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A Tiny House with a Twist

Written by on Monday, October 24th, 2016. Filed Under: Design

© Elemental

My wife and I have the dream of building what is known as a “tiny house,” a compact and efficient house with a small footprint. This probably won’t be a fully functioning house, as the laws around such tiny houses vary by state and community, with some outright banning them. In lieu of that dream, we will probably build a floating bonus room. The plan is to create something we can build on a trailer bed and park in the backyard.  It will be something we can take with us to our next home.

In my research I came across an article and podcast episode: 99% Invisible – Half a House. While this is not what I have in mind, I’m in love with the ethos of this particular style of displaced housing by Elemental . The concept is simple: provide the framework of the house (structural, plumbing, electrical), and finish half of it, so the occupants can move in immediately. Then the new residents will build upon the other half depending on their needs and desires. The easy replication of the houses allows for cheap large-scale construction of entire communities, while maintaining a sense of ownership and individuality with every house. I could see the American pre-fab housing market taking a lesson from this by providing more affordable housing to new homeowners without the need for the large upfront costs.

This design speaks to me as an engineer as it provides the basic structural stability that is needed to keep an unfinished house upright. Besides the obvious (prebuilding floor joists for the second floor), finishing half of the house provides a shear wall that prevents the whole thing from tipping over like a house of cards. Assuming the plumbing and electrical are within the center wall, one can easily make modifications to it (adding more outlets, routing some ethernet cables, additional plumbing) in advance of finishing the adjacent half. If you want to get really fancy you could even live in the new half while you refurbish the original half. There probably isn’t a lot of space to be too extravagant, but that is part of the appeal of a tiny house: work within your space. What would you add to the other half of your tiny house?