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Michael Janzen


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Now that the publicity campaign has begun we’re getting more information and photos of these innovative tiny homes. The three SCADpad prototypes are tiny house designs that reclaim parking spaces in multi-level parking garages that are getting used less and less. It seems a growing number of people are choosing to commute less – opting instead to live closer to work & school where they can leverage the walkability of denser urban neighborhoods, as well as alternative & public transportation.

The homes were developed by large cross-diciplinary teams of the folks from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Each house is just 135 square feet and decked out as art-pieces themselves. They are also filled with arts & crafts made by SCAD students, alumni, and faculty. For example, the floor in at least one unit is made from reclaimed school rulers.

In addition to all the art, you’ll find plentiful industrial design items and high-tech home automation tools like a touch screen that controls window privacy settings.

In an attempt to teach occupants new sustainable habits, like reducing waste, they’ve removed the trash can and replaced it with just a recycling bin – maybe more of a statement and idealistic idea. But a nice idea nonetheless.

To handle biodegradable kitchen waste they’ve included a vermiculture (worm) composting system. The worms break down table scraps quickly and produce a compost tea that can be used to fertilize the occupants’ community garden.

Water for the garden drains from the shower & sinks and flows into a grey water filtration system. The garden is located within the cluster of tiny homes. Lighting for the garden growing inside the parking garage comes from an experimental fiberoptic system that brings daylight inside without the need for additional electricity.

To learn more about the project visit the SCADpad website.

SCADpad high tech window privacy controls

SCADpad-homepage_instagram_photo1 SCADpad flooring by kfirebau

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SCADpad by DrewBrown404

SCADpad is a tiny house project from Savannah College of Art and Design. The primary use case they focused on was reclaiming wasted parking garage space in an urban setting. The first SCADpads will be placed in a parking garage on their own campus and made available to a few select students for housing.

On April 9, 2014 they will be hosting an invitation-only celebration and tour of these parking lot sized student housing units. I suspect more details will be made public, and I’ll post again on the design and solutions their massive team produced.

My expectations are high. These resource-rich tiny house projects seem to be really good at research & development. When you focus all that creative energy on one point, you often get a bunch of good ideas – some of which may possibly be of use by owner-builders.

Visit the SCADpad website for more details. Photos by Drew Brown, Jason Piccolo, and the SCADpad team.

Update: The SCADpad folks have announced some open house dates for the public. Visit the SCADpad website for details.

SCADpad Model

SCADpad view by drewbrown404

SCADpad on Highway by clermonthound

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high tech vs low tech tiny housesow

In a recent news interview I shared my opinion about the unsustainability of high-tech housing. Here’s a quick quote from the article:

Wojcik’s tree house is a good example of architecture students who have cast off the rule book,” countered Michael Janzen, 46, a corporate Web designer in Fair Oaks, Calif., and the founder of tinyhousedesign.com. “It’s extremely expensive to put in photovoltaics and all those high-demand appliances. I don’t think going the high-tech route is sustainable. Sure, people like to share these ideas—I like to share them on the blog—but when the rubber hits the road, can you really make a glossy house like that happen?”

I love to see high-tech ideas like this wild tree house; I just don’t think they are practical. Most folks can’t afford or need fully self-contained high-tech marvels – they need practical, affordable, truly sustainable & attainable homes. We can all learn from designers exploring extreme high-tech ideas, but at the end of the day downsizing and simplifying gets us closer to what’s truly sustainable and attainable.

Spending a fortune on high-tech solutions like covering the sun facing side of a house in photovoltaic solar panels looks cool, but instead we should consider first designing homes around lower energy needs and build them from locally sourced natural materials. This is not only cheaper but often results in a healthier place to live.

For example, a passive solar earthen home, like an Earthship, naturally maintains a comfortable interior by design. It doesn’t need an air conditioner or much fuel to heat. If low-consumption appliances and lights are used the overall energy demand also drops which directly drops the cost.

I’m not saying everyone should live in an Earthship or a cob house (pictured above). I’m just saying that we might want to consider embracing low-tech solutions before getting consumed by the newest high-tech solution. I suspect you’ll find what you need can be accomplished very simply, and built-on to add comforts.

