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Small Homes

Small Homes Book Review

If you are seriously considering building a tiny home, there is a book that you must pick up. New Small Spaces edited by Francesc and published by Collins Design, is simply a gem. This book features forty-one great homes that are all less than 900 square feet. The homes in New Small Spaces are always elegant and are often mind-blowing. You will definitely be inspired to create your own tiny home after you see what some of the worlds best and brightest architects have done with their tiny space concepts.

Some of the spaces featured in the book are homes, while others are apartments. New Small Spaces starts out with the tiniest of small homes and works its way up. One of the outstanding smaller homes is the Shouldham Street Extension from Henning Stummel Architects in London. This tiny home may only be 161 feet, but it packs a lot of wow into that 161 number. The exterior of this tiny home is a lap wood ship siding that has been panted in various shades of gray with random Plexiglas strips placed throughout. The interior is just as creative, as the Shouldham Street Extension has walls that are gloss white. Perhaps most impressive of all is the way the interior and exterior interact to produce some very well framed shots that any photographer would love.

Ever so slightly bigger at 205 square feet, comes the Boxhome from Norway. The Boxhome was designed by architect Sami Rintala in 2007 and can be found (looking like some transplant from the future), in Oslo. This four room tiny home was designed with an eye towards energy efficiency, as well as creating a relaxing space. The outside of the Boxhome more closely resembles a work of modern art than it does a home. The polished metal exterior is broken up a highly asymmetrical plus sign shaped window pattern. The end result is just breathtaking.

Anyone seriously contemplating building their own tiny home, should really take a look at New Small Spaces. The Boxhome and Shouldham Street Extension are just two of the forty-one homes featured in the book. Most homes in the book are larger, and some homes are as large as 900 square feet.

New Small Spaces, quietly and elegantly, makes the point that brilliant design and innovative material usage can produce some truly amazing homes that can feel much more spacious and luxurious than their number of square feet would dictate.

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Small Homes

Energy Efficient Homes Delivered in a Day

PowerHouse is a builder that is looking to make a real difference by building tiny homes that pull off a pretty neat little trick. A PowerHouse home arrives on the back of a single flatbed truck, and is set up in a single day.

Thats right at the end of the day the home is in place and running off solar energy to top it all off. PowerHouse wants to be a green builder, and to this end they have made they designs sustainable and very energy aware. The PowerHouse concept for the PowerPod is likely to capture the imagination of many, as this unique design has the added additional benefit of instant gratification. Homeowners can start living in their home the same day it arrives.

A big trend in tiny and green homes is for the homes to be off the grid. There is a definite move towards creating homes that are freed from the wide array of problems that are associated with being tethered to the power grid. The first thing that will strike many about the design of PowerHouses PowerPod is that the entire concept seems to be built around staying off the grid. There is a passive solar design that incorporates a solar butterfly roof and solar array. A high level of insulation has also been put into the PowerPod to make the most out of it’s solar roof panels. There are other energy sipping features built into the design as well. The PowerPod uses SIP design and R-28 walls, insulated water tanks, radiant floor heating and high efficiency lighting. PowerHouse believes that their mixture of technologies may enable homeowners to cut cost by up to 80%. The notion of reducing energy consumption by 80% is a very attractive one, especially when one considers the unpredictable nature of home heating and cooling prices.

Water usage has also been taken into consideration. There is also a rainwater collector built right into the roof as well. Composting commodes and grey water technology are additional possibilities which all contribute to making the PowerPod a tiny home that could be completely off the grid.

PowerHouses PowerPod is yet another good example of a homebuilder that is attempting to provide customers an easier and energy independent option. They are incorporating technologies and approaches that were overlooked just a few years ago, and in the process helping usher in a new era in homebuilding.

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Small Homes

Big Companies Diving into Small Home Building

How serious is the building industry about tiny homes and going green? Well a giant corporation like Clayton homes is now involved in both building tiny homes and building green homes.

