Flooding and landslides from Tropical Storm Agatha have killed more than 150 people throughout Central America in the past few days, and apparently caused a giant Guatemala City sinkhole.
A sinkhole caused caused by Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala City on Sunday. Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season pounded Central America and southern Mexico, triggering deadly landslides.
Villagers have been buried alive in Guatemala. Residents, caked in mud, have searched in the wreckage of their homes for loved ones. Aerial photos show entire swaths of the nation's coffee crop under water. Then, there's the giant Guatemala City sinkhole.
More than 150 people have been killed, mostly due to flooding and landslides, after Tropical Storm Agatha, the first Pacific storm of the season, struck Guatemala Saturday, impacting El Salvador and Honduras as well. Thousands across the region are homeless.
The worst hit nation is Guatemala. In the Chimaltenango Province west of Guatemala City, landslides buried dozens of communities, leaving at least 60 dead.
"The department has collapsed," Gov. Erick de Leon told the Associated Press. "There are a lot of dead people. The roads are blocked. The shelters are overflowing. We need water, food, clothes, blankets — but above all, money."
Although the sun emerged in Guatemala yesterday, the number of those dead could rise as rescue workers attempt to reach communities that have been isolated by washed out roads and bridges.
Schools were shut down across the region, and the risk of more deadly landslides has not passed. In Guatemala over 110,000 people have been evacuated.
In El Salvador, where 11,000 people have been evacuated and ten killed, 179 bridges were wrecked. The Lempa River already flooded 20 villages, officials say, and the Acelhuate River could top its banks and flood the capital.
In Honduras, thousands have fled their homes as three more days of rain are forecast and rivers are already swollen near the capital, Tegucigalpa.
The storm hit on Saturday, just two days after the the Pacaya volcano, about 20 miles south of Guatemala City, erupted, causing the international airport to shut down.
Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom had declared a 15-day calamity, before Tropical Storm Agatha dumped three feet of water in the western part of the country. Officials have said that the ash from the volcano, which again covered the airport Monday, could aggravate flooding as it blocks the nation's drainage systems.
The Guatemalan government posted photos of the flooding tragedy, including one of a sinkhole apparently the size of an entire street block, that opened in the northern section of Guatemala City. A three-story building was swallowed by the hold. Authorities are investigating the cause. A sinkhole in the same area killed three people in 2007.
Last November, Hurricane Ida struck the region, killing at least 150 people from landslides and flooding.
The worst in recent memory was Hurricane Mitch, from the Atlantic Hurricane season, which in 1998 killed almost 11,000 people and left 8,000 missing.
Imagine being able to pitch solar tents in situations where you need both some protective cover and access to clean energy -- perhaps as a car port for a plug-in EV or a disaster relief shelter. A new tensile solar fabric from FTL Solar could be used in variety of ways and, as a bonus, it isn't an eyesore either.
A great example of highly functional design, the PowerMods as they're called bring together super-strong fabric and thin-film PV. The possible uses for this solar fabric are almost endless: battery charging stations, medical units, military bases, temporary housing, energy pods for remote villages, solar arrays in city parks, etc.
FTL has four different models of the PowerMod, including smaller-scale lean-tos and large car-park arrays. You can check out the specs for each model here. Each of the models' outputs are calculated on five hours of sunlight ranging from 1,068 Wh a day for the smallest model to to 2,040 kWh a day for the largest.
Popular Mechanics' Chris Sweeney recently created a great list of 18 of the world's strangest homes. And though there are arguably some even stranger ones out there (the toilet-shaped home, for one, or the coral castle), one of the things we like about Popular Mechanics' list is a strong focus on sustainability.
The Popular Mechanics collection focuses on designs that think outside of the box and approach sustainability from a holistic perspective. Some include recycled materials, but recycling itself isn't usually the central theme.
You don't have to live in a house built out of discarded tires, bottles, or vehicles to "go green." There are many ways that we can all go green in our homes, no matter what they look like or where they are located. Switching to more efficient light bulbs and appliances, trying out energy monitoring devices, and boosting insulation are a few examples.
For the greenest of Popular Mechanics' strange houses, look below:
Looking like something from Star Wars, suspended tree houses known as Free Spirit Spheres excite the imagination. Made by Tom and Rosy Chudleigh from British Columbia, the "tree houses for adults" are handmade from local wood.
The spheres are recommended for meditation, photography, canopy research, leisure, wildlife watching and other activities, and they can be ordered fully loaded with plumbing, electricity and insulation. Some are available for rental, and DIY kits are offered. They reportedly sway in the wind.