When we avoid succumbing to our culture’s normalcy bias toward high-tech, we often discover that there are much simpler and more cost-effective ways of living comfortably – like tiny houses.

Pictured above is a Ziggy’s Cob House in Missouri and Wojcik’s tree house design concept.

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The following is a guest post submitted by architect Andrey Bugaev.

This tiny house with just 18 m2 (194 square feet) of interior space is situated in the Moscow region, Russia. It has everything that is necessary for a convenient living. There are two large wardrobes in the hall. There are big wardrobes as well in the corridor near the fridge and over the bed. There is a bath that has a shower cabin, a basin and a toilet bowl. The kitchen is small but comfortable, the kitchen table is combined with a dining table.

This tiny house has a second tier that can sleep and play children. Antresol (mezzanine) is located above the bathroom and entrance area. Her area of 6 sq m. Children love this place as their own space to play and relax.


It’s really cold here in winter, the temperature is as low as -35°C (-31°F).  When visitors arrive the fireplace is started and the temperature rises to 20°C (68°F) in half an hour. In half an hour more the bed is getting warmed and ready – no matter how cold is outside. You won’t get cold in this small house for sure.

The house stands on a hill near a river. An open porch is on the Eastern side of the house. In summer when it’s sunny the porch is lit until the noon. You can have a meal in the fresh air in the afternoon, the porch will protect you from the sun.


The cabin is built on frame technology. On the outside it’s covered with specially prepared unedged planks. The planks are first brushed then covered with blue transparent paint and then white finish is applied with a pallet. On the inside the house is sewed round with organic wooden planks. All the materials used are completely organic, all the house was assembled directly on-site.


The winters in Russia are really snowy and the snow falling from the roof can harm a lot. That’s why the slope of the roof is unsubstantial, of only 18°. Given such a slope the snow won’t slip down from the roof under its own weight. Even if there’s a huge pile of snow on the roof, it’s not that bad. In this case the snow works as an isolator and mini house “Ship” becomes even warmer.


The porch goes round the three sides of the house and protects the walls not only from the sun, but also from getting wet when it’s rainy and windy. It protects the wood from destruction. Seats are built in the fence of the porch all around its perimeter.

On the both of the sides of the porch there are Actinidia plants. Those are a sort of Liana. When they grow they protect the walls of the small house from direct sunlight thus taking care of the finish. Wall gardening is not only aimed at protection. The Lianas prevent the floor of the porch from getting wet in the rain. They smell great in bloom in spring and in autumn there are a lot of tasty fruits on the branches. You can enjoy their taste sitting right there on the porch of tiny house “Ship”.

See more at ArtEcology.ru

A longer forum thread (in Russian) also shows more details for how the house was built. Try using Google Translate for other language translations.


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This is a guest post from Ally & Priyan at Palm to Palm – Alternative Dwelling Design, Build and Consult.

My husband and I have a dream of creating a sustainable micro-homestead on a tiny backyard plot.  We built this 120 square foot home on a limited budget with zero construction experience.  Neither of us had ever swung a hammer before starting and we had less than $6k in the bank upon breaking ground.  As far fetched as it all seemed, we decided to trust that anything is possible with inspiration, vision and enthusiasm.

We learned framing, sheathing, roofing, drywalling, tiling, flooring, plumbing and wiring mostly from YouTube and a few select books.  Each part of the project had a steep learning curve as we gathered the necessary tools and materials and knowledge.  I mostly had to learn the art of patience and the supreme importance of good prep work !!

We designed the shell to be simple + approachable for first time builders. And because our budget was as tiny as the house, we used as much salvaged, reclaimed, restored, discounted and second hand materials as possible.  The chronic lack of funds inspired a lot of creativity and I discovered an amazing alchemical skill for transforming trash to treasure.  The whole thing cost less than $8500 to build and took about 9 months to manifest.

What a tremendous journey to build a house!  Besides being a dynamic, hands-on education, it was an absolute joy to see our vision manifest and take shape, step by step.  The result is a gorgeous labor of love that fits our simple lifestyle like a glove.