Tiny and green seem like they are both here to stay. You might not be familiar with Clayton Homes but they are gigantic, one of the Wal-Marts of housing construction. This massive company has built over 1.5 million homes since 1934 many of them mobile homes and modular homes. They have 12,000 employees, which they call team members, and have 35 different home building facilities. They also have a big hand in the financing of homes as well. So who owns Clayton Homes? A guy by the name of Warren Buffet. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

The i-House is the concept by Clayton Homes which mirrors much of what we have seen with tiny home and green home pioneers in recent years. The i-House uses solar panels, energy efficient windows compact fluorescent lighting and energy star appliances to cut down on energy cost. On the health front, the i-House uses bamboo floors and no V.O.C. paint, both a common fixture in the tiny house and green home movement. They have even incorporated water saving features such as a tankless water heater, low flow faucets and dual flush toilets. Additional water is saved via a rainwater catching system. Interesting.

They have several layouts of i-homes to choose from with catching names like Layout A, which is 723 square feet, Layout B, which is 991 square feet, and yes Layout C, also at 991 square feet. The homes have a very slick and modern look that will no doubt remind many small home fans of other tiny homes and green homes they have seen.

Having a giant corporation like Clayton get in the tiny home game could be a great thing for the planet. Clayton produces a lot of homes on an annual basis, and if they were to go green it would have a profound impact on the environment and the housing industry. Lets hope the ideas of the i-house are for real and not just pr, as this would be great for all involved.

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Small Homes

A Tiny House with a Remote Control

German pre-fabricated homes company, Hanse Haus, is now distributing a Rotor House. The Rotor House incorporates a bit of a carousel theme- and is certainly doing its part to make tiny houses fun.

This is an innovative tiny house that fits into a space of just approximately 1818 feet. The house is called the “rotor” house, because it actually has a turning rotor. You can use a remote and turn the house from your bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. So when you decide you want to see or visit one room or another, simply pick up the remote control. There is also a toilet and a small hallway that is separately designated from the spinable rooms. The colors of this house make it look quite space age, as it is circular and white, with calming muted colors in the interior rooms.

Luigi Colani, a designer who was born in Berlin, was the mastermind behind this tiny house. Colani is quite the Renaissance man as he is a sculptor, painter, flight engineer, and philosopher. Colani’s car designs, and furniture designs have garnered awards and prizes over the years. Currently, Luigi Colani is a professor in Shanghai.

Hanse Haus has been building pre-fab homes for 80 years. According to their website, the are “leaders in the field of energy-efficient house-building using the highest quality craftsmanship.” The Rotor House is energy-efficient and definitely quite the ingenious way to maximize inner space potential within a tiny house framework.

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Daily Life

Friends Came to Visit

So, I’m afraid I’m a little behind on my personal updates again. My day-job has been seriously kicking my butt lately. Probably in part due to this being our busiest time of the year. Im going to be really glad when July rolls around and things start to slow down.

Two of the other writers who are part of the blog, Jessica and Kelly, came out to visit last week. Both Jessica and Kelly spent a night with me each, and all three of us got together for a long lunch at th Bakery.

Jessica arrived in town first, and I’m afraid she got the worst of the weather the first day she came out and the night she stayed with me. She was a remarkably good sport about it, however. We spent a good portion of the day and evening just chatting. And the next morning as the weather began to clear, Jessica ran around the marina in her pjs like a madwoman snapping a bunch of lovely photos. She also took several of Boxster swilling beer. You can see both sets of pictures here here.

Jessica is just as upbeat, energetic, and sweet-natured as you would expect from the writing on her blog. She had Boxster completely charmed in under a minute flat. She even got him hamming it up for a camera which is a complete first. I had to keep a close eye on him when she was getting ready to leave. Otherwise, I suspect he might have tried to hitchhike along in her suitcase.

As already mentioned, Jessica is a bundle of energy. Thankfully, the weather cleared up from there and the rest of the weekend was gorgeous. She spent the next few days of her mini-vacation running over every corner of the city, managing to cover more ground than I have since moving here.

Kelly rolled in late the following night. Her flight didn’t get in until close to eleven and by the time she found the marina it was approaching midnight. I was exhausted from a long week at work (and staying up well past my regular, wussy bedtime). Kelly was exhausted from being in the final stretch of her graduate degree program. Somehow, though, we ended up both being wired and yakking for a good two hours until I finally had to call it a night and get some sleep.

This would be all well and good except I then proceeded to wake up around my regular time – 5 AM since I’m used to dealing with clients on the east coast for work. Kelly, on the other hand, had no such aspirations to be up so early.

