A rant about a bike towable, affordable, green eco-friendly tiny house

I have been watching with some bemusement the flight across the Internet of the Taku-Tanku, a design for what Fast Company calls a Portable, Floating House Is Light Enough To Tow By Bicycle, Inhabitat calls a Mobile Shelter Carved Out of Recycled Rainwater Tanks, the Daily Mail calls tiny house you can pull with a bicycle; Matt at sister site MNN and Derek right here on TreeHugger both focus on the statement that you can tow this tiny home with a bike. Everybody is doing it.

It's not a tiny house.

Now don't get me wrong; I love tiny houses and show a lot of them. This was designed by New York design firm StereoTank for a little house competition, and I love showing competition entries, no matter how wild. Except this isn't a tiny house, it is a shell without cooking or washroom facilities, so it really is a form of travel trailer.

© Stereotank

It's not towable by a bike.

Then there is the question of towing it with a bike. The unit is made from two 3000 liter tanks, which appear to weigh 158 Kg or about 350 pounds each. Sure, the bottoms are sawn off, but then a wood collar is inserted in the middle, a floor installed, and miscellaneous lights, windows, trailer and other fittings are added to the point where my rough guess is that this thing probably weighs in at 1,000 pounds. We have shown other trailers that check in at half that (like Garrett Finney's Firefly).

Towing a thousand pounds on a bike is not unheard of; gears are wonderful things. However according to bikes at work, 300 pounds is the most people can comfortably pull. Throw hills into the equation and you've got trouble. As one cargo bike rider noted, " yeah, you can haul 1,000 lbs on the right rig, but there aren't that many places where you would want to."

SLT 3000 from Rakuten/Screen capture

It's not cheap or eco-friendly.

Then there is the issue of cost. The SLT-3000 tank is not cheap; on one website I found it listed at over US$ 2700. Now I know they say they are recycled, but where do you find an old polyethylene buried tank, and what was in it? They market another version of the tank as "for the transportation such as 187 foot-and-mouth disease measures."

© Stereotank materials

It's not even habitable.

Finally, there is the biggest question of all, can you actually live in it? We are talking about walls that are nothing but 9 mm (about 3/8") of polyethelene. So you will bake in the summer, freeze in the winter because HDPE has an R-value of about 4.4 per inch, giving these tanks an insulating R value of 1.54, which is half that of a sheet of cardboard.

Oh wait, it is covered in insulating paint. Except that it doesn't exist. And if you don't believe me, read Martin Holladay at Green Building Advisor.

© Stereotank

So why do a teardown of such a cute design, such lovely eye candy? Why be such a curmudgeon when I have shown many equally silly projects on TreeHugger? Why did this one set me off? I don't know the answer to that. Perhaps if it was any one of a bike towable affordable green eco-friendly tiny house I would have just let it go, but it is none of the above.

Tags: Design Competitions | Living With Less | Small Spaces

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