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My name’s Hank, I’m an architecture student, and I own a school bus.

Lots of people ask me: “So… why do you have a bus?”

As if simply owning a bus wasn’t reason enough.

Here’s a slightly more detailed explanation:

For the last few years, some of my friends from my hometown and I have been spending time on a piece of property that belongs to my grandfather. It’s 80 rolling acres of natural hardwoods, with some farmed pine on the back 20. In what seems like an impossibility in southeastern Wisconsin, none of us have cabins in the family, and this piece of property has become something of a retreat.

Thankfully I had a little extra weight in the bed to keep me from losing traction...
Thankfully I had a little extra weight in the bed to keep me from losing traction…

During our retreats, we’ve been staying in tents on the property, or staying as guests at a friend-of-the-family’s cabin half an hour away. Quickly we began to discuss putting a small shelter on the property, but obstacles popped up left and right. Building code wouldn’t allow for a structure under 600sqft (which is about 3 times larger than we were thinking), and regardless of our intentions it would require septic and electrical permits (and associated fees), and it would likely change the tax structure of the property.

After giving up the hope for building anytime in the near future, we came upon the realization that if we were on wheels, the building code simply didn’t apply. It would be considered an RV, and we could park it as we please. This led to several potential ‘cabins’ being proposed over the last few years. Including this one:

No, seriously. It was going for under a grand on ebay out in california...
No, seriously. It was going for under a grand on ebay out in california…

This last winter, one became available near minneapolis that was extremely promising. It already had bunks and a kitchen on the interior, was registered as an RV, and the asking price was under $2000. We could park it on the land and use it right away, and upgrade at our leisure. Unfortunately, by the time we got our resources together, the owner decided not to sell.

At this point, it was just a week before the start of my final semester as a graduate architecture student. For this final semester, my only course was my “Masters Final Project”, the subject of which, I had yet to determine…

so I made an impulsive decision: F#@% it. I’m just gonna go for it.

The rest is history. I impulsively bought a school bus located in the cities, determined to convert a raw skoolie into a living space. Thankfully the premise of converting a bus into a home addresses serious issues society is currently facing: materialism, sustainability, the housing crisis, debt… It really exists at the confluence of multiple problems we’re currently facing, particularly my generation.

As I’ve delved deeper into this project I’ve come to sincerely appreciate these concerns, and have even begun to consider the possibility of living on the bus for a short period of time, to really understand the implications of the project.

In a strange way, I think it’s important that the project began as something entirely self-serving; it provides motivation, and inspiration. My genuine concern in the outcome of the finished product drives me to solve problems more fully, and address countless issues that could be glossed over were this merely for proposal or presentation.

As I push forward with the design and construction of this project, my greatest hope is that can serve as inspiration for further development the emerging tiny house movement, demonstrating the potential embedded in small spaces, and the unrecognized value of used school buses in particular.

At the very worst, should I fail to inspire (or become gainfully employed), at least I’ve got a place to stay.

 

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