Tiny Homes: Unpacking the Trend in Sustainable Construction
Over the last several years, tiny homes have become more popular for a variety of reasons. The reasons include the increased prices of homes across North America and the idea of living a more sustainable, downsized life.
This sustainability is a real driving force for many people according to a report from Today's Homeowner. Tiny homes are great for promoting sustainability and green building because they require fewer resources to build, produce fewer emissions, and consume less electricity.
In this blog, we'll discuss what tiny homes are, some pros and cons, and how they're affecting the construction industry.
Understanding Tiny Homes
The tiny home trend became more popular in the late 2000s and early 2010s. In part because of the recession and in part because of the trend for sustainability and minimalism. It became so popular at one point that even TV shows were being made about tiny homes on HGTV like "Tiny House, Big Living" and "Tiny House Living". The trend for tiny homes only seems to be ramping up as people as famous as Elon Musk has gotten behind the idea.
Size and Space Utilization
One of the primary reasons for the growth of tiny homes is the sustainability and minimalism that they represent. Because of the small, intimate design, it encourages people to reduce how much they consume.
However, it also makes the design and engineering of these homes that much more interesting. With such limited space, every area of the home must be optimized to its full potential, whether that means innovating on storage capacities and interior layouts. This need for efficiency and everything having a purpose has had a trickle-down effect on the interior design of tiny homes, storage, kitchens, washrooms, and closets.
Mobility of Tiny Homes
Not all tiny homes are built to be mobile but they can be if needed. For example, tiny homes can be built on wheels and trailered around like a camping trailer. This is great for people who want to live a mobile, nomadic lifestyle.
Similar to a custom home, many contractors and companies that specialize in building tiny homes can customize them to the preference of the owners. While there are some limitations to design and customization due to the size and restrictions that such a small-space living can create, owners do have input into layouts, finishes, fixtures, exterior design, and more.
The Sustainability Factor of Tiny Homes
As mentioned a few times above, tiny homes are also extremely sustainable buildings. They, on average, consume fewer resources, encourage minimalist and sustainable living, and require less energy from the grid.
Because of their size, tiny homes are just naturally more energy efficient than the average residential and suburban home. This is because the size requires less energy to heat and cool the houses and fewer materials and resources are needed in the construction of the home.
Also, tiny home inhabitants often like to build their homes with solar power, rainwater harvesting technology, and composting systems. This energy efficiency leads to decreased expenses on a month-to-month basis as well.
As mentioned above, tiny homes require fewer resources to build. This includes the actual materials but also their reduced labor costs. For the homeowner, this should lead to a faster lead time to get the product and for contractors, this decreases the amount of overhead required to get the job done.
Promoting Minimalist Lifestyle
As the minimalist lifestyle became more prominent, so did the idea for tiny homes to be a more realistic living option. Intending to reduce how much you consume, downsizing and reprioritizing your values, and creating more focus on financial freedom, minimalism has been a chosen lifestyle for many Millenials and Gen Z people.
However, this minimalistic lifestyle is not for everyone. It requires a lot of daily effort and can be hard to practice if you want a large family or have a hobby that requires using a lot of space.
Tiny Homes and the Construction Industry
With all of this information, there are a few ways that tiny homes have been changing the industry. This includes the changing demand for home designs and interior design, as well as bringing more of a focus to prefab and modular construction.
One of the main ways tiny homes have changed the construction industry is through the design process of home building. As tiny homes were one of the leading ways to make homes more sustainable, those same practices are being applied to residential homes. Whether it's building them with solar energy infrastructure or with better energy efficiency, these eco-friendly standards are becoming the norm in new builds.
Other changes they've made are for optimizing interior space. While larger homes of the past have had the luxury of getting away with unoptimized space, newer builds are having an increased focus on using floor layouts and space effectively. This has changed how homes are built and how furniture is designed and areas are spaced out.
New Skills and Techniques
The main skill and technique that has changed are that most tiny homes are built through prefabrication or modular methods. For the typical home, this means that parts of the home are built in a factory or off-site and then transported to the site. For tiny homes, the entire house is often built in a factory and then moved.
This technique allows for more cost savings, automation, and efficiency throughout the construction process. It also reduces downtime as the weather has no significant impact on construction.
Another skill that has been impacted by these innovative designs is weight distribution and the integrity of the building. Tiny homes don't come with basements or deep foundations and are sometimes built on wheels. This can create some difficulties in the design and engineering process. As such, the size, shape, and weight of the homes are careful considerations in the construction of these tiny homes.
There are many companies now working to build and innovate tiny home designs. While not for everyone, they are an interesting development in the construction world and something to keep your eye on as the demand for sustainable, minimalistic lifestyles increases.
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