar and wants to build a house like this some day. He stopped by on our garage-be-gone weekend and ended up returning with tools and helping take the entire roof off. It was a huge help for Laura and I.

Garage roof gone with Glenn's help

Garage roof gone with Glenn’s help

April 18th, 2011:  Applied on a long shot to the town to have the bike shed roof overhang to our property line. Didn’t pass, but it’s understandable and the town planning commission was very helpful in advising us to make sure we know our property lines.

Town Planning Commission

Town Planning Commission

April 16th, 2011: Laura and began taking down our garage. Laura found a YouTube video that explained how to take of vinyl siding and went nuts on it! The roof’s decades of asphalt shingles under metal roofing will be tough. Weather permitting, I think we’re going to make our May 1st. Deadline. The main lesson we’re learning here is that sometimes it’s good to study up, even for something like demolition.

Laura attacks garage and wins!

Laura attacks garage and wins!

Caleb attacks roof and wins

Caleb attacks roof and wins

April 15th, 2011: Called Jim the excavator Brad the foundation guy. Jim’s a great general contracting coach. I asked him about what next? Checks? Contracts? Dates? He said it was more loose then that now. He’ll come the first week in May. Foundation right when he’s done. The plumber should stop by when the work is being done. A week before May 1st, we all talk again and confirm if demo and all is done. Brad said the same kind of thing. No deposits needed. Call in two weeks. It’s very flowing, but I see the logic of that for a small job with weather considerations, etc. Sounds like these guys have been around enough to work in weeks rather then specific dates.

April 13th, 2011: We are officially scheduling contractors! While some estimates coming in are scary high, and costs look hard to keep under 30K, we’re moving forward anyway. We think we can get a very low interest loan from the town and Bob is helping us change small things to make contractors have an easier job.

April 11th, 2011: Met with local carpenter Ben Carr of www.benjamincarrbuilding.com. He’s got local experience using salvage materials and is interested in the job. He doesn’t like asphalt or plywood if we can avoid it due to their toxicity and durability. Bob says corrugated metal roof and Hemlock sheathing are fine and not that much different in cost. 

April 6th, 2011: We’re in the local Paper! Thinking small Brattleboro couple wants to replace garage with a “tiny house” By Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons. April 6th, 2011. The feeling is brewing that we are going to build, even if the budget is tight. We can always finish the inside slowly as long as we have enough money to get it weather tight, wired and plumbed. We edited the materials list from Bob, and took it to the Perkin’s lumber with drawings. They are going to give us prices and email them. They loved the prints of the plans. We are filling out the Efficiency Vermont paperwork for Energy Star rebates and assistance possibilities with Bob’s help. We are talking with possible framers about time in mid June to start framing.

April 4th, 2011: Concreteestimate is in, $3000.00 for labor and materials for the frost wall foundation. This estimate is fixed, “won’t go up, won’t go down” as he said.

March 31st, 2011: Jim the excavator called with an estimate of 2,550.00 for two visits. We called a foundation guy who could do the concrete, which I didn’t realize was a different person. He’d come and dig the crawl space out, put in frost walls. Then we’d have the foundation done with footings and walls and boxed out holes for water and sewer. Then he’d come back dig the trenches for water and sewer and back fill them. We can keep the driveway intact as a staging area and get rid of the asphalt later for about $250. The key is that before he comes, the entire site is clean own to the old concrete pad, including the work area around the garage and driveway. We’ll have to drill our own holes in the foundation of our house later, or pay someone. We called John, a foundation guy he recommends to come do an estimate.

March 30th, 2011: The Commons newspaper interviewed Laura and I after finding Bob’s Facebook post about his blog, linking to this blog. It was fun. The reporter took photos and we chatted with the plans.

March 29th, 2011: Bob gave us an early version of the house plans. They’re cool! Looks like a crawl space is the best way to go, both financially and to allow for contractors to not have to be as tightly coordinated. The vaulted ceiling will have cross beams, one of which is cleverly the railing for the sleeping loft. We believe we can use the old vinyl siding from the garage on the front of the house so it matches our house.

Early back yard tiny house plan

Early plans

March 30th, 2011: Dale from Temple plumbing and heating in Putney, VT came over this morning. Seemed like a very solid professional. Has worked with Jim the potential site guy  for 31 years. He suggested we save money by having Jim lay water trench deep with a  3-4” sleeve in a trench. Jim also makes another trench for a Sewer pipe to grade and buried. When building is weather tight, Dale will come in with 2 guys for about 3 days. He’ll hook up  the sewer, and he’ll run a water pipe in the sleeve and hook it up. He’ll put in water heater in crawl space?  Install vents for both sinks.  Estimate by him verbally, erroring on the high side, is $4000 including labor/materials. We’ve  entered it in the estimate spreadsheet.

