This page documents ideas around designing and building easily transportable modular units providing essential features to a squat or temporary residence / occupation.
The idea is to build and publish designs for a set of easily reproduced transportable units which provide essential features for temporary occupancy and can be quickly and easily disassembled and moved to a new location.
GENERAL DESIGN BRIEF
- Mostly make use of easily found materials typically obtained from skips
- Bits that require purchase should be cheap and easily sourced items
- Should fit through doorways and up stairs
- Should pack down into units which can easily be carried by two people
- Should ideally have own wheels and be light enough for one person to move
- Should pack down 'square/flat' for easy packing into a van
- Ideally they should be transportable on bike trailers
- Should be quick to disassemble and reassemble, ideally folding
- Should be 'plug-and-play' in terms of power/plumbing
Doors could be the basic ingredient for the designs as they are easy to find. They generally measure about 6.5' x 2.5' so are a little larger then I'd like and some are probably way heavier than desirable. However since they are so easy to obtain it makes sense to consider them serious. The useful ones would be interior doors made as a sandwich of cardboard honeycomb and thin ply which makes them light but ridged. They make ideal work-surfaces so lend themselves well to the kitchen modules.
Packing down into a crate measuring approx 6ft x 2ft x 10 inches, the shower comes complete with shower tray, three solid or semi solid walls, shower curtain, shower mat, soap dish and mirror. The system will be complete with electric show and associated power leads and water pipes although it could be set up to make use of solar shower bags or watering can etc. Ideally the system would include a waste tank below the shower tray, along with a pump and waste hose so that the unit can be used where plumbing is not ideal.
- Shower tray should be plastic or glass fibre to keep weight down.
Like the shower, this unit would pack down to form a 'crate' approx 6ft x 2ft x 10 inches. It would contain a standard stainless steel sink and draining board along with a little bit of sideboard. There would also be one or two drawers fitted (for cutlery etc). The unit would stand on folding or dis-mountable legs which pack away into the crate. It would also have a system of shelves between the legs which would form the top and bottom of the crate when in packed form. Plumbing hookups would be simplified.
- It might optionally also utilise an electric water heater which would somehow also pack away into the crate.
Once again, the aim would be for this unit to pack down into a 'crate' of 6ft x2ft x 10" approx. It would be almost identical to the kitchen apart from having LPG gas hobs instead of a sink and having some space underneath for the gas bottle. The work-surface here would probably house items such as kettle, toaster and perhaps even a microwave so power sockets would be included and fitted with RCD for safety. It's not unreasonable to assume that the available work-surface would be inefficient so it is probably desirable that a second, work-surface only unit, is available.
- Equipement made for caravans/motor homes is ideal and cheap.
The toilet would be of a dry 'compost' / bucket-n-chuck-it design much like the Elsan. It would basically consist of nothing more that a wooden box with a well sealing lid. Lifting the lid would reveal a toilet seat and a hole. Below the hole and in the box itself would sit a large bucket (ideally with a lid too). The top of the box would also open to allow the bucket to be removed for emptying. It would be either emptied onto a compost heap or into the sewers. Accessories would include toilet-roll holder and another smaller bucket for saw dust or earth.
Potentially it is possible to construct a funnel like divider which would separate urine into a separate 'tank' which would make dealing with waste much easier. Another possible feature would be some form of privacy cubical to erect around the box. Ideally this would pack down in such a way as to become part of the crate containing to loo itself.
Other essentials include beds, tables and chairs. It is relatively easy to obtain ones which fold or modify them to do so. Stacking chairs are great. Old doors make good tables, just make folding 'A' frames to support them. Pallets make quick and simple beds - getting the matress off the floor is well worth while.
A collection of extension leads is easier to take with you than hardwired electrics so consider developing such a collection instead of putting too much money, time and resources into a system you can't easily take with you. When using extension leads it is important to avoid chaining too many together, instead aim to branch off eg. one lead splits to four and they slit again. Use good quality thick cables for the leads closest to the source of your power.
Fuses and Safety
If the building already has a consumer box and fuses then great, make use of it. If not then it is probably worth considered making your own 'portable' fuse box which you can easily take with you. This should include a RCD to reduce risk of electrocution. These devices can be purchased for as little as £6.
An example of a home made portable fuse box would be a consumer box with four magnetic circuit breakers (MCB) and a residual current device (RCD) fitted onto a piece of wood along with four double wall sockets, each wired to a separate fuse. You'd then arrange your extension leads so as to utilise the four fuses, perhaps one per room or floor. It is a good idea to keep lighting to a different fuse to other devices.
It's increasing more unusual to find a building with working plumbing as so many people are ripping out all the copper from a building in order to sell it. Sadly it is hard to have portable plumbling which you can easily take with you. Having said that, the plastic pipes and fittings are actually pretty cheap and the compression fittings which unscrew can be used again and again so it is fairly viable to rip out what you have put in and take it with you.
You can also utilise garden hose pipes for long water runs. It is cheap and very flexible so in some ways better than polypipe. However fitting it to standard plumbing without leaks can be slightly tricky. Bodged jobs can be done by heating the ends of the hose in boiling water and then pushing the end over 15mm copper pipe. You should aim for over 1inch of overlap and then put a hose clip on. 25mm blue poly pipe can also be bodged in this way but you need much more overlap to avoid leaks so best avoided.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka0e67OdXT8&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYCTcPkIIBI&feature=player_embedded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoKCyqV_wks&NR=1 http://lifehacker.com/5433799/make-a-swanky-bookcase-from-old-drawers