If my guestroom had been finished, Kelly might have had a fighting chance at catching a few more hours sleep. But she was stuck in my living room. And, to only make matters worse, Boxster was totally into the whole house-guest thing by this point. After having spent the previous morning with Jessica cooing over him at great lengths, he couldn’t wait for Kelly to wake up and do likewise. So I’m afraid he kind of tried to help things along.

Kelly is a down-to-earth, extremely approachable, wickedly funny Texan. Although shes managed to lose a good portion of her accent from her time outside of Texas. Meeting her in-person helped me to understand how she manages to take such wonderfully candid photos of the people in the small home movement that are part of her thesis project. I can’t imagine there are many people who, in under a half-hour of meeting her, would hesitate to tell her pretty much anything about themselves.

I worked for the first half of the day while Kelly slowly stirred to life. Then the two of us met up with Jessica at the Bakery, where we had the most divine lunch of roasted eggplant panninis on fresh-baked bread.

Lunch with all three of us was great fun. We gabbed at length about the small home movement and various ideas we each had. Jessica was too well-mannered, but I pumped Kelly at length about her experiences interviewing various people in the movement as part of her thesis project. Kelly is a fantastic storyteller, which made listening to her all that much more interesting. And we chatted about all sorts of other things going on in each of our lives.

Naturally, I lobbied hard for both of them to move to the city and help me start our own little small home outpost outside of California. (With both of them bringing their other halves in tow.)

It was with some regret that I finally had to wrap-up lunch and get back to the marina (and the rest of my work day). Before heading on to the rest of her trip, Kelly interviewed me and also took some pics of both me and my floating home for her project. I haven’t seen any of the pics yet. But just based on some of the ideas she came up with, I’m really interested to see how they turned out.

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Small Homes

Eco-friendly Shipping Container Homes

There are a lot of architects and builders that are beginning to wake up to the idea of using cargo containers for building. There are a lot of reasons that this ideas time has come. I thought I would take a moment and outline why I like cargo container construction. Sure, I don’t exactly feel girly discussing this topic, but the more I learn about cargo container construction, the more I like it!

First, due to the current economic slowdown, there are a lot of cargo containers piling up. By a lot, we are talking about tens of thousands of them just sitting at docks all across the world. A very large percentage of them are in Asian ports. It may now be possible to get a better deal than ever on a cargo container.

In terms of prices, cargo containers can be found as cheaply as $1,000, or may cost as much as $6,000 or more. Using a cargo container that has already been manufactured and is currently on a dock somewhere getting rusty, seems like a great eco-friendly idea.

The second reason to consider building with cargo containers is that they are very strong and durable. After all, these containers are designed to be stacked on top of one another, while full of goods. This fact speaks volumes about the strength of these containers.

Shipping container homes

This durability translates into other benefits as well. Insects, vermin and mold have a tough time with steel. There are few insects that find steel worth the time. Therefore, if you live in a termite populated area, your termite problem is basically solved.

Safety is another major point in favor of using cargo containers. Due to the material from which they are constructed, cargo containers are going to be very safe. Since the cargo container is built out of steel, it gives a homeowner an additional layer of physical safety from storms (and potentially intrusions as well). Replacing wood and brick with metal also makes container homes resistant to fire.

Transportation is a big plus in favor of cargo container construction. The largest piece of your housing puzzle can be delivered on a truck directly to your housing site. This compares nicely to having to bring out every single piece of wood and brick that you will use for your project.

If building with cargo containers sounds like something you might be interested in doing, we recommend that you find an architect that has already tackled a project in your area. Every year more and more architects are taking the plunge, and building with this strong yet flexible building option.

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Small Homes

A Personal Follow Up

Just in case you’ve missed the references in the past, Jenkins is my one-year-old, bat-eared, Balinese cat. Hes quite spoiled and he has all the survival instincts of a developmentally-challenged lemming. Hes also quite the character, as my friends in Tucson and Albuquerque can attest to.

The beginning of the adventure was when I discovered that the ticket to stuff Jenkins under the seat in front of me costs $15 more than my own. My friend pointed out after-the-fact that I should have just bought Jenkins his own seat. (Which, in fact, he ended up having anyway because the plane was so empty. We had a whole aisle to our self.) I have no idea why an airline feels compelled to charge $115 for the right to stuff a cat under a seat. I cant imagine they have much additional costs involved with having a cat there rather than a purse. Admittedly, they do have to track how many on-board pets they have so that they don’t inadvertently set one of their allergic passengers into an asthmatic fit. However, I suspect the pricing is a lot more about lets-take-advantage-of-a-captive-market situation.

