There’s a new trend starting to appear in residential accommodation. The trend in housing has been to build it larger, taller, more square footage, up to monster homes of five and ten thousand square feet. But after the economic crash of 2008, one trend started to go the other way.
Driven by the cost of getting into a market. People started to consider reducing their space needs which lead to the development of the “laneway house” which shared a city lot with an original house. These homes made amazing advances in living in reduced space, generally a story and a half, between 500 and 750 square feet, and accessible from the back lane.
Next came the “Tiny House” a residence with all the comforts of home except, space. A tiny house is a small structure usually, but not always, built on a trailer. One reason for this, even if you don’t have a wanderlust, is because few municipalities allow construction of a permanent structure under 500 square feet in size.
My daughter Laura, and her partner Rory, both professional people with graduate degrees, and a very strong sense of environmental responsibility and adventure, launched onto this path by building their 235 square foot abode over this past year. I spoke with her about the experience.
Asian Journal: Why a tiny home?
Laura Hudson: I’ve always been interested in alternative dwellings, interesting architecture and followed websites about them. One of those sites featured a tiny house. Rory, meanwhile, had always expressed an interest and a dream about living in a one-room house. When we saw this tiny house on the website we saw both our interests were met. So it was a decision that happened really quickly. We googled other tiny houses and got really excited. It was a matter of thinking about it over a couple of days, then said, let’s just go for it.
Asian Journal: Did you go ahead without actually physically going into a tiny house?
Laura Hudson: Yes. We did a lot of on-line research once we made the decision to go ahead, but didn’t get into a tiny house until a few months into our build when we met someone who was in the process of building one himself. We’d already started our build at that point. It wasn’t until last June when the “Tiny House Giant Journey,” tiny home promotion came through Vancouver before going on to Alaska, that we had been in a finished tiny home.
Asian Journal: Did that cause you to change any of your plans after experiencing the real thing?
Laura Hudson: No, but we did a lot of research and tried to build a space that we would feel comfortable in. Now we are just over a month living in it full time and we’re loving it. I will say one of the best decisions we made was to purchase a plan, which was drafted by a professional, so it’s up to code (albeit the American code). When you’re building it yourself you do have to do your homework. When there are a lot of people building their own tiny homes, we were concerned that not all of the structures may be safe, so we tried to get as much advice as possible with building, having proper plans and researching the materials that we were building with. For example the insulation that we used is a naturally fire retardant material, and we installed a metal roof as well. We had a certified gas-fitter do our propane fittings and a red seal electrician to do the wiring throughout. We’ve tried to do as much as possible to be safe. We’ve even learned how to pressure test our gas system to ensure against gas leaks. It’s about being aware of risks if you are choosing to build yourself.
Asian Journal: How tiny is it?
Laura Hudson: It’s eight feet five inches wide (a little less on the inside), twenty feet long, and just over thirteen feet tall, from the ground to the top of the roof. Inside it’s about 235 square feet with the two lofts.
Asian Journal: That’s not a lot of space for two people to live in. What do you miss most apart from the obvious; space?
Laura Hudson: A flush toilet, but we decided to do the composting thing for environmental reasons and because it makes our house more flexible in terms of where we put it. We don’t need a sewer or septic hook up. We have a full sized shower, a bathroom sink, a very tiny one, and a kitchen sink. We don’t have a dishwasher but that’s by choice.
When you are building a tiny house you will move it around occasionally so you have to factor in movement when you get appliances. We opted for a three-burner propane stove with oven which was built for an RV designed for movement. We have a 9.2 cubic foot fridge with a freezer, so we’re quite comfortable. For hot water we have an on-demand propane hot water heater, so we’re not having to store hot water in a tank. So far it’s working very well.
Asian Journal: What do you do with waste, or grey, water?
Laura Hudson: We don’t have a holding tank built in, but we do have bins, which sit on the ground and receive our grey water. Remember there’s no sewage, so it’s just wash water.
Asian Journal: Where do you sleep and eat?
Laura Hudson: We have an eight by ten foot sleeping loft over the kitchen and bathroom, which fits a queen size mattress. Up top we have some storage bins for books and things, there are lights, and there’s a skylight, which also serves as an emergency exit. It’s very cozy. Our main floor has the kitchen at one end, and the living area with a fold down table for meals at the other, separated by the bathroom and storage staircase to the loft. That sort of keeps our house compartmentalized.
When asked about unanticipated challenges she said the biggest ones were finding an insurer, and finding their way through a municipal wilderness that isn’t prepared for the Tiny Home concept. Those are the issues we’ll tackle next time in Big Trend, Tiny Home Part 2. You can check out the stages of construction up to date on their blog at http://loraborialis.wix.com/ldawgnroar