Tiny Homes, Tiny Footprints
Nearly 20 years (and countless television series) into the tiny house movement, it’s fair to say that tiny houses can no longer be considered a passing fad, but rather are a permanent and viable alternative to current standards in American living. National building materials retailer 84 Lumber recently entered the tiny house construction market, and is bringing the dream of building or owning a tiny house one step closer to reality for many tiny house enthusiasts.
Loosely defined as any residential structure under 400 square feet, on a trailer or permanent foundation, tiny homes lend themselves to a more cost-efficient, energy-efficient, and ultimately, sustainable lifestyle. Their smaller footprint means fewer building materials and reduced energy consumption. And the lifestyle a tiny house encourages—reduced overall consumption of products and goods, increased financial freedom, and taking stock of the things that really matter—helps to perpetuate sustainability.
When deciding to go tiny, and designing with a nod toward sustainability, one should consider several design and operational elements. 84 Lumber’s GreenEdge Supply sustainability expert, Robert J. Kobet, has shared the following:
Walls and Windows
How windows and walls are used in good tiny house design is a question of balance. While structural integrity, rigidity, and road-worthiness must be maintained, natural light and effective ventilation are also critical to the psychology of space and the health and well-being of the occupants. This is particularly true of bathrooms, which are usually very compact, increasing the need for views that psychologically expand the space. Good ventilation is necessary to remove high humidity and odors, something operable windows can assist in.
High quality windows and well-insulated walls are important for energy conservation, comfortable interior surface radiant temperatures, and condensation control. Whenever possible, the orientation of the home on its site should maximize beneficial passive solar gain, breezes, and natural light.
In all cases, windowsill heights should not compromise the placement of wall- mounted drop-down tables, murphy beds, or storage systems. Sliding glass doors can serve as surrogate windows while providing access, maximum daylight, and ventilation.
Furnishings and Utilities
Selecting proper furnishings is one of the most challenging aspects of tiny house living. Furniture should be flexible and multi-functional, small and light but sturdy, portable, and compatible with other design aspects. The best tiny house designs integrate furnishings that allow for vertical circulation to sleeping lofts, are easily stored, and are able to transition to and from outdoor living. Ideally they also accommodate guests, pets, and a variety of indoor activities.
Morten Staargard of Go Downsize.com offers an example of a great piece that serves three functions—a folding combination of table, chair, and bed. The piece is lightweight, portable, and can be moved by one person. Depending on the frequency of use and the other sleeping arrangements, it can be used as a day bed and for guest accommodations. It can be fabricated with materials that are stain resistant, waterproof, and UV resistant. And it can be made with nontoxic wood finishes and fabrics in colors that complement the interior décor. Because it is compact and lightweight it can be carried easily through an exterior door, making it ideal for outdoor use as well. Placing two or three side-by-side results in a sofa that converts to a queen size bed.
Finally, there is the issue of electricity and water supply, and whether to be on or off the grid. For those potential tiny home owners seeking to go completely off the grid, solar packages, water filters, and composting toilets result in low to no energy bills and serious eco-friendliness. Hybrid on/off the grid options include those like the Roving model from Tiny Living by 84 Lumber, which utilizes electricity to power the house’s LED lights and ENERGY STAR appliances, but has a composting toilet in its single bathroom.
Going tiny is a big decision, but for those homeowners interested in the economic and environmentally beneficial aspects of tiny living, there is no shortage of options to create a unique home.
To learn more about Tiny Living by 84 Lumber, visit 84tinyliving.com. To learn more about 84’s Green Edge Supply division, visit greenedgesupply.com.