Anyway, the next step in the adventure was getting Jenkins into his carrier the morning of the flight. James recently had to drop Jenkins off at the vet to get his teeth cleaned and the process took him 45 minutes. It was not at all pretty. (Believe me, I heard about it from both the boyfriend and the cat after the fact.)

So, needless to say, James was dumbstruck when I simply scooped up Jenkins, dropped him in the carrier, and smoothly zipped the thing up on the first try. I, of course, attributed this feat to my remarkable rapport with animals. The truth of the matter, however, is that Jenkins is less awake at 4 AM than most caffeine-dependent humans I know.

You better believe he woke up in a hurry after that, however. In his world, little black cat carrier = nothing hes going to like as a next stop. By the time I was ready to load the carrier into the car, it was busy bouncing around the living room as though I had the Tasmanian Devil packed inside, and the wails of dismay issuing from the carrier were fluctuating over a three octave range. I swear I could have opened the windows on my car and been mistaken for an emergency vehicle we were so loud.

Jenkins finally settled down about the point I reached the airport.

Checking him in was uneventful and even a little amusing when they issued him his own little kitty boarding pass. The security line was another story entirely.

I just want to go on record and say that whatever nimrod at Homeland Security who wrote the requirement that all pets now have to go through the metal detector with their owners has never had to stuff a hysterical seven-pound cat back into a carrier when they are quite clear about the fact that they didn’t want to be there in the first place.

I normally try to wear comfortable clothes when I fly. Based on my experiences this week, I don’t recommend this approach for anyone traveling with a cat.

Tuesday morning I was wearing a pair of yoga pants, a white tank top, and a hoodie. Never mind that I’ve been allowed through the metal detector wearing the same hoodie on multiple occasions before. This time I was asked to take it off. Because, God knows, on top of my Weapon-of-Mass-Destruction cat, I might have explosives or some such nonsense in the zipper of my hoodie.

Long story short, I normally only wear white tank tops under another piece of clothes in lieu of a bra, so I was showing a lot more skin in the security line than I felt comfortable. And then I had to pull Jenkins from his carrier. Jenkins clung to me for dear life as we went through the metal detector together. So there I was trying to cradle my cat to me with one hand and keep my tank top from being yanked down to my bellybutton with the other. I was only about half successful on both accounts.

Things only got worse on the other side, when it came to trying to get Jenkins back into his carrier. He was hanging on to my shirt for dear life and I just about lost my top entirely trying to peel him off my body, much to the amusement of the security guardsnone of whom were willing to offer any sort of assistance.

Ill be eternally grateful to the Texan businessman in the line behind me who helped me save what little was left of my modesty by helping me disentangle Jenkins from my shirt and get him back into his carrier. He kindly explained to me he had a cat back home he really missed but whom he suspected would be even less accommodating to flying than my little treasure. (Ladies, anyone who doesn’t think knights in shining armor can show up in Stetsons has never met this guy.)

Thankfully, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Jenkins eventually reached the conclusion that things inside his carrier were far less scary that things happening outside. And by the second flight he’d recovered enough of his equilibrium that he worked his usually charm on the stewardesses. They actually offered to bring him his own beer when they caught me letting him sneak sips off mine and, at the end of the flight they awarded him plastic wings.

Suffice to say, by the time Jenkins and I reached my place, all either of us wanted to do was take a long nap which probably helped ease the transition somewhat to the floating home.

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Small Homes

A New Minihome on the Block

Sustain, out of Canada, is really onto something with their innovative approach to tiny homes. In fact, the overall end result of their work can safely be called breakthrough.

The miniHOME by Sustain is a series of different home concepts that really pack a lot of punch into a small space. The concept behind their homes is that each model can stand up to extreme climates. This is part of the reason that the miniHOMEs all have high r-values, meaning that the homes will make the most out of their heating and cooling dollars. With those heating and cooling dollars in mind, Sustain has designed their miniHOMEs with an eye toward being off the grid. They have incorporated high-efficiency light fixtures and appliances. Their goal is to make their miniHOMEs energy efficient enough that they can easily be run off wind and solar.