We have plans to develop the edible landscape with recycled grey water irrigation and to build a tiny greenhouse, rainwater catchment system and matching chook house.

Having completed this project, Priyan is now interested in the creation of tiny home communities where beautiful, functional, sustainable homes are affordable and available to average people.  Such communities would offer shared utilities and facilities and create safe, legal spaces to live large in tiny homes.

To learn more visit Palm to Palm on Facebook…







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shipping container remote cabin - exterior open

The ability to button-up and secure remote cabins helps thwart would-be thieves. Tiny buildings made from shipping containers are naturally easy to secure when left mostly intact. Cutting holes for windows and doors not only opens the home up with natural light, it opens opportunity for break-in.

In this design exploration I show how windows and glass doors could be sealed simply with some hinged and lockable steel shutters. Just for fun I show how the small solar panel array could also be secured inside the center shutter – which opens by folding down. This would keep the panels away from the pry bars carried by thieves, but means they can’t do their work charging the batteries when closed. One solution for this would be to mount a single, 5th, panel on the roof for slowly topping-off the batteries, while the bulk of the solar investment sits safely behind the shutter.

shipping container remote cabin - exterior closed

The exterior of a shipping container should be water proof, so a secondary roof should theoretically not be needed; but anyone who’s been inside a metal shed on a hot day knows that without some shade, metal boxes get hot. Flat roofs also provide little to no potential for shedding water and snow. So adding a second roof over the box to shield it against the elements might be a wise decision. In this illustration I’m showing a metal roof with metal framing.

Another ever-present danger to remote cabins is fire. Trimming a fire perimeter around buildings located in high fire danger areas is always a good idea, and required in some regions; but building entirely with non-famable materials on the exterior can also help save the cabin in a worst case scenario. It’s not a sure bet since it could also cook like an oven inside if the fire outside was to close and/or too hot – but the steel exterior would definitely help. The only exception to this material selection shown here is the wood deck.

Another advantage to building a self-contained cabin from a shipping container is that it can be constructed off-site and delivered by truck. The roof shown here would pose a slight logistical challenge, but the container could be brought in and set onto pre-installed concrete footings. The roof could be mostly pre-assembled off-site and brought in by truck, or assembled in parts and bolted together on-site. It could also be added permanently to the cabin prior to deliver but may need a wide-load permit for hauling unless the eaves were shortened.

In any case building where it’s convenient and not on top of a mountain can speed  construction and reduce cost. The main logistical issues left would be getting the cabin to the site by truck on the windy dirt forest roads and connecting it to any on-site utilities like power, water, and sewer. If the cabin were designed to be very frugal, truly off-grid alternatives could be used for these as well.

A rain water collection tank and plumbing could be added to that shed roof. A composting toilet could be installed in the bathroom. A grey water system could be used to handle the water from the shower and sinks. All power could be derived from the solar system if sized properly with the expected power consumption. A propane tank could be located outside if gas water heat or heating were used.

Inside this cabin could be a bathroom, micro kitchen, table, and sofa/bunk bend.  But many other configurations are possible, especially if the bathroom were smaller or the container longer.

shipping container remote cabin - floor planshipping container remote cabin - inside at night shipping container remote cabin - inside at dusk shipping container remote cabin - living room shipping container remote cabin - bathroom

Most shipping containers come in two standard sizes, 8×20 and 8×40. There are other sizes but these two are most common. An 8×20 is shown here. The cost of containers is fairly standard but costs rise the father they must travel from ports. You see these boxes are what’s used to ship goods from overseas – but many don’t find their way back. Instead they are resold for other uses. The farther you get from a port, the more expensive they tend to be. Check your local craigslist.org for businesses that sell containers near you.

I’m not sure how much of a DIY project a shipping container cabin would be. Certain parts would likely require some professional help, like the transportation. The metal work would also present some challenges to the average owner-builder. But in terms of cost I think a cabin like this could be completed for the same kind of money as a wood cabin. So at the end of the day the main decision factors would be aesthetics and function. If you felt the benefits of a steel box out-weighted the aesthetics of a wood cabin then a cabin/house like this might be the right path.

