The Modern Green Prefab MiniHome Lands at the Green Eco-Trailer Park

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Sustain Minihome
Sustain Minihome in Brighton, Ontario.

Lloyd Alter

Six years ago, I was not doing a very good job of selling modern prefabs, which meant I had a lot of time to write part-time for TreeHugger. The fundamental problem was that the people who loved the idea of a small modern prefab didn't have a place to put it. Land was expensive, there were often minimum square footage requirements and services were expensive. Then I saw the Sustain Minihome and fell in love. I wrote about it in TreeHugger and was outraged that readers found it too small and too expensive. But I was certain that I could move this baby and went to the manufacturer, plunked down a deposit on it and went to work.

The fundamental problem was again, the fact that there was nowhere to put it. The minihome is legally a recreational vehicle, a trailer, and trailers go in parks. The people who admire green modern prefab don't get trailer parks, and the people who live in trailer parks laugh at the $125,000 price tag for 375 square feet. I spent a lot of time trying to convince developers that the business had to do what Toyota did: create a new, upscale brand, a Lexus of trailer parks. I prepared endless business plans showing that there was a huge market for green, healthy small homes in green, sustainable environments and that the trailer park model, where you own the unit and lease the land, made so much sense.

I ended up with no sales (surprise! everyone thought it was too small and too expensive), no green trailer parks, a mothballed minihome and ended my prefab career to become a full-time writer with TreeHugger.

David Suzuki interviews miniHome designer Andy Thomson about living with less

Meanwhile, on the shore of Lake Ontario at Brighton, Ontario, a small park and hotel owner was talking to the designer of the minihome, Andy Thomson, and the firm he was working with, Altius Architecture, which continued to develop the miniHome and their concept of "eco-parks" which they call " a complete reinvention of the planned neighbourhood." Soon a new road was installed, along with a "constructed wetland" sewage treatment system for a new eco-park in the woods.

I was thrilled to be asked to place the minihome there as the flagship show home, and after five years, to get to actually stay in it and enjoy it. You can too at Timberhouse.

I was always convinced that there is a real market for small, green, healthy prefab; now the other side of the equation, where they go, is being solved with the "eco-park." It has taken so much longer than I thought it would, but it is finally happening.