If you could have a new home, exactly to your specification for about a year’s average salary wouldn’t you take it? Many people, in the US, UK and Europe want to find an alternative housing solution that is cheap and mortgage free but also ecologically sustainable. The solution may be to build so-called “tiny houses” – very small dwellings, often built on trailers, that make the most of unused, unwanted or free sites in the city or country.
The tiny house is, indeed, tiny. It comes in at less than 25 square metres, but is able to provide comfort and security at minimum cost. These are primarily wooden buildings and can be bought ready-to-use or can be assembled by their future occupant. For as little as £15,000, you can buy a kit, or for up to £50,000 you can get a fully assembled and fitted-out home for two.
Because of their size they can be built on a steel-framed base similar to a trailer or caravan, meaning they can be mobile and therefore capable of use on temporary sites. They are usually single-space dwellings, sometimes with an open loft for sleeping reached by a ladder or steep stair with a shower room below. Most people would choose to set up a permanent or temporary connection to conventional services, but you can also go “off-grid” with solar panels, wood burners, and bottled gas for energy needs and chemical toilets or outhouses for sanitation.
There are now so many tiny house enthusiasts that it can justifiably be described as a movement, with online forums for practised and aspiring builders to share ideas and experiences. These houses are both cute and eccentric. Perhaps they tap into a common aspiration that people had as children to build a fort, a tree house, or a den. However, they also meet the deep human need to find a home that is just right for us. For those who have built their own Tiny House there is a special sense of connection to something made by their own hand, tuned to their own needs, even if they have used other people’s plans and commercially available components.
Tiny house advocates are attracted for both practical and cultural reasons. Although the idea of sorting out your main living expense for the price of a family car is undoubtedly a key motivation, it is also about empowerment of the individual to step outside the corporate idea that “bigger and more expensive is better”. Tiny house owners no longer aspire to an island kitchen unit or a wide screen TV in the basement, and it’s fair to say that buying stuff slows right down when you have nowhere to put it.
It is also about environmental responsibility and sustainable living. These buildings, simply because of their size, use considerably less energy both in their construction and running costs. The inclusion of other simple efficiencies such as LED lighting, super-insulation, and water reclamation simultaneously boosts ecological credibility and lowers monthly bills