Nothing spurs the intrepid spirit, ingenuity, recycle mania, practicality and design originality inherent to human beings like the bus. From school buses to double decker buses, passenger vans to coaches, these venerable modes of transportation may be the ultimate second-life vehicle. Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic upsurge in people buying them used at fairly inexpensive rates and turning them into homes, restaurants, offices, storm shelters and beyond. It seems that the possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
The concept of turning used busses into motor homes is far from passé even though it has been around the longest. Many people of all ages and occupations have turned the concept on its ear with design and material ingenuity to bring this home on wheels into an affordable reality. Take the architecture student that bought a used bus and turned it into a modern home with two beds, small kitchen and bathroom as part of his final presentation for his last semester in architecture school. After a fifteen-week conversion process, he and his friends took the affordable but modern home on wheels on a 5,000 mile road trip.
The finished home, which they took from a used bus purchased for under $5,000 along with an investment of an additional $5,000 for materials can be seen at his website Hank Bought a Bus along with pitchers of the trip they took to break it in. Many people are encouraging the former architecture student to make it a business by helping people convert their own used buses into sleek, modern mobile homes with all of the amenities for a fraction of the cost of a traditional motor home.
The idea of making the project one that is easily repeated by novices is nothing new as a quick search on the internet can reveal a number of websites that take you through the process from start to finish, including what to look for in a used bus. One such sight, BobSokol.com shows the reader how to convert a school bus into a motor home.
This growing practice is a practical approach in an age where budgets are tight, green recycling is more of a driving force, and housing can be problematic at best. The growing trend is happening all over the world as evidenced by the recent article in the sustainable design publication Treehugger.com. The article focused on two women from Even Yehuda, Israel that recently converted a decommissioned bus into a modern yet comfortable and affordable home. Their goal is to propose an affordable living alternative in a country where housing access is a hot-button issue. Just over 2,500 miles away in England, this video of a Canterbury couple that turned a double decker bus into a home shows how the Brits might do it.
Here in the U.S., an AOL Real Estate blog profiles a San Francisco couple that saw the bus as the template for an energy efficient home design. They incorporated all of the necessities and luxuries with custom and handmade furniture as well as Ikea pieces altered to fit the bus. The home, which sleeps ten and has six solar panels bought off of eBay for $200, allows the owners to live completely off the grid paying only $100 a month in maintenance. These are only some of the stories of average people reimagining the American Dream.
Buses can actually make for a variety of highly feasible structures. Take the bus that was converted into an underground storm shelter to provide tenant safety during severe storms for a trailer park that was profiled in the online newsmagazine America Now. The ten coolest homes made from vehicles article in the entertainment blog Oddee.com is, not surprisingly, made up mostly of buses and vans.
Lest you think that this trend is only about homes, there are a growing number of stories about people converting buses into other usable spaces such as offices and restaurants as well as high-end mobile restaurants such as The Roseberry. There seems to be no limit to the possibilities for affordable, high quality and versatile bus conversions. A great article in School Transportation News shows and discusses a variety of fantastic conversions of old school buses. They include everything from ambulances that can be used in community disasters, to mobile markets.
While they were once seen as a fringe idea enacted by bohemians and earth mothers, the architectural design and mobility possibilities of bus conversions have entered the main stream. Today, average people from all walks of life and all ages are embracing the possibilities of the used bus. With thousands of buses of all shapes and sizes available at affordable prices, we may be witnessing the emergence of a new design and use aesthetic pointing to the future that will join an unbroken line of inventive structural and mobility reuse stretching back for centuries.