From a promising solution to the growing homeless crisis to luxurious naturalist escape spaces from the urban jungle, small and tiny homes are increasing in popularity. What are the design considerations for these houses where less is more?
The small and tiny house movement began at the turn of the 21st century as an alternative to the trend for large expansive homes. According to the Small House Society, which was founded in 2002 to support the tiny and small home initiatives, the original purpose of tiny homes was to provide affordable, eco-friendly, and sustainable houses that were in many cases on trailers so they could be easily transported. While the design many of today’s tiny and small homes still meet the goals of the tiny home movement, the spectrum of small and tiny has greatly broadened. In fact, they have become so mainstream that they are sold on Amazon as kits and HGTV has two programs dedicated to tiny house living. Anchoring the midrange of these homes are tiny homes built to house the homeless along with luxury tiny homes designed by some of the most recognized architects of high end residences.
Utilitarian Tiny Homes for Sheltering the Homeless
With the homeless population increasing, especially on the West Coast where it has crisis proportions, many local non-profits and cities are looking to tiny houses to provide both temporary and permanent homes. For example, CASS Community Services, a non-profit organization in Detroit, Michigan is in the process of building twenty-five 250 to 400 square foot tiny homes along a two-block stretch for low-income residents. The completely equipped homes cost the formerly homeless, veterans, disabled, and others that meet the eligibility criteria $250 to $400 on a rent to own basis.
Another approach to address homelessness and lack of affordable housing using tiny homes is a Los Angeles pilot program to encourage homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in their backyards and then rent them to homeless and low-income individuals. Some incentives include the county covering the cost of building materials and reduced permitting fees. While some praise this and other similar programs as an innovative way to get people off the streets and to eliminate the need for shanty towns, others criticism the program because of the potential for the property owners to raise the rents for the ADUs to unaffordable levels after the initial lease terms.
Luxury Tiny Houses for Relaxation and Profit
At the other end of the tiny house spectrum are luxury homes at price points that rival full-size homes. In fact, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the renowned Danish architecture firm recognized for their work on various Google campuses and innovative luxury towers has designed a tiny home for the prefabricated tiny house manufacturer Klein. The 183 square foot tiny cabin features an angular twisted roofline sitting atop dark finished pine triangular walls. The interior includes high-end Danish fixtures and finishes in the open living area complete with fireplace, sleeping area, small cooktop kitchen, bath, and loft. The plans call for the tiny home’s modules to be constructed on site on four concrete piers without the need for heavy machinery. The vision shared by both BIG and Klein is that this tiny cabin will meet the needs of urban dwellers who want to escape to a natural landscape in their own home. Another approach to tiny vacation homes is their growing popularity on Airbnb and the introduction of tiny house village resorts. Of course, many people reach out to architects to design their dream tiny abode.
Have you designed tiny homes for your clients? If so, what was your experience?