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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - November 2011


This has been a very different few weeks for us. We are far more used to diving and fishing that meeting with engineers and building inspectors. For those who have missed the last update, we are currently stopped on our block of land at Mt Perry in Queensland. We have decided to build a shouse(this is a shed-house). It would be fairly simple to just purchase a steel shed and erect this on the block - but, this would not allow us to stay on the property. Council rules clearly state that you can not live on a block of land that has no council approved class one dwelling (I'm fairly sure every council in Australia has these rules, but whether they choose to police these rules is another story).

To avoid any issues, we have decided to (at build time) convert one third of the shed into a class one dwelling (a house). This is nowhere near as simple as it sounds, not only have you got all the complexities, permits and certifications required to erect a shed, you also have a major issue where shed manufacturers have no concept of the requirements to construct a class one house.

The shouse site and view - [Click for a Larger Image]
The shouse site and view

We think we have navigated our way around this mine field and now have a plan. One of the things that will be very interesting at the end of this is to calculate how much money we have spent buying steel and concrete verses what we will spend on paper, permits and signatures. To date we have spent over $9,000 and all we have to show for that is two small holes in the ground (where the soil samples were taken), and a big pile of paper.

We do have the engineering drawings for both the shed and the footings/slab and the design for the waste water system is due here on Monday. We hope to have the kitset delivered in early January next year and have it erected by the end of the month. So as you can tell, it is going be a very busy Xmas here.

The taipan that came to visit - [Click for a Larger Image]
The taipan that came to visit

All of this has been a big change for us and quite a steep learning curve - if all goes according to plan we should have a livable shouse and a workshop to complete maintenance on the bus - all at a fraction of the cost of the first (fully built) estimates we received. (of course if it goes really badly - we will have a big pile of steel, some holes in the ground and no money in the bank (and perhaps a hernia or two)).

To try and boost the (tiny) budget, we have been working hard to secure some additional website design and SEO work. We have just finished a website for the guys that did a great job of moving our shipping container from Western Australia to Mt Perry. Anglia Container Services do Container removals and what is known as You Pack Removals where they deliver a shipping container, give you time to load it then move it to where ever you like (they also have containers for sale.) Check out their website - we think it looks great (and we can personally recommend their service!).

I almost forgot to mention this weeks visitor to the bus (last week we had the king parrot) - this week we had a (friendly?) visit from a taipan snake - I think these are the third most venomous snakes in the world).



Two steps forward and one step back!

If like us, you have never had much to do with the building trade or councils, you would be shocked at all that goes into building a house (or a shouse in our case).

Early last week we felt that we had all the documentation (about 25 different documents) and were finally were ready to apply for our building permit. We had decided to use a private certifier as we were told that they were a little faster to respond and get things going. There is only one private certifier that services our area and we drove into Bundaberg to meet with him. He spent the first 25 minutes telling us all the reasons why we could not do what we had planned.

Once we finally convinced him that we had done the research and there really was no problem with the concept he switched from "can't do" mode into "can do mode". At this point he examined our FORM 15. Just to explain what a FORM 15 is ... it is an engineering document that must be completed by a Queensland registered engineer that sets out the structural design criteria for the building (ie that it wont blow away in a strong wind). Our shed supplier (Widespan Sheds) supplied us with this document when we paid our deposit.

Our certifier immediately rejected the FORM 15 saying that it was not completed correctly. He provided great detail on what was wrong with it. We of course sent this to Widespan and waited for several days while they considered the issue. They finally decided that they would not change the document and that the certifier was wrong.

So at this point we are the meat in the sandwich - the certifier won't budge and the shed supplier won't change the document. What are we to do now?

We decided to submit the entire plan to the local council and have them certify the shed/house insted.

The Chook Shed - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Chook Shed

The building inspector for the local council has been really helpful - explaining everything and providing some really useful information. Sadly he also rejected our application.

There were a few minor issues with the plans that I had drawn (missed off a smoke detector, one window was too small etc) but the big issue is that he wants the building and the foundations re-engineered. To be honest, we did think that this was a possibility and due to the cost of having this done we felt it was worth a go at getting it through without the re-engineering.

We have now requested a quote from an engineer to get this work done ... still waiting for a response.

In other exciting news - Tracey has suddenly become quite clucky! Well sort of. She has decided that she wants to keep a few chooks while we are here. Not being the type of husband that argues (even against wacky ideas like this), I agreed. We then went to the local dump and picked up 4 discarded pallets and proceed to turn these into our chook shed. We decided to use the construction as a practice run for when we build the shed - how do you think we did?

Tomorrow we are off to Gin Gin to pick up 3 chooks - I can't believe I agreed to this, what was I thinking?

At least I know what our last meal will be before the bus rolls out of here!



I have had quite a few emails in the last few weeks from people wondering why we are stopping traveling and settling down. So many emails in fact that I thought I'd just clear this up. We have no intention of stopping our travels, in fact I can't wait to get the bus moving again.

Here is the motivation for our current shed/house project...

About 3 years ago we decided to invest some spare money into some property. We had heard of cheap land around Gin Gin in Queensland and went to investigate. The land around Gin Gin was no longer cheap and certainly not within our budget. We looked a little further afield and to cut a long story short bought 72 acres just outside of the small town of Mt Perry. The block has plenty of water and even has a well and a couple of natural springs. This made parking the bus on the property very easy and we camped on the block for a couple of months at that stage. Our nearest neighbors are over 2km away so we were very surprised when we had a visit from the council telling us that we can not camp on the land - (even though we own it) because "you can not stay overnight on a block of land unless there is a class 1 dwelling on the property". It seems that someone had complained and once a complaint is made, they have to respond. At that point we got a little annoyed and decided to just leave.

Three years pass ... Now we have decided that we would like to have a "base" - mainly to have somewhere that we can undertake maintenance on the bus. Clearly we could not just build a shed and expect to park the bus next to or in it for a month or two. To do that would be to invite the same response from the council. Building a house was out of the question - it is hard to park an 11m bus in the house to do work on it .... the shed/house (shouse) idea was born. Given that we have everything we need in the bus, we really only have to complete the inside of the dwelling section to a standard that satisfies council and allows it to be classified as a dwelling. With that box ticked, nobody can tell us to leave.

The Dozer makes the Shouse Pad - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Dozer makes the Shouse Pad

So, as you can see, the shed/house is NOT being built to allow us to stop traveling - it is being built to allow us to continue to travel (by giving us a place to maintain the bus). The whole project is being done on about one third of a shoe-string and the plan is do as much of the work as possible ourselves. We have hit a few bumps in the road so far - but nothing too major. Our issues really relate to the fact that we are doing something that is a little out of the ordinary (for example there will be no power onto the building - the bus is our power plant and we plan to simply plug that into the shed to supply power when we are there (when we are not there, clearly it doesn't need power!)).

Because this has been a big learning experience for us and also because quite a few people have expressed interest, our plan is to document the shouse process and publish (in a non-travel section of the website) an account of the process and what we have learned along the way. Ya never know, shouses might just be the next big thing .... [wanders off to register "shouse.com"....]

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