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Resort Developer Turns Red Tape into Green Housing Business

Resort living energy free off the grid anywhere.  How one commercial real estate developer
turned obstacles into a new eco-friendly housing business.

By Jeff Coy, ISHC
April 18, 2012

“When they piled on the requirements, I realized the cost of bringing utilities into my site would jeopardize the financial stability of the whole project,” exclaimed Carey DePalma, a Realtor and resort developer.  “That’s when inspiration hit me.  Now we’re off the electrical grid, self-contained and require no infrastructure.  Now you can live anywhere, deep in the woods if you want, energy free.” 

Carey DePalma is an entrepreneur who lives in the small town of Culver, Indiana near the recreational vehicle capital of the world.  His dream was to develop a 500-acre recreation resort in the woodlands of eastern Kentucky.  It seemed like the perfect place for a resort getaway for nature lovers, hikers, campers and families.  He envisioned a resort hotel with restaurants, conference center, indoor and outdoor waterparks, family entertainment center, marina, convenience store and residential units. 

He started to negotiate a long term land lease when his dream project turned into a costly ordeal due to bureaucratic obstacles.  “There was no access to water, no sewer and no electricity,” he explained, “therefore no way to run equipment or appliances and no way to provide heating and cooling.  It was a true wilderness site.”  With his own money in the deal, DePalma started to think --- either walk away or come up with a better idea.  That’s when inspiration struck! 

A park model is stick built on two I-beams atop a set of
wheels, making it portable.  By definition it is less than
400 sf but you can add lofts, doubling your space, and still
meet the requirement, avoiding special permits. 
Seeing Red, Thinking Green

Here’s where the problem transformed into a solution --- a green solution, at that.  And Carey DePalma entered a whole new business. 

He started talking to manufacturers about park models, you know, the rental cabins you find in RV parks and campgrounds.  He started talking to solar companies.  He inquired about drinking water filtration systems and cleaning grey water.  He uncovered the secrets to heating and cooling a lodging unit for year round use.  Carey pulled all the pieces together to produce a new park model or, as he calls it, a wilderness cabin or lodge.  He created a portable energy pack, which he called The Caboose because it fits at the end of the unit. 

Manufactured Homes, Cabins & Lodges

Carey DePalma’s Wilderness Cabin with Caboose Energy Pack
that uses solar panels and batteries to provide its own electricity. 
Starting his new company called Wilderness Solutions Inc based in Plymouth IN, DePalma created a customized park model that requires no infrastructure.  It is completely self-contained, requires no infrastructure, operates off the electrical grid and does not disturb the natural terrain.  In fact, the unit sits on hydraulic jack-foundation posts. 

By definition, a Park Model must be less than 400 sf of base floor space --- without getting special permits.  The park model is stick-built on two I-beams that sit atop a set of wheels. 

Yes, the park model is portable and can be relocated.  You can move Carey’s park model into a wilderness setting where utilities are unavailable or too costly to install.  It is completely off the electrical grid and fully self-contained. 

Carey contracted with two manufacturers, one in Indiana, the other in Texas, to build the modified park models now being marketed as Wilderness Cabins & Lodges.  You can order one in lengths of 26, 28 or 32 feet.  Add 2 feet of breathing space along the I-beam and then add the 6-foot Caboose Energy Pack where the utility package is housed.  You can order a 12-foot Caboose if you need extra storage, but you have to decide up front when you order the unit so they can make the I-beams the right length. 

Self-Contained Solar Energy Pack

What’s in the Caboose Energy Pack?  The Caboose is where Carey’s genius is housed: the off-grid, economical, eco-friendly utilities package that allows you to live just about anywhere you want --- especially in the secluded, remote sites where you have dreamed of building a vacation home or secret getaway.  That’s what Dan Turner did! 

Dan Turner of Fort Wayne IN decided to sell his business, get away and spend more time fishing with his grandkids.  And he wanted to do it now!  So he bought DePalma’s first Wilderness Cabin and plunked it down on his 40-acre lake wooded property in northern Indiana.  DePalma outfitted the unit and delivered it in less than four weeks. 

On one wall of the Caboose you’ll find the solar control panel that
connects to the solar panels that are integrated into the roof.  Each
solar panel is 250 watts, so that’s 1kw array which can be increased
to 2kw or 3kw depending on your needs.

DePalma’s water filtration systems pulls water from a lake or
stream through a series of filters and ultra-violet light, killing
 bacteria.  Water is then pressurized and delivered to the living unit.

Can you really use this vacation home year round completely off the grid?  Yes. 

In the Caboose Energy Pack, you will find a solar control panel, inverter, batteries, backup generator, fresh water filtration system, grey water recycling system and remote monitoring with options for wind turbines, geo-thermal HVAC, hot water and fuel cells.

