Current Energy

A Master Craftsman Rolls In Style

Daniel Riedemann is a native of Kansas and fifth generation  carpenter who learned specialty restoration from his father and grandfather. He uses his 1951 restored Spartan as an office and home away from home.  He offeres his advice about green trailer restorations.

Dan runs Nineteenth Century Restorations, a company with a focus on historic preservation, using designs that meet or exceed current energy efficiency standards.  On job sites he salvages reusable materials

and reclaimed lumber.  Dan says he likes to build homes that are as green as possible, but there aren’t a lot of clients who go as green as he would like.  The Spartan was a chance to do it his way.

Historic restoration of an Ohio home by 19th Century Restorations.

Dan takesto the road in his 1951 Spartan when he’s working on projects for the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service.  Have a quick look at his trailer in this You Tube clip (no audio): Here are Dan’s thoughts on some current issues Sam is dealing with in his Spartan restoration project: Insulation I used spray foam insulation kits [he will supply the name]. It’s a great product, made out of soybean products, so you aren’t letting toxic fumes out in the atmosphere.  It’s easy to apply.  You should make it about one-inch thick.   In your trailer,  it could be done with about three or four kits (each “kit” costs between $400-600.) I would spray the foam about 1” thick being careful not to completely refill the cavity. After that I went in with foil back bubble wrap, the stuff used to wrap pipe.  Comes in 400 ft. rolls.  [Note:  polycene.  Will correct this.  another guy told me he thinks you can get the lefover bits  of this stuff for free.] I replaced all that old Kimsul, which was fiberglass and basically  useless.  You’ll end up with about an R15. The The outer aluminum skin can really heat up.  But the heat stays in the gap in between. I live in Kansas where summers can be humid and the temperatures can get up into the 100’s.   I’ve got an air conditioner in there but the unit is not fighting the heat. Hot Water Heaters I use an instant hot water heater that runs off of propane. It heats up the pipes that the water is go through, so you only use it when the water is on. They have been using that system in Europe for years.  It is a great technology . It is in my front closet with room left over.  The shower in my Spartan is better than the one I have at home.

Metal bathroom unit on a 1951 Spartan Credit: Jane Keeler.Flickr

…that yucky metal bathroom unit, keep it? Yes.  I kept mine. Belly pan The original pan in mine was in excellent shape.  I just had to replace the spot by the bathroom.  I recommend using the same kind of product. It’s like an MDF fiberglass.  Iwould do it all new and use a marine grade epoxy to fasten it. I haul my Spartan a lot for the job, so I want mine sealed really well and not affect by the heat and water. It’s called a masonite belly pan but it’s not exactly masonite.

Belly pan for a vintage Ultra trailer. Credit: basicofbasics on photobucket

I suggest you call a couple of lumberyards or specialty wood shops and ask for the thinnest MDF material that they have.  ¾”  or 3/8”.   The product is slicker on one side (the side that isn’t as slick goes against the belly.)  I would definitely waterproof the pan.  And I would use foam insulation between the two.  In the center of the trailer you have five inches of insulation and then it narrows up to the sides because of the shape of the curve.  I used plain old yellow fiberglass when I restored my Sparta,  but if I was to do it again I would use spray foam.

Belly pan with liquid chaser. Credit:

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

Ashden signs up for 10:10

We sign up for 10:10

The Ashden Directory has signed up for 10:10, the collective campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010.

Devised by the team behind Age of Stupid, 10:10 is supporting people and organisations in reducing their use energy in four areas: electricity from the national grid, fossil fuel use on site, road transport and air travel.
We’ll start by calculating our current energy use, see where reductions can be made, and keep track of our progress here on the news page. We are especially interested in the amount of electricity and fossil fuel use involved in supporting the internet, and in finding out how we might calculate the effects of our usage, and if possible reduce it. Beyond that, we are three people working part-time from our own homes. Any meetings are arranged to coincide with other purposes, and most journeys are by train. And, as shown in our video conference for ‘Earth Matters Onstage’ in Eugene Oregon, we are working on how more and different connections can be made without flying. We will start talking with the companies listed on the Directory, to see how they are reducing their energy usage. More on our progress here soon.

