This is a trend that should catch on everywhere -- just building what you need.
Often when I open my Twitter or read the news, I want to pack up and move to New Zealand. Then, when I get my copy of Sanctuary Magazine, I REALLY want to move. It's an Australian shelter magazine published by the Alternative Technology Association, which promotes renewable energy and sustainable building. Their Renew Magazine is all hardcore how-to, while Sanctuary is aspirational; sustainable living never looked so sexy and beautiful.
The latest issue includes TreeHugger founder Graham Hill's not so big Off-Grid Transformer in Maui (on TreeHugger here) and others that are even smaller. Editor Kulja Coulston tells us that tiny houses are becoming a big thing there too.
"What's interesting about the 'teeny tiny' houses we have profiled this time around is that they are all permanent residences rather than temporary dwellings, weekenders or secondary dwellings. They range from 24m2 to 57m2 and there are a range of reasons for people wanting to live at the smaller scale."
The owners of Kirimoko Tiny House in Wanaka, New Zealand, Will and Jennie Croxford, tell Kulja that they were "motivated by the freedom of living with less."
“I think there is a growing appetite to live at a smaller scale without it having to be a ‘frugal’ statement,” says Will of the decision to ‘downshift’ into a 30-square-metre footprint. He’s swift to add their change in mindset didn’t happen all at once, but after living out of pannier bags for months when cycle touring and when moving several times within Wanaka while they looked for an appropriate block. “Every time we opened our storage boxes we’d ask, ‘why bother keeping all this stuff?’” says Will.
They built their house in a development that surprisingly didn't have minimum area requirements that are so common in North America. The architect, Barry Condon, took some convincing;
“At first I thought it was a bit ambitious – a 30-square-metre (322 SF) footprint [with mezzanine the total is 450 SF] isn’t a massive amount of space to fit a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping and living space,” says Barry. “I actually tried a few times to make it a little bigger, but Will would always push back and try to make it smaller, which was interesting for me because normally with clients I am the one trying to reduce size! Ultimately we landed on a happy medium."
Besides being tiny, it is built to a very high standard "in keeping with Passive House principles" with SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) walls (imported from Canada) and efficient windows. The wall with all the glass is carefully shaded so there is not too much heat gain, and the occupants are comfortable with just a fan and a portable heater.
The nice thing about being a real home and not a North American style Tiny House is that one can get comfortable living areas and a proper stair to the loft bedroom. In fact, 450 square feet is not that tiny at all compared to many one-bedroom apartments, and this plan is not unlike some loft apartments I have seen. There are many millions of people living in apartments who could attest that this is more than enough room to live comfortably, particularly if you tell your guests to ‘glamp’ in the backyard.
But as Kulja writes, it doesn't meet housing "norms". In a recent post, TreeHugger Katherine wrote that it's time to dump "normal" behaviour.
Do you really need a big house? What's the smallest amount of house you need? Don't fall into the trap of thinking you should buy as much as house as you can get financing for; think about renovations, maintenance, heating, cleaning, furnishing, and more.
Jennie and Will understand this, and note that “A lot of houses people claim to be sustainable are just enormous. We’re keen to show people that you don’t need to completely change the way you live to live in a tiny house.” Let's hope people listen and learn. More in Sanctuary Magazine.