Following this environmentally aware theme, Sustain has taken some substantial effort into making sure that they use healthy materials for all their construction materials. These materials have an eye toward virtually eliminating indoor air pollution, as well as being highly durable and easy to maintain. The materials employed have been used in a very stylish and hip fashion that, like all great tiny house designs, makes the space feel much larger.

The SOLO SE model incorporates all aspects of Sustains mission to build environmentally friendly, healthy homes that can be transported easily across North America. This 350 square foot home uses one-tenth the water, and a truly remarkable one percent of the energy of a traditional home. This makes the SOLO SE something of a superstar. A home that uses one percent of the energy of a traditional home is nothing less than extraordinary. Sustain has lived up to their company name.

With the SOLO SE and the rest of its homes, Sustain has accomplished something that is rather impressive. Reducing the energy cost of the SOLO SE down to one percent of a traditional home is a breakthrough, and hopefully hearkens to what is in store for the entire building industry.

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Small Homes Sustainable

New Types of Building Materials

Many tiny home builders often consider a variety of materials that are not commonly used in todays cookie cutter homes. One material that you are likely to have never heard of is Papercrete.

Papercrete is a combination of what seems like some pretty unlikely elements. Recycled paper, cement, water and sand are combined to create a material that is surprisingly strong and extremely cheap. Most environmentalists like Papercrete because it uses recycled paper and sand. However, some also dislike the fact that the material also uses concrete. Concrete is sometimes frowned upon as traditional concrete is not a very green building material. That stated, however, the amount of concrete used in Papercrete is far less than in a completely concrete home. The controversy does not end paper there. Many feel that Papercrete, while an interesting concept, is just not a viable building material.

There are a few developments that might be of interest where the future of the material is concerned. Econovate is a company that sees all the millions of tons of paper waste as a real building opportunity. They point to some interesting facts; such as that fifty percent of all paper waste in the UK is actually sent to China for recycling. This process, of course, creates CO2 due to the transport of the paper waste. Econovate feels that if there was a way of dealing with all this paper waste around the world that a major reduction in pollution could occur. Their concept for how to deal with the issue is a pretty brilliant one. The Econovate plan could address both pollution and the global housing shortage.

Papercrete Wall Panels and Papercrete Blocks are two of the ideas that Econovate is currently excited about. Their concept is to actually create wall panel sections and building blocks using Papercrete. The hope is that this very environmentally friendly project would be ready by 2011. The research and development is currently being done in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, and has numerous heavy weights helping with the funding.

What is most exciting about Papercrete is that some bright people decided not to give up on this potentially exciting material. Papercrete is cheap, comparatively eco-friendly, and could help reduce CO2 emissions considerably. If Econovate and the University of Cambridge are successful, tiny homebuilders might have a very cheap new building material very soon.

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Small Homes

Inexpensive Small Home Options

If you are looking for an easy to construct and very inexpensive small home, you will want to take a look at the U-Dome from World Shelters. World Shelters specializes in producing low-cost temporary housing for humanitarian needs. But tiny homes, such as the U-Dome, might be what some tiny home enthusiasts need as well.

The futuristic dome shape is UV resistant, fire retardant, uses shingled construction and is easy to assemble. This 200 square foot tiny house is one of the cheapest options available at merely $2,500.

There are some limitations to the design, but for price tag this can only be expected. The U-Dome is made from white semi-translucent panels, which will last three to five years before UV-degradation begin to damage the material. This will eventually lead to cracks and other damage. World Shelters is fairly certain that if the material is painted it might last for up to ten years. So, the U-Dome isn’t designed to be truly permanent, but at $2,500 dollars each that isn’t too much of an issue.

The bathroom and showing facility is a separate attachment called the Shower Dome, and they recommend a Zodi brand shower unit that produces one gallon per minute. One gallon per minute could seem like roughing it to many, but you would definitely save on the water bill.

Other considerations are mostly environmental as well. In terms of being able to handle the environment in other ways it turns out that the U-Dome is insulated, can handle winds up to 65 mph and is designed in such a way that it is difficult for snow to accumulate.

The U-Dome may seem a bit to bare bones for some, but the price is amazing and the U-Dome could very well make a great cabin. The concept has merit and the price point definitely grabs ones attention. If you are looking for a very inexpensive housing option, then it’s going to be tough to beat the U-Dome.