1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman

Matthew Hofman remodeled the Airstream Trailer in California

1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman
1978 Airstream Trailer renovation by Matthew Hofman

The iconic Airstream gets grins from Golden Era old-timers who recall crisscrossing the country from Mt. Rushmore to Plymouth Rock in their Bonneville station wagons. Today, a remodeled 1978 Airstream is the home, office and “front-door-to-the-great-outdoors” for this nostalgic 27-year old Santa Barbara-based architect.

The must-do list included the use of regional materials and reusable products, such as bamboo for flooring, countertops, the table, along with a sustainable management plan. Weight was also a huge issue. Less was more. Lighter was better. And like luggage packed on an airplane, the load needed to be properly balanced. The solution for the architect was creating open space using honest materials. He wanted to bring a sense of outdoors in, so it needed to be bright and airy by nature, yet warm and multi-functional. The intention of the design was sustainability, to eliminate the negative environmental and human impact by being sensitive to your actions and the impacts they have on our world.

The first most unsustainable action one can take when it comes to living is to build a new home where there was no home before. A new home takes a large amount of energy and natural resources to make. Using an empty shell (floor, walls, roof) in an existing building requires significantly less embodied energy than new construction. By eliminating the need for a foundation, new walls, windows, a new roof, etc, the potential resources that would have been required to build these elements can be transferred, or saved all together. This is not only more sustainable, but much more cost effective. There are many beautiful downtown “urban loft” style projects in many city centers that have reused very old manufacturing plants, or storage facilities, many made with brick, or concrete, and remodeling them into very successful residential dwellings.

The Airstream project is, at its heart, an exercise in reusing an existing space. Once an existing space is chosen, there are often times many existing elements of the previous use that may perhaps be saved and reused for the new project. This category of sustainability can vary greatly

➢ Reuse – to take an existing product and use it for the same function or purpose, this is the most basic and simple method. For example, much of the cabinetry that was existing was saved in the Airstream project. The goucho (bed) was beyond saving, but the storage drawers beneath them made a beautiful base for the new bed. Even the faux wood paneling was reused. The new convertible couch looks like a rich piece of furniture amid the abundance of white walls. The overhead cabinetry was removed, modified, and re-installed to form a more pleasing alignment. All of the overhead cabinetry hardware was saved and reused, including the tambour rollup doors, plastic tracks, and metal pulls. The front dinette set is original, just refinished and painted.

➢ Reclaim – to use an existing product or material, on-site that may no longer be used for its original intended purpose, removing it and reconditioning as necessary, then transferring it to a new use in the same project. A trailer, by its nature, is a very small confined space. A primary design goal was to open up the space by removing unnecessary visual obstacles. In the Airstream, there were several walls that needed to be removed. The old oak table was beyond repair and was also removed. These elements were stored onsite and reclaimed as shelving in the cabinetry.

➢ Recycle – In all projects, there are elements that can not be reused or reclaimed. Instead of sending materials to the landfill, recycle! Recycling comes in all shapes and sizes. Many material scraps from the Airstream were stockpiled and sent to a recycling yard, such as hardware, braces, tracks, rods, plastic paneling, etc. All of the old appliances (refrigerator, oven, sink, toilet) were sold on craigslist or donated to a new user. Giving away or selling old parts that you don’t have a use for has three benefits:

1. It keeps the old part from heading to the landfill;

2. Enables the unwanted item to continue its lifespan in a different use.; and

3. Keeps one less new product from entering the market by providing someone with a working unit. New products = energy + resources.

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