Although there are still many large homes being built these days, there is also a trend among both millennials and boomers to build smaller houses. Many millennials today would rather go biking and work out at a gym rather than spend their weekends doing a lot of home maintenance; cutting the grass and painting the house. Empty nesters are also looking for more maintenance free homes, so they can enjoy travel and other recreational activities.
Shows on television such as Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV tout the glories of tiny home living. These houses on wheels surely have a place in our society. With the shortage of affordable housing tiny houses provide a home for people who can’t afford a bigger house as well as for those who spend a good part of their time traveling. But as attractive and well made as many of them are, they do have their shortcomings. Finding a place to set one down can be challenging. According to the New York Times article in October 2017, Finding A Spot For Your Tiny Home “….one of the biggest challenges of tiny-house living: finding a place to park.” Zoning restrictions in many places limit the locations where tiny houses can be placed. In addition, the homeowner has to be willing to live with a composting or RV toilet, water catchment system or water tanks, less they are in a location to hook up to local sanitation, water and electricity. In flood and hurricane prone areas, tiny homes may not be secure, as well as in areas with extreme weather conditions (heat or cold weather.)
Alternative to the Tiny House on Wheels
For those who are content to live in one location, there is an alternative to living tiny – living small. There is a trend towards construction of small permanent houses, built to local codes, and built on a foundation. These small houses are built like all other houses in the area, just smaller. In addition to the smaller price tag and less maintenance, there is also the advantage of having traditional sanitary facilities and the availability of grid based electricity and local water. In a hurricane area they are also safer.
Some areas will not permit very small houses under a certain size, but these locations are far fewer than those restricting tiny houses.
Architects David Bailey and Stephanie Harrison-Bailey had a piece of land in Ybor City Florida on which they hoped to build multiunit housing. But with the economic downturn in 2008 they decided it was poor timing and instead built themselves a small house. Because this 352 square foot house is built in a hurricane zone they opted to build it with helical piers to support and anchor the house. This house was built using structural insulated panels (SIPs) (described previously in my Prefab 101 article) so it is extremely energy efficient and comfortable. The couple designed the house to fit into the esthetic of the neighborhood, meet local codes and be extremely comfortable in spite of its small footprint. This is an excellent example of building small but with many of the advantages of a larger home.