Living on an off-the-grid island means that a lot of time is absorbed by “projects”. There are private projects to maintain your own property and public projects when islanders come together to build or fix common structures such as the West Bay Palapa or for maintenance tasks such as cleaning the beaches from washed up debris. One of the big annual community events is preparation for and loading of a garbage barge. Private projects range from building houses, rock steps, or landscaping to maintenance chores including cleaning gutters, painting and preserving wood structures, or cutting and chopping fire wood.
Transportation and hauling on the island is accomplished mostly by wheel barrow. There are also 4 lawn tractors with trailers, 2 ATVs, 1 golf cart and even some creative contraptions involving e-bicycles and e-wagons.
To build a house on the island is a big challenge. There are no roads for trucks to deliver materials or cement trucks to build foundations. Most construction material is delivered by barge and hauled up with cranes, pulleys or human labour. Sometimes helicopters are hired to lift materials from the barge up the cliff to their destination. Once the material is on site the real work begins.
A book could be written about the variety of houses on the island. Because of the location it seems to incite the imagination for unconventional architecture. It started with the 2 original houses with concrete saddle roofs that Phil Matty built. Some houses are simple A-frames, others are elaborate architectural wonders. One house, we call it the “high rise”, is 4 storeys high and since the owner is an engineer, the elaborate wiring is probably enough to hold the house together in a storm. Another house is rotating. The house is built on a base of round metal rails and can be turned 360 degrees depending on the desired view or the position of the sun. It sits on one of the highest points of the island with unobstructed view of downtown Vancouver and UBC. A recent development is the emergence of “tiny houses”, little houses of less that 100 square feet which require no building permit.
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