Perhaps what Gaudi would have envisioned if he were asked to decorate a sea shell, the Nautilus in Mexico City was completed in 2006 by architect Javier Sensonian of Arquitectura Orgánica. Sensonian practices what he calls "bio-architecture," and has designed buildings shaped like snakes, whales and other living things.
The Nautilus was built for a young family who wanted something that felt more integrated with nature, and it is filled with lush vegetation. The front door blends into the colorful mosaic facade.
One glance at the fantastical Steel House, and you'll never forget it. Designer Robert Bruno wanted it to look somewhere between animal and machine, and we think he succeeded. The unique home is perched on a bluff near Lubbock, Texas, and minimizes disruption to the area by resting on top of four skinny legs.
Steel is long-lasting and highly recyclable, so green builders have been giving it a second look in recent years, especially for roofing. Inside, the Steel House looks more H.R. Giger than Martha Stewart, and it doesn't look like the most practical living space, but it definitely is thinking outside of the four-walled box.
In a final form that quite closely resembles the the Barn House by Belgian architectural and planning firm BURO II (which reworks an existing barn), London-based dRRM Architects created the Sliding House in Suffolk, England.
This unique dwelling is designed to be flexible, allowing the owners to take advantage of fluctuations in light and temperature, maximizing energy savings through passive heating and cooling. The 20-ton outer shell can be retracted in six minutes, revealing an inner layer that's mostly glass. It's like layering up in clothing!
At Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri, residents cobbled together a livable two-bedroom apartment from an old grain bin. Considerably more upscale is the attractive Montesilo in Woodland, Utah, finished in 2006 by Gigaplex Architects.
The Montesilo was made by joining together two corrugated grain silos, and it has a modest, space-efficient size of 1,800 square feet. The home sits in a gorgeous natural setting, near the Provo River, and the ample windows and balcony help bring the outdoors in.
Leading green thinker Amory Lovins of the venerable Rocky Mountain Institute lives in a gorgeous home in Old Snowmass, Colorado, that costs a miserly $5 per month to power, thanks to passive solar design, 16-inch-thick walls, xenon-filled windows, and a pair of wood-burning stoves. The home is festooned with solar panels, and there's a passively controlled greenhouse that yields tropical fruit.
Begun in 1982, the house was way ahead of its time, and has recently been updated with LEDs, the latest energy-monitoring technology, and other green tweaks.
The remarkable 222 House in Wales leaves a nearly nonexistent footprint on the region's southwest coast. According to designers Future Systems, "The soft, organic form of the building is designed to melt into the rugged grass and gorse landscape, the roof and sides of the house being turfed with local vegetation."
Completed in 1994, the bathroom and kitchen are prefabricated pods that were lifted into the site during construction. The home needs little energy input due to the natural insulation of the ground.
The space-age Bubble Dream Castle in southern France, near Cannes, was begun in 1975 by Antti Lovag. Inside, the livable sculpture resembles a set from vintage Star Trek, but with more light, since the windows are designed to take advantage of Mediterranean sun.
One of the goals of the visionary designer was to unify the home with its natural surrounding, by bringing outdoor elements inside. Today, the complex boasts 10 suites decorated by different artists, a reception hall seating 350, an outdoor auditorium, and a massive garden.
Houses were cut into soft sandstone cliffs in China and the Middle East and into volcanic ash and lava flows on Pacific islands. Indigenous peoples of North America built elaborate cities under cliffs.
While some of these ancient structures are still standing and a few are still inhabited by contemporary residents, people today are experimenting with the benefits of modern cave living. And what may surprise you is that many of these homes are well-appointed, with modern conveniences, good ventilation, and even spectacular views. Most of them cost less than conventional housing.
As anyone who has ever visited a cave knows, underground spaces are naturally quiet and maintain a constant temperature -- cool in summer and warm in winter. Plus, their primary structure is all-natural material, and it's as locally sourced as possible.
Cave homes certainly aren't available everywhere and may not be for everyone, but they are a good reminder of what's possible when we think "outside of the box."
British Rock Houses
For centuries, people lived in homes carved into the soft sandstone of the Kinver Edge escarpment on the border of Staffordshire and Worcestershire in England.
The most famous cluster was under Holy Austin Rock, which at one time served as a hermitage. The last cave dwellers moved out in the 1950s, but the site is preserved by the National Trust, which has restored some of the cave houses to the Victorian period.
Some observers have wondered if the cave homes and their small cottage gardens had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in his imaginings of hobbits, since he grew up nearby.
The Sleeper Cave House
Tucked into a 17,000 square-foot hole left by a sandstone mine in Festus, Missouri, is the spacious, beautiful home of William "Curt" Sleeper, his wife Deborah, and their three kids. The Sleepers almost lost their unique three-bedroom house to foreclosure, but they recently received backing from a private investor after media exposure.
