While the tiny house movement is most active in America, interest in tiny homes has been observed in other developed countries.The tiny-house movement, also known as the “small-house movement” (www.tinyhouse.net.nz) is an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes. There are different definitions of “tiny”. The 2018 International Residential Code, Appendix Q Tiny Houses, defines a tiny house as a dwelling unit with a maximum of 37 square metres (400 sq ft) of floor area, excluding lofts. There are a variety of reasons for living in a tiny house. Many people who enter this lifestyle rethink what they value in life and decide to put more effort into strengthening their communities, healing the environment, spending time with their families, or saving money. Tiny homes can also provide affordable, transitional housing for those who have experienced a lack of shelter.
Tiny House Background
Outside the United States
In Australia some interest commenced through designers such as Fred Schultz and builders such as Designer Eco Tiny Homes and TechnoPODS. T.I.T.A.N. Hills along Victoria’s scenic Great Ocean Road, is the world’s first master-planned, ecological, off-grid, tiny home subdivision.
In Canada, the legality of tiny homes can depend on the location and whether the home is mobile or stationary. In Toronto, a tiny house requires a building permit and connection to the grid. In December 2019, Edmonton introduced bylaws allowing tiny homes on foundations, removing the former 5.5-metre minimum-width requirement. Some municipalities consider buildings which are not connected to city electricity and sewerage systems to violate their building codes.
In Germany, the community of Vauban created 5000 households on an old military base in Freiburg. The planned density of the building on that area is of 50 dwelling units per acre. Also in Germany, British architect Richard Horden and the Technical University of Munich developed the Micro Compact Home (M-CH), a high-end small (76 sq ft or 7.1 m2) cube, designed for 1–2 persons, with functional spaces for cooking, hygiene, dining/working, and sleeping.
In Japan, where space is at a premium, Takaharu Tezuka built the House to Catch the Sky in Tokyo, a 925-square-foot (85.9 m2) home for four.
In New Zealand, company-built units are called mobile homes (see https://mobilehome.nz) and DIY build tiny homes on wheels (see https://nztha.org). As of 2021, it tends to be a grass-roots initiative with many bespoke and customized. Bryce Langston, a film-maker with a passion for small space design, permaculture, and downsized, eco-friendly living has created short, documentary-style videos on small space living for YouTube via his channel and website ‘Living Big in a Tiny House’.
In Barcelona, Spain, Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores (Flores & Prats) presented the 300-square-foot (28 m2) House in a Suitcase.
In Sweden, a chef couple launched a Kickstarter and then began a new forest to table movement called Stedsans in the Woods out of tiny home cabins for rent in a Swedish forest. They share the blueprints for their A Frame cabins.
In the United Kingdom, Tiny Eco Homes UK has developed several customisable tiny house models starting at £26,000. Dozens of the homes are being used as primary residences across the UK and mainland Europe. Abito created intelligent living spaces apartments of 353 square feet (32.8 m2) in Manchester; Tiny House Scotland has created the Nesthouse
The NestHouse™ tiny house designed and built by Jonathan Avery of Tiny House Scotland, Linlithgow UK. A 23-square-metre (250 sq ft) modular move-able small eco-house to explore the possibilities of sustainable small-scale living in a highly insulated timber framed structure with some Passivhaus principles ensuring very low energy usage. The estimated cost for the Nesthouse is €55,000.
Northern Ireland has also seen a small but growing community of tiny house owners, although the planning rules do not specifically accommodate tiny houses, meaning that “the planning process (for a tiny house) would need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis”.
In the United States
The average size of new single family homes grew from 1,780 square feet (165 m2) in 1978, to 2,479 square feet (230.3 m2) in 2007, and further still to 2,662 square feet (247.3 m2) in 2013. Increased material wealth and individuals with high incomes are common reasons why homes sizes increased.
The small house movement is a return to houses of less than 1,000 square feet (93 m2). Frequently, the distinction is made between small (between 400 and 1,000 sq ft or 37 and 93 m2), and tiny houses (less than 400 sq ft or 37 m2), with some as small as 80 square feet (7.4 m2).
How it all began
Henry David Thoreau and the publication of his book Walden are often quoted as early inspiration. The modern movement is considered by some to have started in the 1970s, with artists such as Allan Wexler investigating the concept of choosing to live in a compact space. Early pioneers include Lloyd Kahn, author of Shelter (1973) and Lester Walker, author of Tiny Houses (1987). Sarah Susanka started the “counter movement” for smaller houses which she details in her book The Not So Big House (1997).
Tiny houses on wheels was popularized by Jay Shafer who designed and lived in a 96-square-foot (8.9 m2) house and later went on to offer the first plans for tiny houses on wheels, initially founding Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, and then Four Lights Tiny House Company on September 6, 2012. In 2002, Shafer co-founded, along with Greg Johnson, Shay Salomon and Nigel Valdez, the Small House Society. Salomon and Valdez subsequently published their guide to the modern Small House Movement, Little House on a Small Planet (2006) and Johnson published his memoir, Put Your Life on a Diet (2008).
With the Great Recession hitting the world’s economy in 2007-9, the small house movement attracted more attention as it offered affordable, ecologically friendly housing. Small houses are also used as accessory dwelling units to serve as additional on-property housing for aging relatives or returning children, as a home office, or as a guest house.
Tiny houses have received considerable media coverage including a television show, Tiny House Nation, in 2014 and Tiny House Hunters. Bryce Langston from New Zealand created and hosts a YouTube channel that features international tiny homes and eco-friendly living, called Living Big in a Tiny House. Tiny houses on wheels are often compared to RVs. In Canada and the United States, these are called park model RVs if they do not exceed certain size specifications, namely 50 m2 (540 sq ft) in Canada/400 sq ft (37 m2) in the United States). However, tiny homes are held to state/provincial/territorial building codes. Park model RVs are held to standards set by the Standards Council of Canada or RV Industry Association (RVIA). Tiny houses are built to last as long as traditional homes, use traditional building techniques and materials, and are aesthetically similar to larger homes.