The illustrations were drawn with SketchUp and rendered with Podium V2, a photo-realistic plugin for SketchUp. I draw design concepts like this mostly for fun – and share them to help introduce ideas to others. Enjoy!

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Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - Hatch Open

Guest post by Melissa.

My Dad always wanted a vintage teardrop camper. We talked about it all the time. The day before Easter, we were again talking and I told him I wanted to find me a Scamp camper. He said I needed to just get me a Teardrop, which was the same thing he told me when I bought my 1964 Airstream.

The next day my Dad passed away on Easter Sunday. After his funeral service and taking care of final things at his home, I took a break to take my mind off of things. I started searching Craigslist for the Scamp camper. During my search, this 1947 Tourette Teardrop camper popped up in my search.

I knew right then that my Dad had sent it to me to see. I decided at that moment that nothing would stop me from buying the camper. When I told my husband, he of course replied, “You don’t need that piece of junk.” I had him get the truck and we set out to buy the camper.

The camper had a been painted several times. It was originally shinny aluminum, like an Airstream. The floor was completely rotted away. The kitchen galley was full of rust and rot. The only thing that it had going for it was new tires.

I brought it home, took it down to the frame, and sanded and painted the frame with bed-liner coating. I replaced the floor with  advantech plywood, added checkered-board tile, then placed the shell back to the frame with stainless steel bolts. I was determined for it to never rust from underneath again.

After the Teardrop was reassembled, it was time to work on the kitchen. The old icebox was rusted beyond my abilities to repair it; so I removed the door and the inner box. I planned to find a refrigerator to fit the dimensions after the restoration was complete.

Then I had my friend, Mike, strip and paint the outside of the camper and the inside of the outdoor kitchen. I wanted the inside of the bed area to stay exactly as it was in 1947.

The day the Teardrop came back from paint, I added my Dad’s nickname to the back in the kitchen area, “HOSS.” I also added the #14 to both doors. Since I am a huge Tony Stewart fan and the Teardrop would e used for camping at NASCAR races.

I bought an 8-inch memory foam mattress because the foam can be cut to maximize the sleeping area around inner wheel wells. I bought a Coke refrigerator, then all it needed was a stove. The original stove would have been a cast-iron stove. I found that they still make these stoves and purchased one for nearly nothing.

Now that the 1947 Tourette Teardrop is completely restored, I know that my Dad is smiling and saying “I told you so” :)

We’re smiling too Melissa! Thanks again for sharing your wonderful teardrop and story with us!

Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - Hooked Up Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - After Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - camping Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - Cozy Bed Melissa's Tiny Teardrop Restoration - before

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EDGE exterior 2

This small house was designed and built by Bill Yudchitz and Revelations Architects/Builders Corp. It measures just 320 square feet (not including the two small lofts).

It features a few notable systems like a butterfly roof that supplies two rainwater collection tanks built into the design as well as and geothermal heating and cooling.

On the inside you’ll see one main room in the middle flanked on one side by a kitchen and a bath on the other. Then up some ships ladders on each side you’ll find two small open sleeping lofts. In the main room is a set of tables & benches that be arranged into a variety of configurations like dining table and a bed.

Outside you’ll see large sliding doors that cover the exterior windows – locking it up securely when the owners are away.

Photos by Dan Hoffman. To see more visit Revelations Architects/Builders Corp.

EDGE interior EDGE kitchen EDGE exterior EDGE table bed EDGE floor plan

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Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Side Front

A few years back Jeff sent me a link to a tiny house he had built as a place to stay while building his larger home. He finished his larger home, but his original tiny house still get used by guests.

But Jeff still needed some space in the garden for tools, his mower, greenhouse. So Jeff build a second tiny house – this time with multiple functions in mind.

“I found myself needing more storage space, a place for the lawnmower, a greenhouse for wintering over citrus and starting seeds, and a guest house for the occasional times when we run out of beds and sofas here at our home in upstate South Carolina.”

The new tiny house is designed around the windows, which he found while dropping off some recycling.