"We feel that our home is eco-friendly," Curt told The Daily Green. He explained that he doesn't need to run heating or cooling, since the natural insulation of the cave walls keeps the inside air 65 to 70 degrees year-round.
The Sleepers constructed the façade of their dwelling out of 300 sliding-glass doors purchased from a local resale shop. "I stripped the aluminum and resold it to the local recycle center," Curt adds. "We pull more than 100 gallons of water per day from the air with our dehumidifiers and then pump that outside to water our gardens and feed chickens."
The Sleepers' home is lit with fluorescent bulbs and boasts gorgeous recycled oak flooring. Inside, it appears loft-like and spacious, maximizing natural light with the large windows. It even features a serene goldfish pool fed by a natural spring. The innermost chamber used to be a roller rink in the 1950s, and is now a playroom for the kids.
The Sleepers decorated their unusual space with antique furniture, giving it a lost-in-time feel, although they also have modern conveniences like a laundry room. They even have a cat, Garfield.
In addition to windows, cave homes can be fitted with light ducts that direct sunlight deeper into the dwelling. Although cave homes tend to do very well through earthquakes and are fire resistant, they can have trouble with moisture (hence the Sleepers' dehumidifiers).
Coober Pedy, Australia
Set in the scorching South Australia desert, the small town of Coober Pedy is often called the Opal Capital of the World, since the region is the source of 80% of those glittering precious stones. The name Coober Pedy is often interpreted as a mangling of the Aboriginal words for "white men in holes," since Australians have been mining there since 1916. About half of the population of Coober Pedy still lives in cave houses. There are also underground churches, inns, and a museum.
Many of the subterranean spaces take advantage of existing mines, while others are made fresh with local mining equipment. The "dugout" homes are cheaper to build than conventional units and require little air conditioning, a boon in an area where average daily temperatures approach 100 degrees in the summer.
Coober Pedy and the surrounding Outback landscapes have served as a backdrop in numerous films, from Pitch Black to the Mad Max movies and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The Arizona Cave House
Want your own luxury cave? In the eclectic town of Bisbee, Arizona, (near the historic Tombstone) you'll find The Cave House, which is currently on the market for just under $2 million.
The Cave House has no water bills, thanks to a natural spring, or heating or cooling bills. It does have an efficient pellet fireplace, as well as a guesthouse, workshop, shed, carport, hot tub, barbeque area, and a separate office and library.
This cave house sits on a spectacular 37 acres, at 5,300 feet above sea level with a rise of 2,000 feet. There are sweeping views of the Mule Mountains and canyon, and it's near to a refreshing natural creek, with natural swimming pools and gorgeous rock patios.
The area surrounding the Cave House is popular with birders and wildlife viewers, supporting 79 species of birds and 113 species of butterflies, plus ringtail cats, foxes, skunks, deer, squirrels, lizards, frogs, snakes, and coatimundi.
The Cave House boasts a sunroom, two bathrooms, and attractive tile flooring. It was built in 1985 and is 2,980 square feet.
Mediterranean Cave Homes
Cave homes have long been popular in parts of the Mediterranean region, from Turkey to Spain, Greece, and Morocco. In Spain's Andalucia region, you can find numerous listings for comfortable cave houses for sale and rent, typically at prices that beat above-ground offerings.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
Now a tourist attraction in Fresno, California, the Forestiere Underground Gardens were designed and hand-built by Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere, a vineyardist and horticulturalist.
Starting in 1906, Forestiere spent 40 years carving an exotic underground escape from the San Joaquin Valley's powerful heat. Fashioned after the 'visions stored in his mind,' his caverns are a network of gardens illuminated with skylights, as well as comfortable living spaces for himself, including a kitchen, bedroom, and fish pond.
The complex sprawls across 10 acres, and is now listed as a California Historic Landmark. It goes to show that not only can one live well in the earth, but one can even grow fruit trees -- Forestiere had citrus, dates, olives, and much more, as well as a bounty of other vegetation.
Homes are shrinking in America. After doubling in size during the last 50 years to over twice that of European homes, the national average house size dropped for the first time in nearly 15 years (by 9%, the size of one average room).
The smaller house movement afoot in the United States can take many forms, from houses the size of a walk-in closet to several thousand square-foot family houses.
On the far end of the spectrum are the so-called tiny houses. Also called wee homes, mini dwellings, or micro-homes, the definition is not exact, but they run as small as 65 square feet. And yes, people really live in them. Why? Reasons range from economic to environmental to psychological.
