Crested Butte Housing Crisis – Thinking outside…err, inside the box…and the ground.

I heard at tonight’s meeting on the Crested Butte housing crisis at CB Center for the Arts that the cost of building affordable housing is very high. I understand that construction costs must be high, but is maintaining that housing part of the equation? If so, I have an idea. Well, either way I have an idea. And this may sound wild, but like I heard earlier tonight, we need to get more creative…

There’s a gargantuan amount of shipping containers sitting around unused. Same goes for used car tires, which are worse for the environment when they sit out in the air and decompose. What about a neighborhood full of earthships built with shipping containers? They’re cheaper to build, they’re eco-friendly and many are completely off-grid, and they save money and the environment, both in the short term and the long term. And don’t say those homes would look like garbage and depreciate the value of other homes in the valley, because I’ve seen both earthships and homes made from shipping containers that are absolutely beautiful…and they sustain themselves (see the link at page bottom). If BOZAR is against this kind of endeavor, why? And isn’t there an approach that would work? The neighborhood could even be road-less, and I doubt any earth-loving local who really wants to live here so they can ride their bike to work would have any problem with that. There are surely two-dozen full time residents here who already don’t drive, or who wouldn’t mind giving up their car to create a more affordable, green lifestyle.

all terrain cabin shipping container home
I could totally see myself parking my bike there.

If the town or BOZAR are against helping fund this kind of housing, can I build my own and invest in a more sustainable and green future for myself, my children, and the climate?

If we’re not going to budge on coal, then I say we need to start fresh elsewhere. Like sustainable housing, which in the long run ends up being more affordable anyway.

I used to work with the San Diego branch of Habitat for Humanity. I grew up visiting Tijuana on weekends to help build homes, schools and daycare centers in Mexico. If locals chipped in to help build enough homes, they eventually got their own home, which of course they would help build. We could enlist that kind of practice here, thus freeing up lodging that would otherwise be used for non-residents only here to help with construction.

I hear we’ve got lots of potential for more land grabs. Let’s not start building expensive homes that cost $200 per square foot to build and require $200/month in winter heating, or don’t have solar panels in a state where we see sun 300 days per year. Let’s grab some land outside of town limits (since the town doesn’t like my idea because the homes supposedly wouldn’t fit their idea of what homes here should look like) and build a small community with two-dozen ‘earthship container homes’. Or, let’s build them within town limits and cover them with some cheap, rustic barn-door trim so they look more like old miners’ homes. We could heat our own homes, heat our own water, and generate our own electricity. And with huge windows cut in the sides of homes made from stacked shipping containers, we could even grow our own veggies. All of that would lead to less poverty, thus less need for affordable housing. Plus, we would have yet another reason to attract visitors.
*To the capitalists reading this: I rented a one-bedroom earthship outside of Taos for $200 per night. And I only visited Taos (and spent money on food, drinks and entertainment in the city of Taos) because I wanted to stay in the earthship and learn more about how I too could live more sustainably. We could set a nation-wide example. Shoot, a community movement like this could go viral worldwide. People would want to learn about how they too could build an ‘earthship container home’, so we could save on labor costs by employing volunteers who pay $200/night or more to visit only to help us work so they can learn from the experience.

inside a shipping container home
Pretty nice inside, isn’t it?

Shipping containers are cheap. Like, really cheap. Like, 8’ x 40’ for a couple grand or a whole lot less if you know where to look. I bet with our forces combined we could find great deals on a large quantity of them. Put three or four together and you’ve got the majority of a multi-level home structure for $10,000 or less. Incorporate that model partially (backing) into the earth, using unusual but easy to hide building materials, and BAM! Easy and quick to build, easy and quick to sustain. Note: You can’t “bury” a shipping container for structural reasons. You would have to “entomb” it.

Apparently Butch Clark is a huge proponent for shipping container homes. He also has a lot of money. We should get him involved. And an earthship was going up (or in, you could say) near Hartman Rocks until last year, when construction halted, probably due to permits expiring because they didn’t complete the job in due time. Well, the people building it weren’t funded by the county. They were self-funding it. But if the county backed it, it would have been done on time. We would have had local proof that it is possible to build and maintain your home for a reasonable cost all while contributing to a healthy environment.

I hope I didn’t paint a picture of an earthship as some sort of dirty hippie-home you’d see in the Pakistani countryside or a Mad Max film. They only go partially into the ground, and they use the ground for insulation. It’s easy to plant around the home and turn it into a landscaping masterpiece that nobody would even know was an earthship until further inspection.

I urge you to check out these sites and further educate yourself on using both the earth and otherwise non-recyclable items to build for a better, more sustainable future. One that won’t break the bank and that we can actually share with our kids.

45 amazing homes and offices built from shipping containers

Earthships in a community outside of Taos where activists have gone the extra mile

shipping container built into the earth
Sort of like what I described since it’s built backing into the earth, but I would bury one container underground for storage/growing so only two containers would be visible. I don’t need covered parking, I drive a Subaru.

2 thoughts on “Crested Butte Housing Crisis – Thinking outside…err, inside the box…and the ground.

  1. Sounds like a man on a mission! Have you read (or listened to) the book “Bold”? Melanie and I listened to that one and their previous book in the series “Abundance” and really had our eyes open to how much positive change we can create when we have a BOLD idea that solves a BIG problem and the motivation to tackle it. You are on the path, amigo! A vaya co dios!


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