March 29th, 2011: Called town water and sewer guy. We’re all OK and they know about the project. 10ft of separation is needed between water and sewer to house foundation wall. Electric he wasn’t sure. There should be a code. Probably separate by at least some dirt in trench with water or sewer. We are advised NOT to get a separate sewer and water meter. It’s $170, plus installation. It would need to be installed before the current meter. Not sure about this? Before turn we turn on utilities, we need to write a letter to Rick at town. Tell them our situation of using one room for a bedroom, one room for an office, and one room for a guest room in our house. And that we are building a one bedroom studio apartment. This will keep us under the 3 bedroom total limit of our current bill. Our Base allocation 450 gallons/day, 150/per bedroom for three bedrooms. They would like to see the open trenches and map the sewer before we close the site. No charge. Call and tell them to stop by.

March 25th, 2011: Site person Jim came over. Is talking to Bob about designs. Might need to be a crawl space not slab because of the slanting grade. Bob and him are discussing. He avised we get a plumber in soon to give estimates. Advised we focus on the communications part of General Contracting so the contractors are working in unison which will save money if things are well organized and clearly communicated. We can probably save money by punching our own holes in the foundation. We might have to move the oil tank to accomodate the sewer line in. He can tear up the asphalt, will save money if he can leave a jagged edge, not cut it with a say to be clean. We said yes.  We called Bob to let him know these things. He said to call Terry Short for electric, who we know from our inspection. And Mark Garland for plumbing estimates. We did.

March 24th, 2011: Lengthened to 22′. Stairs moved up and center.

March 23rd, 2011: Local ReNew Salvage says we can save a bundle by demoing our garage ourselves. If we separate the stuff, they will come take what they can resell, and leave us a tax write off slip for free. Then they will help use take the stuff we can’t get rid of, such as painted wood and scrap, to the dump with their truck. Looks like we might be having a weekend “garage be gone” demo party!

March 17th: 2011: We fill in application with town zoning representative’s help (worth the trip!) to apply for a zoning waver to put the East overhang shed roof to our property line, vs. 5ft back. This will give us 4 additional feed of lawn we don’t have now. The concrete pad will still be 5ft back.

March 16th, 2011: Our feasibility study has begun. We have started a shared spread sheet of every cost we can think of from lumber to lights. Bob is helping us price it all out. It’s good to get out of the endless searching for plans and building Sketchups.

Monday March 14, 2011: Bob the architect came over and we walked the site with our feedback on his first plan and the basement. We had some thoughts, but most of them turned out to be not such a good idea when discussed. We then talked about what is to come and divided up tasks. He’ll call some site contractors for estimates. We’ll check the changes with the town zoning people, and make a shared Google spreadsheet of every cost we can think of. He’ll then add to the sheet estimated numbers from his experience.

Friday, March 11, 2011: Bob sent us a teaser plan. All this time We’d been thinking the bathroom would be a lot cheaper if it was closer to the house where it taps into the main system. Turns out it might not matter that much. South is at the front. We think we can give the tenant a little garden patch too.

First Teaser Design

First Teaser Design

March 6th, 2011: Start of this blog. and the day we hired an architect.

December 12th, 2010: We get a zoning permit after applying to the town a couple of weeks before. Because it is on the same footprint as our garage, we don’t need a building permit.

Early December, 2010: We meet the permit man to hand off our application, check, and initial plan for a 20′ x 24′, two-car garage with a studio apartment above it.

Original Permit Application Plan in Sketchup

Original Permit Application Plan in Sketchup

End of November, 2010: Right after we buy the house, we meet with Brattleboro Area Affordable Housing office gentlemen at our house,  who say the project looks doable and we should be fine to get the towns $3,000.00 grant for those building rental units in town.

2008-2010: Laura and I came close to building a new house in town when we found a tear down home on a great plot. We also would talk about out buildings as we saw them on our drives and visiting friends. I’m a bit of a real estate junkie. I tend to keep an eye on local listings, and look at home designs and out buildings as I drive.

Resources (In progress)

Clog Tools

Organizations

  • Building Green. “Independent company committed to providing accurate, unbiased, and timely information designed to help building-industry professionals and policy makers improve the environmental performance, and reduce the adverse impacts, of buildings.” Right here in Brattleboro VT.
  • Building Science. Source of info for advanced building techniques backed by data and experimentation.
  • Robert Swinburne Architect. Bluetime collaborative. Bob has put the The Plans on Houseplans.com
  • Brattleboro Area Affordable Housing. Brattleboro, VT supports second unit and in house unit construction so as to provide lower income housing.
  • Greener Living Vermont. Provides simple, sustainable solutions for socially and environmentally conscious clients within the Green Mountain State.
  • Efficiency Vermont. “Efficiency Vermont helps all Vermonters to reduce energy costs, strengthen the local economy, and protect the environment by making homes and businesses energy efficient.”
  • Rural Studio. Auburn University. See their $20,000.00 house projects.

Blogs, Sites, House Plans and Designs for Tiny, Small, Cabins, Guest Houses and Cottages.