Building the Oculus: Carbondale residents build bikeable structure.

Dec 31, 2015

Friends, family and members of the Stomparillas watch the episode of "Building Off the Grid" featuring themselves.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

A group of friends in Carbondale spent the summer building a place to rest and relax. The trick was to build it with the smallest carbon footprint possible. But the hard part was getting all of the tools up the mountain.


Steve Novy is an architect at Green Line Architects in Carbondale. He started the Stomparillas with his friend Aaron Humphrey eight years ago as a way to experience the joys of riding a bike, and to remember what it felt like the first time he rode one.


“For me it’s about getting back to original point of cycling where you really enjoy it and you’re doing it for fun," Novy says. "You’re not trying to compete with your buddies. You don’t care who gets to the top first. You’re just out there enjoying the flow.”

They wanted to build an off-the-grid structure to hang out at. Their endeavor got picked up on the DIY network’s show, “Building Off the Grid”. The show goes to rural places where people are building cool stuff. Humphrey works at Alpenglow Lighting Design. They decided to build a structure called the Oculus.

It’s less than two-hundred square feet. It’s nestled up on a hill on Humphrey’s property. The front is covered in geometric cuts of glass that form a window. All of the water and electricity is solar powered. It also has a bike ramp going over the top of it. They wanted to build it with the smallest carbon footprint that they could.

They just had to haul the materials up a brutal hill on their bikes first.


Humphrey is a lighting designer by trade, so when he had to get out some of his old tools, it was like relearning something he hadn’t done in years.


“I dug out my framing hammer that I bought when I was in high school, that I hadn’t used very much because this house is framed," says Humphrey. "It had been a while since I hand-drove sixteen-penny nails. Other projects I worked on, we had nail guns.”


But it wouldn’t be a construction show if there wasn’t a mistake made that could jeopardize the whole project. One that’s played up for television, of course.


“I made a mistake on the dimensions, and we had to cut a foot off of the columns so of course they played up that mistake of mine,” says Novy.


The main supports for the building were measured wrong, and the show made it seem like it would ruin the whole project. Of course, it was just a few cuts that had to be made. No big deal.


At a viewing party for the television show last week, Steve, Aaron and the rest of the crew are seeing what their project looks like on tv.

Novy got on the show because of a relationship he had with a production company. He says the amount of community support they received was great. Most of their materials were donated and together, the Stomparillas only spent about $5000 out of pocket.


“The laughter was invigorating just to see that everything we did this summer was valuable at least on some entertainment level," Novy says."