Eco-friendly Off the Grid Tiny House

By Wendi Winters

Compliments: Capital Gazette

The Tiny House, built during a unique summer camp at the Key School, is about to hit the road.

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The 210-square-foot home built on a trailer bed will be one of the main attractions at this weekend’s Maryland Home & Holiday Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. On Oct. 25, it will have a starring role in the SustainaFest Film Festival, from noon to 10 p.m., at the Indian Creek Upper School in Crownsville.

The Tiny House, topped with six solar panels, is designed to function “off the grid” for electrical energy and water.

Over a three-week period in July, student crews worked side-by-side with building professionals to construct the one-room, multipurpose structure. Due to heavy rainfall and other delays, the house was not completed by the end of the summer camp program.

Its interior was unfinished and unfurnished, until recently.

The interior of the completed SustainaFest Tiny House at The Key School

Queenstown resident Wade Boarman, 22, a 2009 graduate of Kent Island High School, volunteered with the kids on the summer project. His work led to a job as program coordinator for SustainaFest. The Annapolis-based nonprofit, along with several sponsors and the Key School, spearheaded the Tiny House project.

The finished features and furnishings inside the house include a table that can be raised or lowered to be a dining or coffee table, or a second desk. It was surrounded by five sleek, modern Italian-made cushioned metal stools. The stools can be separated from their cushions and stacked within each other like Russian nesting dolls, forming a single, cushioned cube.

The completed SustainaFest Tiny House at The Key School Joshua McKerrow

Several items are hidden. Beneath the couch is the ceramic water filtration system, capturing, filtering and storing rainwater for use in the bathroom — which is designed like a sailboat’s wet head. A battery pack is tucked beside the office area. Underneath the floor of the desk, a double bed is ready to roll out.

A simple tug brings down a screen that doubles as a window shade and 97-inch TV projection screen.

In the kitchen, the microwave is also a convection oven. A cooktop is stowed away under the sink – ready to pull out and use.

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Tiny Houses for Huntsville Homeless

By Paul Huggins

Compliments: Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A tiny idea could be a big solution for helping Huntsville solve its homeless problem.

During a Huntsville City Council work session on Wednesday, Nicki Beale, founder of Foundations for Tomorrow, gave a proposal for building small homes, less than 500 square feet, that could provide a safe, dry community for homeless people to replace tent cities, while also costing 68 percent less than building conventional housing shelters.

A tiny home, usually built on a trailer, can be built for $5,000 to $10,000, she said, noting she has seen one tiny home community of 30 units built for $100,000. Foundations for Tomorrow will have a 3-D model provided by Mind Gear ready next week and hopes to have its first tiny house built by Christmas.

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“All I need from you guys is one acre of land that meets my site criteria,” Beale said. She explained the site must be near the key agencies that support the homeless, and also added that the city would have to work with her on navigating zoning laws, some of which would need to be changed.

There are size restrictions on houses unless they are built on trailers, she said, but Huntsville only allows trailers in trailer parks, and a new trailer park would have to be outside the city limits.

The United States currently has 10 functioning tiny home communities, Beale said, and all of them had to work around zoning laws.

The work session focused entirely on the Huntsville homeless issue, which was heightened after a homeless man, Mark Pridmore, died after being savagely beaten outside a University Drive convenience store on Sept. 4.

Representatives of 13 agencies, such as the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, Manna House, Riah Rose Home For Children, WellStone Behavioral Health, and Operation Standdown shared their service success stories and daily challenges.

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Lynn Bullard, board member for the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, said the January count showed 536 homeless people, and of those about 200 are on the streets.

She supported the idea of the tiny homes and said providing safe housing for the homeless is a more affordable way to address the issue in the long run, even if the city picks up the entire cost.

“We’re spending more money on emergency rooms than we’d ever spend on housing,” Bullard said, noting the homeless use the ERs for routine health issues, such as spider bites, and often a basic illnesses like the flu becomes pneumonia from sleeping outside.

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Tiny Houses at TEDx

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Matthew Schniper

Compliments of: Colorado Springs Independent

At August’s Colorado Springs 2014 Parade of Homes, locally based EcoCabins earned the People’s Choice Award for its Quandary model, the first “tiny home” to appear in the annual event. It was real-world affirmation of a fascination that often plays out online, where tiny-home slideshows attract gobs of people — even those unlikely to ever commit to a diminutive dwelling. Voyeurs aren’t we all.

Just the idea of tiny homes makes us warm inside; it’s like timeless kitten or puppy appeal for an abode. But the movement isn’t aiming to be warm and cuddly as much as it’s taking aim at excess and waste: a smaller footprint to heat and cool also forces downsizing and more mindful consumption patterns. To many devotees, the homes are as much counterculture as creature-comfort.

Andrew Morrison designed hOMe to be mobile though usually parked on his land

Part of that lifestyle rebellion inspired Andrew Morrison, 41, to leave behind a 15-year career as a contractor and builder to become a straw bale and tiny-home mentor. A nearly half-hour tour of his “hOMe” has now surpassed 2.9 million YouTube views. He and his wife Gabriella ditched the majority of their family’s possessions to live off-grid in Oregon, and he now consults, teaches courses nationwide and sells how-to materials to fund his more humble existence.

We spoke to him by phone in Winnemucca, Nev., while he was driving to present at TEDx Colorado Springs on Saturday. Here are some excerpts.

Indy: We’ve been talking about simplifying since Thoreau retreated to Walden Pond, and times like the 1973 energy crisis, when E.F. Schumacher published Small Is Beautiful. But most of us aren’t good at it. Does the tiny-home movement show that we’re making progress?

Andrew Morrison sleeping loft in hOMe features a stairwell to avoid late night ladder climbs

Morrison: It definitely shows that some people are. If you look since 1973, the average house size has actually gone up, by 62 percent or something like that. Now 2,600 square feet is the average size. At the same time our household size has dropped, from like 3.5 to 2.6 [people]. It ends up being an average of 1,000 square feet per person now in a household. If nothing else, those of us who are doing it will help bring averages down, and it’ll bring awareness to others.

Why is everyone freaking out about tiny homes? Is it Barbie’s Dreamhouse syndrome? The same reasons we like snow globes — because they’re small and cute?

There’s some of that. … For those of us who are in it and really enjoying it, it’s a much deeper reasoning. … We won’t ever have a house payment again. That’s a huge freedom. … It takes like half an hour, and the whole house is clean. Everything’s easier. We have less stuff. … It’s a much bigger cause-and-effect and reasoning to get into a tiny house, and that really revolves around simplifying and looking at what matters. We can spend time doing the stuff we want to do, not the stuff that we have to do.

My walls at home are filled with art. I can’t imagine my space without it. Do you miss having wall space for art, or anything else?

I think it’s one of those things that, you have to look at what’s important for you. It may mean a 200-square-foot house isn’t viable for you. But you might also find that a 300- or 400-square-foot house would work. And maybe you set up a few walls specifically for artwork, and they rotate through. Maybe you decide it’s worth having a small storage unit on your property. …

 

 

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