Recent talks and presentations

On Saturday April 25th Chris Neidl of Solar One gave a presentation at ecoartspace NYC on solar energy. His talk focused on NYC and why the outer boroughs (in particular Queens and L.I.C.) pose a good prospect for solar panels (PV), providing many flat rooftops that are not shaded by tall buildings. His comprehensive lecture explained the current energy situation in NY in terms of the history of power plants, the energy grid structure, why NYC is susceptible to power failures and why solar energy could mitigate many of the existing problems. Energy use skyrockets in NYC during peak summer usage (prolonged hours of A/C use) which is not coincidentally the same time period that solar panels would kick in to provide the most benefit. Chris also discussed current energy legislation in NY State, how we as individuals can influence policy decisions (get active), cost benefit analysis/financial incentives for PV use and comparisons to other countries (Germany, Japan, Spain, Italy in that order) and U.S. states most using solar power (CA, AZ, NJ, NY). Not surprisingly in states where conventional power is cheapest – the incentive for using solar power is low, but NY State has the highest electricity costs in the country by a long shot.

On April 16th, along with co-curator and artist Joy Episalla, I gave a gallery tour of the “out of the blue” exhibition at Bergen College to a large group of art department students. The exhibition’s focus was on weather, atmosphere and geological conditions, both literally and metaphorically. We discussed the idea of how artists create their own weather conditions and even “storms” in terms of their influence upon one another individually and as a group such as in this exhibition. While walking around the gallery during the tour, I pointed out some uncanny relationships between the art works that were mostly unintentional. I mentioned that without seeing their works at the same time in this show, I would not have realized before the possible influence of Robert Smithson on Felix Gonzales Torres for example, but Smithson’s photograph of “Glue Pour” 1970 and Gonzales-Torres bright blue candy wrappers on the floor, Untitled, (Revenge) 1991, begged comparison in terms of ideas related to fluidity, entropy and erosion over time.

On April 6th, I was on a panel at the University of Albany Art Museum in conjunction with Jason Middlebrook’s exhibition and installation , Live with Less which explores the relationship between nature and human consumption.

Middlebrook who make paintings, drawings, sculpture, and outdoor public works often uses recyclable materials to draw attention to larger social issues. Live with Less is an expression of Middlebrook’s artistic and environmental goal to see beyond the discarded nature of these materials and to re-imagine them as something beautiful and useful. He literally brings wastefulness and the over consumption of contemporary living to new heights in a massive 35-foot tower made from several tons of recycled cardboard. The cardboard, collected on campus over a two-month period, was stacked and layered from floor to ceiling creating visual stratifications analogous to the layers of a landfill.

The panel discussion titled, Responsive Art: Making Work in the Environment was moderated by Rebecca Wolff, editor at Fence Books and also included Jason Middlebrook and critic/poet Francis Richard who writes for Cabinet and Artforum. Richard also organized an exhibition and accompanying monograph titled Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates.” I spoke about the fact that as a former sculpture park director and curator I’ve worked with many artists on site specific works outdoors, but one thing that is often not addressed by artists and art institutions is maintenance and long term care. As mundane as this might sound it’s really a very important component of making site specific work that isn’t taken into consideration. What happens to the work 2 weeks or 6 months or 6 years later? What are the effects on the art of weather over time and has that been considered?

Since Francis Richard is a scholar on the work of Gordon Matta Clark we spoke quite a bit about his work and how today it would be difficult if not impossible to do his urban based interventions in abandoned buildings in U.S cities. We also spoke at great length about Robert Smithson. I stated that generally speaking Land and Earthworks artists in the 1970’s were not what we today call “site-sensitive” – meaning they worked in remote and vast stretches of open space with land-moving equipment, bulldozers, etc… with little or no regard to the natural environment. Contemporary artists working outdoors today are usually more respectful of the natural world and take into account the attention and sensitivity that is needed when making an artwork on the land.

Lastly – I mentioned that not all artists are well suited to working outdoors, site-specifically (and don’t have to be) – but working with Jason Middlebrook last summer at Art Omi was one of my better experiences. Unlike many artists who came for the day, having created their works off site in the studio and then placed them in the woods – Jason spent time looking, and searched out the right site which nature graciously provided him with. He found a fallen tree suspended in the pond. Jason worked on site for 2 weeks, planed the tree in half, created a painted bench complete with binoculars for viewing aquatic life and a stairway out of the wood for easy access to reach the pond.

On Weds April 29th, I attended a lecture by Neal R. Peirce hosted by The Trust for Public Land. Peirce spoke eloquently about his new book, Century of the City, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. By 2050, the United Nations projects, almost three-quarters of the world’s population will call urban areas home. To help manage and plan for this accelerating urbanization, the Rockefeller Foundation convened an exceptional group of urbanists–leading policy makers and government officials, finance experts, and urban researchers for a Global Urban Summit at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. This book shares their diverse perspectives, creative approaches, and urgent agenda for harnessing the vast opportunities of urbanization for a better world.

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