Little House on the Occupation

By ARIEL SHEARER  |  November 7, 2011


Sage Radachowsky moved into Occupy Boston's Dewey Square camp on the night of the season's first snowstorm and says he kept warm and dry just fine, thanks to a portable sleeping trailer he built himself. Now his big idea is to teach fellow occupants how to build their own tiny houses on wheels — a cheap and sustainable plan that could help the camp endure through harsh winter months. "I plan for the long haul," he said, after parking his trailer near the general assembly wall and stapling a layer of translucent plastic sheeting over the top.

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Radachowsky, 37, works for Harvard's Girgius Lab as a biology researcher. "I'm really a carpenter," he says, though that turns out to be a bit of an oversimplification. As an engineer, he worked on MIT's solar-powered-car project and has researched the possibilities of generating energy from deep-sea micro-organisms. He built a public Wi-Fi network in Nepal, and he's trying to do the same in Boston neighborhoods. (He says creating mesh networks was easier in the Himalayas than on Mission Hill; the Open Air Boston network fell flat, but "we [successfully] did it in the middle of a civil war in Nepal.") As a carpenter, Radachowsky makes short-scale guitars and built a 150-square-foot "gypsy trailer" in Roslindale that he lives in year-round, and that has been profiled on tiny-house blogs.

The crypt-sized wagon he brought to Occupy Boston measures six feet long, 40 inches tall from floor to ceiling, and 38 inches wide. He made it out of an old TV cabinet, a couple of recycled bike wheels, and two-inch-thick sheets of Styrofoam insulation. The interior is covered with a reflective foil that helps lock in heat beneath a roof made of three layers of plastic sheeting; the wheels keep the bottom dry even when the earth below turns to mud.

Like Occupy, super-small houses have gained traction thanks to an infusion of media attention (a July New Yorker profile trumpeted "the rise of the tiny-house movement"), and a timely focus on both sustainability and austerity. "I believe you can do this for $100," Radachowsky says of his trailer, listing the prices of supplies to inquisitive passers-by. He says the Styrofoam runs $25 per sheet and the bike wheels could be had for $10. He found the TV cabinet for free.

As Occupy Boston girds itself for New England's most unforgiving season, Radachowsky says is happy to offer his expertise. "If we make it through the winter," he says that's a statement."

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