Collaboration For Strong Communities

Guest Post by Aldo Lavaggi

Two years ago I approached Jody Rael, the owner of Solaqua Power and Art in Chatham NY. and presented him with an idea to design a tiny, mobile house embodying the ideals of simplicity, affordability, and beauty; a clear alternative to prevailing trends in American culture. At the time I was entering my final year as an undergraduate student at Goddard College and was seeking a practical thesis project. I desired to create something real, something directly applicable to world affairs, not just another paper to be read and then set upon the shelf to catch dust.


Constructing and more importantly living in a tiny house has applicability not only to myself, but to individuals like myself who desire a simpler lifestyle with an environmental footprint closer in size to the world average. A tiny house can be an effective tool to teach myself and others how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Unfortunately, early attempts to realize these plans went nowhere. I tried securing a loan for the project at the banks in town and met unconscionably high interest rates. Loans such as they offered seemed like more of a liability than an opportunity, so I passed it by. Similarly, attempts to find indoor building locations came to naught. People liked my idea, but did not want to open their doors. Soon after, I decided to forgo the tiny house idea all together.

However, on a whim, I stopped into Solaqua Power and Art and I found something else. They were quite warm to my idea. In fact, they had already been thinking along similar lines and wanted to develop a line of sustainable houses powered on solar electricity. With many other projects in the works, including a thriving renewable energy business called Sundog Solar, Jody Rael invited me to spearhead the tiny house project using their facility.

The prospect of building at Solaqua seemed to me nothing less than a dream come true. Even though the buildings there are still evolving, the facility they have is a truly impressive one. The buildings are powered by solar electricity generated on location, and some are heated by a furnace that consumes recycled vegetable oils- waste from local restaurants. I could not have thought of a better environment for a building project that focuses on sustainability. Further, Sundog is equipped with specialized tools, and a great staff with a broad knowledge base. Brian Bean, Steve Mammoser and many others not only welcomed me into the space but offered technical help and valuable insights along the way. Their endlessly positive, can-do attitude made me feel that the world actually did want this tiny house to come into being, something I had formerly been unsure of.

Collaborating with a small business in this way has awakened me to another facet of their influence in community. Small business has the potential to be a powerful germinating force. They have amassed valuable capital in all its forms; facilities, staff, knowledge, tools, finance, and mutual trust. These can be gently leveraged for positive social and economic change. Through partnerships between small businesses and individuals society can begin to discover and realize important innovations that lie dormant in a community. Small businesses have the power to help people give life to these ideas. I believe that Solaqua Power and Art is one company who seeks to develop these new collaborations at their facility in Chatham, NY. My hope is that other businesses in our region and in other communities around the country will see the potential inherent in such collaborations and follow suit.

My name is Aldo Lavaggi and I am designing and building a tiny house in upstate New York. I call it the “Gold Thread Tiny House.” I created it as a thesis project through Goddard College. You can read the complete article and follow my build at my blog Gold Thread Tiny House