After looking at the DIY cabin in the woods and Tumbleweed sites, both of which I had come across before, I wondered if these concepts are actually working out for people other than the occasional quirky architect. An eco-friendly vacation house sounds great, and having spent a lot of time as a child in my grandparents’ hand-built-in-the-50s log-cabin style fairly small beach house (maybe 700 sq ft? Not so small, but it used to house 7 or 8 kids in the summertime), I know that stove heating and small spaces can be very satisfying. There are also plenty of examples in other parts of the world of traditional tiny cottages—one I’m familiar with is the allotment gardens on the outskirts of Copenhagen, sort of a cross between community gardens and vacation property developments. Families build cute cottages that are too small to legally live in but still manage to put up several people throughout the summer, giving them access to green space that would be impossible to own and maintain within the dense city core where the families have their main residences.
At the same time, in the case of the tiny houses we read about for today, it still seems like a lot of money and process involved to end up with such a voluntarily restricted living space. If you have the resources to invest in a vacation property in the first place, are there really incentives to build such a small house? It seems that the bulk of the investment comes in property, materials, transport, design, permitting process – shaving a few hundred square feet off the end product is unlikely to be the deciding factor in whether a potential owner/builder considers the project affordable or appealing. In addition, I’ve always thought a lot of the joy of a vacation property comes from its social aspects as well as its getaway ones – wouldn’t you want to bring guests or family at times?
So I googled “are tiny houses successful.” I came across this article that I’ve linked to. It acknowledged a couple of the points I’d thought of, such as the expenses involved in all factors of the construction before considering square footage, and also pointed out what I hadn’t thought of — the degree to which existing codes and regulations discourage building small, with minimum square footage requirements and inability to get loans for what is perceived as construction with a low resale value. This fits in neatly with the readings from The Carbon-Efficient City: what is lacking for a particular energy-efficient strategy to gain some momentum is, again, outdated and inflexible regulation.