The Big Fuss About Tiny Homes

So, what is a tiny home?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you’ve probably heard about a tiny home. But you may have not really investigated them in detail. They’re just a cute thing on the Internet, right? Well, yes, but for some, they are an excellent way to enter the property market. For others they are a booming Airbnb business – envision Kimo Estate. A booming tiny home business.

Originating in the US, tiny homes are now popping up all over Canada, Australia and the UK. They first gained significant media attention in 2005 when they were used to accommodate victims of Hurricane Katrina. Then, in the wake of the GFC in 2007, people also started looking at affordable, sustainable, off-the-grid housing options, causing the tiny home movement to gain even more momentum.

Size wise, tiny homes are dwellings of 37 square meters or less. They have all the character and functionality of a permanent house and are fixed to the land, as opposed to tiny homes on wheels, which are built on trailers. Up from tiny, is a small house, which is around 90 square meters. With the average home being 240 square meters, these homes are still relatively tiny.

The cost of living small.

You can expect to pay around $3000-$5000 per square meter for a tiny home. But sometimes even less. There are homes for as low as $10,000. On top of a lower outlay, you’ll also appreciate significantly lower living costs – you’re not powering an entire home, just a tiny one. And if you get one fitted out with sustainable features, you may say goodbye to your electricity bill altogether.

Tiny homes also encourage a life of minimalism – less focus on things, more focus on experiences. So you might just find you’re spending less and living a much richer life.

Environmental benefits

Many tiny or small houses have an energy rating of seven or more stars, so your day-to-day carbon footprint will be smaller. On top of that though is the issue of embodied energy – this is the energy it takes to mine, transport and manufacture the materials that make the house.

CSIRO research shows the embodied energy of an average-sized house equals about 15 years of operational energy (the energy consumed by day-to-day living in the building). So, building a small or tiny home will further reduce your carbon footprint.

Design tools that make tiny houses work

  • Light and height: Windows in the right position and tall ceilings will give the impression of a bigger space.
  • Combining spaces: Retractable beds can float over the living space during the day.
  • Storage: Utilise wall depth for a pantry space to provide storage.
  • Demountable deck: Adding one can almost double the floor area of the house.
  • Circulation paths: Cutting across one space to get to another can make everything seem much squishier than it is and makes it difficult to furnish. Good design is essential here.

How to get a tiny house

Research, research, research! If you’re considering building your own tiny or small house, look carefully at the regulations. If you decide to go with a tiny house on wheels though, they aren’t considered dwellings, so you don’t have to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC). 

However, this also means they aren’t covered by the consumer protection rules that require builders to be registered and to provide warranty insurance. All states have a regulatory body that registers builders, so check that registration. THOW (Tiny Homes on Wheels) are seen as caravans, so check local laws as in most cases you’re not allowed to live in a “caravan” permanently.

If you’re building a permanent dwelling, you’ll need a building permit and possibly a planning permit, as you would with a bigger house, as well as other approvals depending on the zoning in your local area. The good news is there are several companies in Australia that now specialise in building tiny or small homes. Or if you’re a little bit of a handy man, you can buy a home on eBay and build it yourself in just 10 days!

Some of your options

Over the last few years since the tiny home trends completely blew up, we have seen many architects and designers the world over unveil all types of innovative, out-of-the-box and impressive micro-homes suitable for every occasion and every environment.

Depending on whether you’re after an off-the-grid option, something that can withstand the harsh elements of the snow or wilderness or something on wheels for a nomad lifestyle, the world is your oyster when it comes to tiny homes!

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