miniHome: The Green Prefab Modern Trailer

For those who wonder why Treehugger likes modern prefab so much, here is the answer. We think people can live with less and don't need so much space. We think prefabrication generates less waste and more opportunities for greener construction methods and technologies. We think traditional land development restricts peoples choices and costs too much money. We think the miniHome is just about the best answer to the question that we have seen anywhere. Ever.

"Quite possibly the world's first, completely self-sufficient, ecological trailer design, the miniHome features many of the 'mod-cons' that consumers have come to expect, without the associated energy, resource or material use. Within a well-organized 38 sm (350 sf), there is everything you need for comfortable, year-round, sustainable living. Several climate-specific variants of the miniHome are adapted to the extremes of southern, ocean and even arctic climates and can be further optimized by orientation, glazing and shading options to take full advantage of the 'natural-assets' of each site.

Designed for a 50-year life expectancy, the miniHome offers the possibility for year-round, affordable living on almost any site. It is equally at home in a remote, wilderness setting – completely off-grid – or in an urban trailer park. Its remarkably sustainable combination of energy efficient systems and beautiful finishes usually associated with luxury condominiums results in a home that sings the virtues of simplicity and conservation."

The green aspects of the miniHome are awesome- SIP's, low VOC wheatstock particle board, solvent free adhesives, portable green roof, rainwater collection, photovoltaics, LED lighting, composting toilets, stack-effect-based heat recovery ventilator, grey water storage, Stirling multifuel biodiesel system providing heating, hot water and electricity from one unit and, get this, siding made from hemp. Is there a treehugger button left unpressed?

The street cred of the guys behind this is good, too: Andy Thomson covers the Green stuff for architectsAlliance, one of Canada's best architectural firms, and spent quite a few years living in an RV in Vancouver. Dan Hall ran a carpentry and millwork business before becoming an architect, so he knows how to put something together. They have been very careful and quiet while they developed this- it isn't vaporware.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the minihome is a little more subtle. The biggest problem in modern prefab is not design but is land- it is expensive and building is not for the faint of heart. We have seen enough magnificent modern homes and prefabs on open fields in the country on lots that few can afford and that can only be reached after hours of driving. Other fantasies like Loftcubes on roofs fail in the face of loading, exiting and zoning restrictions. The Mini-home has been carefully designed to conform with Canadian CSA and American HUD codes so that it can be mass produced, towed on the open road and installed in trailer parks across North America. There is a huge existing infrastructure of land, support and regulation for the traditional trailer home- this can slide right in. Finally, for under $100K, people can buy quality green design by talented architects and can put it just about anywhere.

Launching at Toronto's National Home Show this spring, the website is not quite ready for prime time at ::Sustain.ca