Group of cyclists building tiny, off-grid house in the woods
August 11, 2015
Glenwood Springs' Stomparillaz Cycling Collective is building what it calls the Oculus.
If you're in the dark, don't worry. Here's the deal: the Oculus is an off-grid clubhouse with a passive solar design that will generate all its own heat and power. To be sensitive to the natural terrain and the environment, almost all the materials will be hauled in on bikes. The project will be carbon-neutral, so the club is using reclaimed, recycled and locally available materials.
The whole process is being filmed by Orion Entertainment for a one-hour DIY Special called "Off the Grid — Rocky Mountain." To keep from ruining the surprise for the general public, photo opportunities at the building site were limited.
So who are the Stomparillaz?
Steve Novy, of Green Line Architects, describes them like this: "Stomparillaz are people who love bikes, art and community."
Stompaz, for short, like mountain biking, road biking, fat biking, tall biking and bike polo. They like crafting functional bicycle sculptures, going on bike-powered adventures and teaching others about the outdoors.
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The Stomparillaz were formed in Carbondale by a tight-knit group of cyclists. Since then they've spread out across the country, but the majority of the Stompaz live in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. They're a lively bunch — you might have seen them riding fancy tall bikes in the Strawberry Days parade this year.
It's not an exclusive club, though. "You don't have to officially be a Stompa," said Novy. "You just have to act like one, and you are one."
Next question: What's an Oculus?
"The Oculus," Novy said, "is the ultimate bike-art project and an exposé on the Stomparillaz and our outdoor lifestyle."
The Oculus itself will be a small, off-grid clubhouse in the woods. Novy, who specializes in environmentally friendly architecture, drew the plans with Stomparillaz co-founder Max Cooper, who lives in Telluride.
They've designed the Oculus to be a super-efficient structure.
QUITE A HAUL
"We're going to have adjustable overhangs and a big opening here that's like an eye," Novy explained. "It's a biomimicry exercise."
But solar power isn't the only feature. The Oculus will also have a smooth, curved roof that looks like a bike park feature. There's a new single track trail to the base of the roof so that people can ride up and over the house on their bikes.
Hauling the building materials in on bikes, proved particularly difficult. Last week, Novy hauled 10 bags of concrete up Cattle Creek Road and up an extremely steep driveway to the build site — all on a cargo bike.
Club members are using as much human power as possible, so the Oculus will be also carbon-neutral.
"We're actually counting our carbon," said Novy. "So if we use any gasoline or carbon-emitting equipment, we'll buy some carbon credits or plant some trees to offset our impacts."
Since this is a grassroots effort, all the materials have been donated. JP Strait from Aspen Deconstruction donated lumber and tools. Rick Abernethy from Pine's Stone let the Stompaz use part of their yard for staging materials. Patrick Johnson from Solar Flair donated blue board insulation. Habitat ReStore in Glenwood Springs donated framing materials and use of part of their yard for staging materials. Tony Hamrick from E&H Beamery in Silt donated roof beams.
OUT OF COMFORT ZONE
Novy is leading the project, but a few other local designers have chipped in to help.
David Rasmussen of David Rasmussen Design and Brad Reed Nelson of Board By Design are helping to craft woodworks. Darin Binion of Twenty2 Cycles is helping with the heavy-material hauling and bike maintenance. And Aaron Humphrey, president of Alpenglow Lighting Design, is playing a major role in putting the Oculus together. Plus he owns the property.
"My role is to maybe inject a little sanity in it periodically and make sure we get it done on time," said Humphrey with a laugh.
"We're all kind of out of our comfort zone on this project," said Novy. "And that's good. There's a huge creative side to all of us that comes out when we get our backs up against the wall."
Last weekend, volunteers rode out to the build site help frame the house while the camera crew recorded footage.
Tomorrow and next weekend, they'll be doing more framing, siding, roofing and trail-building. Plus there's a chance for volunteers to participate in Novy's "Haulin' Heavy Materials in on the Singletrack Challenge." That's exactly what it sounds like — try to haul an 80-pound bag up a steep hill on a cargo bike without falling or getting off. It's about as hard as it sounds.
"We're really hoping that the Stomparillaz in the community will come out and help," Novy said.
To volunteer, call Steve Novy at 970-309-2023.
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