Putting Passive House to the Test! Pt. 4 - Passive BunkHouse licensing and Tiny Houses at Lincoln HS
There are a lot of little details that the Passive BunkHouse needs to meet in order to be licensed and registered as a Recreational Vehicle (RV) when I am done. Since I believe Knowledge is Power I started asking questions and this is what I found out: ask lots of questions!
I knew there would need to be some kind of a license plate for the trailer when it is complete. I wondered if purchasing a trailer that was manufactured and titled already would be sufficient, but it wasn’t. It’s a good place to start – someone already checked out the planning of all the parts and got them inspected, but if you are a really handy person you could go through and build your own trailer. I’m not that handy.
I spoke with the Washington State Patrol Vehicle Inspection people. They are the ones who will inspect my trailer when I am done and approve it for classification as an RV, allow it to be titled as such, and then I can get insurance. This is where I discovered it is good to ask questions. One of the requirements they have for their inspection is that I must keep all the receipts of the items used in the production of the trailer. This is to show proper transfer of ownership should I be using materials that would have serial numbers (in the case of building a flatbed trailer from scratch) or so that they know the minimum appraised value it should have for tax purposes. So far I have a grand total of $0 into the project so I am able to get on top of this requirement. Imagine if I was halfway through and 30 purchases into the project without all the receipts!
Another thing the state requires is that the trailer have dedicated items such as sewage disposal, cooking facilities, as well as sleeping and living areas. A portable toilet does not count since it can be removed (thus not dedicated to the trailer). A portable camping stove doesn’t work either. I am glad I found out about that because I was going to have things that plugged in to cook with and then be put away, but not have a dedicated installed cooking appliance like a stovetop or oven. I will be checking with them to find out just how much of a cooking center is necessary – perhaps a built in microwave would do the trick.
In addition to the required functions and areas to be considered an RV, the trailer must also fit into the size requirements. The state has a handy PDF online that details all the height, width, and weight requirements as well as handy things like hours of operation on the road and whether or not someone can ride in a moving trailer (they cannot). If you would like to see what the state of Washington requires of trailers, you can find the PDF here: http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/docs/cvd/170_129.pdf
This week I also followed up with one of the resources that Collin Scioli of Freeway Trailer Sales gave me – the Tiny House trailer woodworking project at Lincoln HS in Tacoma. I visited with the John McCarley, the instructor who has given the kids there the opportunity to learn solid house construction skills from design to completion on multiple tiny house trailers. They had two trailers almost completed when I was there and they looked great.
In addition to the skills of actually designing and building these great projects, John is also introducing the students to sustainable materials and methods. They are discussing installing PV on the projects, and are using reclaimed materials like wooden stop sign poles that are milled to look great once again. They have even used wood that was milled from a fallen tree.
I was impressed with the projects and the interest that John had in supplying the students with skills that will help them have great employment opportunities as well as personal satisfaction of creating something from scratch. He stressed that he and the other teachers in the woodworking department are there because they want to pass on these skills and make a difference. That point was driven home when the High School went into lockdown while I was there. High school can be a harsher environment for students than when I was a kid and it is good to see that there are people there who are trying to show what alternatives to that harsher environment there are available.
John gave me some advice that will make my trailer build go smoother - when ordering the trailer be sure to have the bits that are normally on a trailer to prevent a car from rolling forward left off. No sense having someone weld them on only to have someone else cut them off!
Up Next - Sizing it all up!