Even families are taking a page from the micro-homes. While a family of four may not choose to live in a walk-in closet, there are all sorts of beautiful homes with footprints well under the 2,000 square-foot average. And with the size of the U.S. household shrinking, smaller houses make even more sense (the U.S. fertility rate shrank from an average of 3.5 children in 1960 to 2.1 children in 2006)¹.
Below, you’ll find some great houses which maximize common space but still carve out cozy bedroom nooks for a family.
While living in only a couple hundred square feet may seem near impossible, you’ll find these examples don’t skimp on many modern luxuries.
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company's Epu house measures 8' x 15' and forces anyone to be a minimalist.
The Rotorhaus allows the inhabitants of this 388-square-foot dwelling to rotate among three living “pods”: the kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping room.
The 341-square-foot weeHouse is customizable to your likes.Larger, several bedroom versions available for families.
The Box House in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is a 10'x16' cube made of reused wood and waste material. The house overlooks the ocean.
The Wingardhs Mill House is a pricey Swedish mini-home based around traditional sauna and bathing rituals.
The tiny Beach Chalet measures 388 square feet and was designed by London’s Nina Tolstrup. It offers a small family two separate sleeping quarters and a light and airy common area.
For a traditional-looking home with more private sleeping quarters, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company offers two to three bedroom houses ranging from 743 to 837 square feet.
David Sarti’s 800-square-foot home was designed to accommodate two large bedrooms upstairs and huge windows for plenty of light and ventilation.
Rocio Romero offers high-end ‘mansion’ living in less than the average American home footprint. The LVL model is 1,453 square feet and packs in a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and closets. LVL homes start at $42,000.
Jay Shafer builds and designs small houses ranging in size from 65 to 837 square feet for his Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. He’s also spent the past decade living in his tiny creations.
In this video, he gives us a tour of his 96-square-foot home on wheels parked in Sebastopol, California. Surprisingly, there’s plenty to see: living room, kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, and some decent storage.
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You generally must include in your gross income all amounts you receive as rent. Rental income is any payment you receive for the use or occupation of property.
Expenses of renting property can be deducted from your gross rental income. You generally deduct your rental expenses in the year you pay them. Publication 527, Residential Rental Property includes information on the expenses you can deduct if you rent a condominium or cooperative apartment, if you rent part of your property, or if you change your property to rental use.
When to Report Income
Report rental income on your return for the year you actually or constructively receive it, if you are a cash basis taxpayer. You are a cash basis taxpayer if you report income in the year you receive it, regardless of when it was earned. You constructively receive income when it is made available to you, for example, by being credited to your bank account.
For more information about when you constructively receive income, see Publication 538, Accounting Periods and Methods.
Advance rent is any amount you receive before the period that it covers. Include advance rent in your rental income in the year you receive it regardless of the period covered or the method of accounting you use.
You sign a 10-year lease to rent your property. In the first year, you receive $5,000 for the first year's rent and $5,000 as rent for the last year of the lease. You must include $10,000 in your income in the first year.
Do not include a security deposit in your income when you receive it if you plan to return it to your tenant at the end of the lease. But if you keep part or all of the security deposit during any year because your tenant does not live up to the terms of the lease, include the amount you keep in your income in that year.
If an amount called a security deposit is to be used as a final payment of rent, it is advance rent. Include it in your income when you receive it.
Expenses Paid by Tenant
If your tenant pays any of your expenses, the payments are rental income. You must include them in your income. You can deduct the expenses if they are deductible rental expenses. See Rental Expenses in Publication 527, for more information.
Your tenant pays the water and sewage bill for your rental property and deducts it from the normal rent payment. Under the terms of the lease, your tenant does not have to pay this bill.
While you are out of town, the furnace in your rental property stops working. Your tenant pays for the necessary repairs and deducts the repair bill from the rent payment. Based on the facts in each example, include in your rental income both the net amount of the rent payment and the amount the tenant paid for the utility bills and the repairs. You can deduct the cost of the utility bills and repairs as a rental expense.
Property or Services in Lieu of Rent
If you receive property or services, instead of money, as rent, include the fair market value of the property or services in your rental income.
If the services are provided at an agreed upon or specified price, that price is the fair market value unless there is evidence to the contrary.
Your tenant is a painter. He offers to paint your rental property instead of paying 2 months' rent. You accept his offer. Include in your rental income the amount the tenant would have paid for 2 months' rent. You can include that same amount as a rental expense for painting your property.
Personal Use of Vacation Home or Dwelling Unit
If you have any personal use of a vacation home or other dwelling unit that you rent out, you must divide your expenses between rental use and personal use. See Figuring Days of Personal Use and How To Divide Expenses in Publication 527. If your expenses for rental use are more than your rental income, you may not be able to deduct all of the rental expenses. See How To Figure Rental Income and Deductions in Publication 527.