Smaller and Better?

Robert J. Kobet, LEED Faculty (ret)

 

The best tiny houses are those that maximize the use of space.  This includes incorporating conveniences and technology that help to achieve that goal.  Strategies range from optimizing all three dimensions of a space for utility, storage, activities, etc., to efficiently compacting those things we simply cannot do without.  The challenge is greatest when it comes to keeping things that contribute to comfort and efficiency while capitalizing on the advantage of small scale and energy efficiency.  Kitchen and bathroom functions are particularly important because they often determine how desirable and livable the overall unit is.

Tiny house manufacturers like 84 Lumber www.84tinyliving.com and do it yourselfers (DIY) are well along the way to producing well thought out, functional tiny houses.  The basic approaches to appliances and fixture selection seem to be:

  • Using the smallest, most efficient conventional components
  • Adopting components from the recreational vehicle and marine architecture industries
  • Incorporating components that combine or package several functions

In all cases, the following issues must be considered:

  • First cost is always an issue when evaluating the suitability of a tiny house component.  It is always prudent to investigate a number of options.  The internet makes price comparisons fast and easy when prices are listed, but buying anything sight unseen still is a risk.
  • Reliability, ease of repair and replacement. Major brands typically enjoy the reputation of being reliable, but third party sources like Consumer Reports is a better indicator.
  • Warranties vary from limited time programs associated with date of purchase to item covered under home warranty policies. Tiny house owners determine which is most appropriate and realize many warranties are void if a component is modified by anyone not authorized to install it.
 Packaged greywater recycling toilet
Packaged greywater recycling toilet

 

Space saving combines lavatory & toilet
Space saving combines lavatory & toilet


Many manufacturers offer resource efficient, creative, space saving

equipment suitable for use in tiny houses.

  • Energy and water efficiency are usually a function of Department of Energy (DoE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) / EPA Water Sense ratings indicated on stickers attached to the components. Most manufacturers list these ratings as part of their consumer sales information.
  • Anything that is transported, towed or otherwise designed to be moved needs to consider weight and a low center of gravity.  Weight may not be of paramount concern, but it could be a determining factor if all else is equal.
  • Both the recreational vehicle and marine architecture industries have mastered the art and science of making compact appliances and equipment.  The marine architecture industry in particular has an equal focus on reliability under demanding conditions.  Tiny house advocates are well served by investigating the possibilities.

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Compact units like those manufactured by ACME work well in tiny houses

http://www.acme3in1.com/barrierfree.html

  • The interior design industry in the US is based largely on a 3” increment.  That is, cabinets and other fixed interior furnishings come in 9”, 12”, 24” etc., increments.  Components ordered from other countries may be based on the metric system.   The DIY must confirm the size and fit of the selected component in the design planning process.
  • Availability has two components; is it available today, and will a suitable replacement be available in the future? The manufacturer or retail supplier needs to be questioned about this.
  • Shipping costs, if any, are easily determined, usually as part of the sales agreement.
  • Ease of installation is usually a function of a properly sized rough opening, the number and type of service connections, the ease of access to the same, the type of tools required, and whether the installation can be done with unskilled labor. Some installations are better left to professionals.
  • Aesthetics is a very subjective thing, but if it works well, why not also have it look good?

84 Lumber and GreenEdge Supply share your interest in tiny homes and the answers they can provide to a number of living needs.  We offer a selection of basic designs and have in house expertise to provide 3 different package options: Build Your Own, Semi-DIY, or Move In Ready, as well as, materials needed to outfit your tiny home.  Visit us online at www.84tinyliving.com or www.greenedgesupply.com or stop into one of our retail stores and ask out staff about how tiny houses can work for you.

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