Inside the Caboose you will also find the battery pack.  The batteries are always in use, as the refrigerator and other appliances are always plugged in.  When the batteries get down to a pre-set percentage of total capacity and the solar is not keeping up with demand, the battery pack is recharged by a generator as back-up power. 

The Caboose also houses a fresh water filtration system that pulls water from your lake, stream or other water source and runs it through a series of filters and ultra-violet light to kill bacteria.  The water source at your location is first tested, then the filtering system is designed to fit your water quality and conditions.  The system can deliver 6 gallons per minute.  Water is then pressurized and delivered to the living unit. 

To clean up grey water (from sinks, showers and baths), not to harm the environment, all grey water flows to a holding tank in the Caboose, where it runs through a series of filters to take out soaps and detergents and produces water that can be used for irrigation or fire protection.

The energy pack in the Caboose also connects with a 1-ton air-conditioning unit.  The AC unit is located under the I-beam frame.  The same ducts are used to provide heating from a 18,000 to 30,000 BTU furnace inside the park model.  There’s also a 20-gallon hot water heater.  The furnace and the hot water heater currently use either propane or electricity.  DePalma is developing a system to eliminate propane and go with fuel cells to recharge batteries.

Inside the Wilderness Cabins & Lodges, there’s a variety of floor plans including 1, 2 and 3-bedrooms that sleep up to eight people.  Features include full-size kitchens with appliances, central heat & air, full bath with shower/tub, incinerator and entertainment center with flat

screen TV and surround sound.  For example, some models are 11.5 ft by 32 ft and others have double lofts.  Remember, the secret to building an affordable vacation or second home is avoiding special permits --- that means by definition the park model must be less than 400 sf per base floor area.  But you can add lofts (nearly doubling your space) and still meet the requirement. 

Popular options include wind turbines, geo-thermal HVAC/hot water, outdoor showers, pull-out decks, awnings, keyless entry, outdoor entertainment centers, outdoor wet bars, wine chillers, hot tubs, cabanas and additional storage. 

From your Smart Phone or personal computer, you can monitor all systems with Remote System Monitoring.  You can also turn your appliances and lights on and off and even reset your thermostat.  Motion sensors notify you if someone is on your site or in your unit. 

How Much Does It Cost?

From $60,000 to the high $90,000s, depending on the floor plan, with or without lofts, and the sizing of the solar system.  Average price is $75,000 to $78,000 for a comfortable unit.  A great price for a vacation or second home.  And you can’t beat the cost of utilities!

What Are the Target Markets?

The Wilderness Cabin or Lodge makes a great second home or vacation home anywhere.  It is completely off the electrical grid and self-contained.  Live anywhere you want to live!  It is ideal for any remote or secluded location where utilities are not available, too costly or too difficult.  It requires no infrastructure. 

It can go where others cannot go!  Now you can get back to nature without disturbing nature.  From a mountain getaway to a beach front location, the Wilderness Cabin or Lodge with its caboose energy pack is great for resort owners wanting to expand and individual owners looking for:
  • Vacation or second homes in a resort setting
  • Fishing or hunting cabins
  • Secluded weekend getaways
  • Rental cabins
  • Floating units
  • Ocean front villas
  • Extended stay rentals
  • Employee housing
  • Work stations
  • Downsizing due to under-water mortgage
  • Disaster relief areas
  • Rebuild communities hit by fire, tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes
  • Affordable housing in depressed areas
The Wilderness Cabin or Lodge is a great value for all income levels --- from vacation or second homes to affordable homes in recovering areas. 

Patents Are Pending

Carey is beefing up his manufacturing capacity and talking with resort owners worldwide.  Currently, he is negotiating with an eco-resort owner in Belize to provide customized units that will be offered for sale as energy-free vacation homes in a resort environment.  You can reach Carey DePalma by dialing 317-753-4684 or emailing 

Jeff Coy, ISHC, is president of JLC Hospitality Consulting based in Phoenix-Cave Creek AZ.  He is certified by the International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  For more about market research, economic feasibility and design-development services for all kinds of resorts, waterparks, adventure parks, observation towers, tourist attractions and sports facilities, call  480-488-3382 or email or go to  

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JLC Hospitality Consulting
Research & Consulting
PO Box 4090, 39401 N. 67th Place
Cave Creek, AZ 85327-4090
480-488-3382 tel
480-488-3382 fax
480-458-8050 cell

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  Also See:.

City Branding: Part 3: Observation Towers in the USA; Landmarks Create US City’s Identity & Image - What’s Your City’s Claim to Fame? / Jeff Coy, IHSC / December 2011
City Branding: Part 2: Observation Towers Worldwide, Architectural Icons Make Cities Famous - What’s Your City’s Claim to Fame? / Jeff Coy, IHSC / December 2011
City Branding: Part 1: Nicknames, Slogans, Songs & Icons - What’s Your City’s Claim to Fame? Take action to define your identity and image / Jeff Coy, IHSC / December 2011

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