12-Cubed House Packs A Lot in A 12' Cube. How Does He Do It?

It is an attractive, small building but there is something a bit odd about the windows. The designer tells Small House Style:

"I decided that the bedroom and bathroom had to be on the same floor because I did not want to negotiate narrow stairs or a ladder in the dark if I wanted to use the washroom at night which is a problem in most micro houses. With the main living area higher up, I could get more light inside the cube. By having the large french doors on the 12×12 unit, it makes it easy to invite the outside in. The first impression you get when you walk in the front door is how large and airy it feels. Everyone can't believe its only 12×12."

Who designed this thing getting so much into such a small space, Quintus Teal?

No, it isn't designed by Robert Heinlein's architect in And He Built a Crooked House, it is not a tesseract. The designer is James Stuart of Vancouver, BC and he is living in it. He writes:

When we approached the city to get building permits they immediately reverted to the default of "no." It took multiple visits, and we finally got to the point where we were working together unofficially to get the design to a place they were willing issue me a building permit.

Regulations determine why different housing types are the sizes and shapes that they are; Many municipalities have exemptions from building an zoning regulations if the structure is under 100 square feet, although many are catching on and rewriting the regulations to exclude services like plumbing and heating. They often have a height limit based on the roofs of garages, with the peak at 12'. James built his prototype at 12 feet cubed, which required permits, inspections and foundations, but that extra 44 square feet make a big difference in comfort. It is also a lot more efficient:

When we sat down with a blank sheet of paper to design the Cube, we decided what we wanted to achieve when we started out building he cube. To produce the least amount of waste possible, and house two people in as small a space as would be practical and comfortable. One of the main reasons that we picked the 12x12 size is that most material comes in 8 foot or 12 foot lengths. Plywood is in 4x8 sizing.

But you still can't fit two floors in a 12 foot cube unless you are a hobbit. The site has no plans or sections, so I called James and was told that it is patent pending, and he could only tell me that it involves a moving floor. And it works:

I moved in almost two months ago now, having decided that I needed to prove to people that I could live comfortably in the Cube, even in Canadian winter weather. I rented my house, put most of my stuff in storage, and began to adapt to my "cubic" life. I have more storage than I need, so there is plenty for two people. When I go shopping I am buying groceries for a few days at a time, not a couple of weeks. I ripped my CD's and DVD's to a terabyte hard drive with lots of space left over.

Last months power bill (propane and electricity) combined was $31.00. The average North American 1 bedroom apartment produces 5 tons of CO2 per year. A Cube will produce 0.8 tons a year. Its shows you care.


There are lots of good reasons to live this way, and here is another:

Things happen that make you think living in a small house is a very good idea. There was a power outage, everyone round me is in the dark. I have installed an RV power panel to handle the power distribution with a 12v deep cycle battery connected to it as backup. I'm sitting there, my lights blazing away - they are all low voltage 12v. There's a knock. Its the neighbours. They all came over to my place to be warm and comfortable till the power came on again. It was only out for a couple of hours - but they get it now.

More information at Twelve Cubed.

Tags: Designers | Less Is More | Living With Less | Vancouver

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