The genesis of the modern tiny house movement grew out of a love for simplicity and freedom, meaning many earlier tiny homes having that stereotypical homey, rustic aesthetic that became the butt of a few too many jokes.
But the tiny house movement is evolving: it's getting more professional builders coming on board, and more hi-tech iterations of the tiny lifestyle are also popping up. Take, for example, the #TinyLab residence built by Grace and Corbett Lunsford. It's a high-performance tiny house equipped with all kinds of gizmos to keep the interior environment healthy and running efficiently. The couple, their baby and two cats wrapped up a tour with their house earlier this year before settling in Atlanta, Georgia -- but we can still get to see a tour:
The Lunsfords are the building performance consultants and educators behind the Building Performance Workshop, and as advocates for building performance testing, they built the #TinyLab as their full-time residence and as the showcase for their "Proof is Possible" tour. The home has been built with air-tightness, healthy indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency in mind, from the underlying systems to the overall design of the spaces itself; they've nicknamed it "the Tesla of tiny houses."
The house is built on a dual-drop axle trailer that's rated for 14,000 pounds. Coming inside, one faces the kitchen, which is equipped with a large double-basin sink that functions as the place to wash dishes, laundry, and even babies. This sink is connected to a 50-gallon freshwater tank below. Alternatively, the family uses a small, portable container for their drinking water.
The propane-fuelled stovetop has dampers at the bottom to let fresh air come in. There are small slide-out counters to increase prep space, and even one with a hole in it that empties directly into the compost bin below.
The house's air quality is monitored in several ways: via a low-level carbon monoxide detector; a Foobot that monitors VOCs, CO2, particulate matter and has temperature and humidity sensors; a continuous radon monitor and a manometer that measures interior air pressure in relation to the outside. There is even a temperature sensor wrapped around the pipe that brings fresh air in, so that the couple will know if the temperatures get cold enough to freeze any pipes. The home also uses cork flooring and formaldehyde-free Purebond plywood throughout to keep off-gassed toxins out of the air.
At one end is the home's sleeping "underloft" and upstairs dining booth -- which can also turn into a lounging area, thanks to the boat-style table which can be lowered and made into a place to relax and watch movies.
This is where the home's high-efficiency, ductless mini-split unit is mounted on the wall, heating and cooling the house. The couple chose this unit because a woodstove would have been overkill to heat such a small space (in Atlanta), especially if the home is already well-insulated and sealed. In addition, the house also has a ventilation chute that's been visually well-integrated into the design of the space, to bring fresh air in.
The house also has a mechanical room at one end, where much of the mechanical systems are stored. There's the water heater, batteries, charge controller and inverter from the solar power system, a voltage transformer for the heat pump, heat recovery ventilator and propane tank. Solar panels reside on the ground, rather than on the roof, because the couple did not want to drill any potentially leaky holes into the roof, nor have the panels rip off the roof during travel.
Even the house's form has some thought put into it; rather than the cutesy gabled roof that snags everything low-hanging thing in its path, it's aerodynamically shaped in a way that guides tree branches to scrape by and bounce off of it. There are a lot of design considerations and smart features here that make this house punch above its weight, and it's an excellent example of how tiny homes can be high-performers too, in addition to allowing for some simpler and debt-free living. For more information, visit Building Performance Workshop.