back to GMH By Design

field report

a gmh magazine


current issue this issue

My Thoughts

tiny house movement

Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but they focus on smaller spaces and simplified living.

Contributors

Gregory M Houston – Author

Name – Photographer/Illustrator

What is the Tiny House Movement?

Simply put it is a social movement where people are downsizing the space that they live in. As a licensed Denver Architect this might be alarming. And yet, the designer in me says more tiny houses can be built with good design in mind than typically sized houses. The typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, while the typical small or tiny house is around 100-400 square feet. Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but they focus on smaller spaces and simplified living.

Tiny House Glass House

People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons are because of environmental concerns, financial concerns and seeking more time and freedom. For most Americans one third to half of their income is dedicated to paying for the roof over their heads. This translates to fifteen years of working over your life time just to pay for it. As a result, seventy-six percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

So what’s the alternative? One solution, the Tiny House Movement, might be to live smaller. Obviously tiny houses are not for everyone. However, maybe there are lessons to be learned and applied to escape the cycle of debt nearly seventy percent of Americans are trapped in right now. One of the largest hurdles for people wanting to live in a tiny house is access to land. Land can be expensive. You likely will want a balance of land and access to a nearby city or town center for services, entertainment and employment. The closer to the city center the land is, the smaller and more expensive the lots will be. You won’t need much land for your 400 square foot house, but most jurisdictions will not allow you to build a tiny house in under their purview. Not surprising, Boulder, Colorado is one of the municipalities leading the charge on permittable codes for the construction of tiny houses.

Living simple can be hard, though. Five barriers to tiny house construction have been identified. While the movement is growing by leaps and bounds, government and financial considerations have to be met.

One of the largest hurdles for people wanting to live in a tiny house is access to land. Land can be expensive. You likely will want a balance of land and access to a nearby city or town center for services, entertainment and employment. The closer to the city center the land is, the smaller and more expensive the lots will be. You won’t need much land for your 400 square foot house, but most jurisdictions will not allow you to build a tiny house in under their purview. Not surprising, Boulder, Colorado is one of the municipalities leading the charge on permittable codes for the construction of tiny houses.

Tiny House Glass Gable End

Building loans are another hurdle. Most banks don’t see tiny houses as a viable option because they don’t have a good resale value. This means their loan isn’t secured with collateral, so you’ll need to get creative. Some options would be to borrow the money from a family member or save to pay with cash.

Building codes are a significant hurdle for any project, but definitely for those interested in building a tiny house. You’ll need to determine your municipality’s minimum habitable structure definition. These definitions almost always exclude tiny houses from being a dwelling and give code enforcement a strong leg to stand on when it comes to condemning your tiny home and levying fines. While this may be inconvenient, building codes serve a good purpose. They prevent abuse on the part of slum lords and give a mechanism for the courts to hold them accountable.

Modular Tiny House

As stated earlier, the trend in house size is growing larger. Social pressure conditions us to want more and more. Tiny houses fly in the face of these trends. We can react in a very visceral way when someone suggests there is a problem with the way we live.

Fear is a big influence when you are faced with the prospect of bucking the system. Even those of us who deal with change well struggle with this. Fear is a powerful emotion.

Keep in mind this is more than just decreasing your living space. It’s a lifestyle change.

< previous article

next article >