“I was at our metal recycler, taking scrap aluminum and copper when I noticed several pallets of new windows.  I asked if I could buy a few. I was able to purchase all of the windows for $3 each.  They were headed for the crusher for the scrap aluminum, brand new in the original packaging.  I decided to see if I could incorporate all of my wishes into one building.”

Looks to me like Jeff achieved his goal. The mower can now park in its tiny carport, the tools hang in their tiny outdoor cupboard, and on the inside his citrus can winter-over and his seedlings can get their start. There’s even a bit of space for an extra bunk.

See more of Jeff’s projects on Flickr.

Well done Jeff! Thanks again for sharing your projects with us!

Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Side
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Exterior 2
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Exterior
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Exterior 3
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Shed in Wall
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Interior 2
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Interior
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Interior Bunk
Jeffs Cabin Greenhouse - Interior 3

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Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Sink

Brian Schulz shares his tiny home with Kirsten Dirksen. It’s a Japanese design inspired timber frame home tucked into a temperate rain forest. It sits on a 14′ x 16′ footprint and is made from locally found and salvaged materials.

For example, he salvaged lumber from trees that had come down in the wintertime floods. He’d collect these logs out in the bay while out on his kayak, tie them into temporary rafts, and then come back later to bring them ashore – floating them onto the back of a truck.

Much of the lumber he milled himself, choosing to use live edge siding on the exterior for the aesthetic and to simplify the milling process. Inside the walls are covered in lath and a natural plaster that’s then covered in milk paint. Much or the timber frame are made from peeled cedar poles.

Instead of western style furniture he built a Japanese inspired raised tatami style platform for sitting, eating, or just hanging out.  One of the ideas he borrowed from Japanese architecture were tiny doors and windows that seem to go to nowhere.  These function to open up small spaces, add ventilation, and (some would say) allow energy to pass through the home.

The project began with a tiny brass sink he found in a salvage yard. He bought it knowing he had nowhere to put it but that sparked the idea to build this house. The sink drains into a planter box just outside the kitchen window.

The home’s heat comes from a old scaled-down cook stove that Jøtul was making from about the 1950s. The staircase is made from a single log he notched while it was still out in the forest. The stair log was so heavy it took about 15 friends to bring it inside and set into place. The stair railing was made quickly from tree limbs that were found just outside the house.

To earn a living Brian teaches people how to make skin-on-frame kayaks, but I doubt he’d say it’s a job. Brian seems to have found a way to live a rich life with ample time to do the things he loves – a lifestyle that is likely cheaper and might even feel more rewarding to live than what most of us would call normal.

You can learn more about Brian and his kayak workshops at Cape Falcon Kayak. If you liked the video be sure to subscribe to Kirsten Dirksen’s YouTube channel and be sure to visit her Fair Companies website for more tiny living stories.

Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Bed Loft Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Live Edge Siding Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Kitchen Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Tatami Platform Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Stairs Handmade Forest House in Oregon - Stair Rail

Update: Kirsten posted a new video with a full tour of this working off-grid farm.

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Primeval Symbiosis - Single Pole House

This is a design concept by Konrad Wójcik, from Aalborg, Denmark. It’s modeled after a tree, sits on a single pole, and has built-in systems that make it self-sufficient. It’s shape and foundation also give it virtually a zero footprint making it possible to build communities without necessarily cutting down trees.

It has four layers, so a bit of stair climbing would be needed.

  • The lowest level serves as a mudroom, storage and systems.
  • The next layer is the main living space, and includes a kitchen and bath.
  • The third layer is a work space.
  • At the top is the bedroom.

I really like the idea of building off the ground on a single pole. The illustrations are also fantastic and really give a sense for how dramatic homes like this could be.

With a bit more fine tuning of the interior layout and a reduction of the number of levels, an approach like this could also serve a wider population.

Kudos to Konrad for putting together this great idea! It’s definitely the kind of thinking that will inspire others to think outside the box.

See and read more about Primeval Symbiosis – Single Pole House. Illustration credit to Konrad Wójcik.

Primeval Symbiosis - Single Pole House Systems Diagram  Primeval Symbiosis - Single Pole House Community Primeval Symbiosis - Single Pole House Solar Back

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The Smallest House in Italy - Down Below

At just 75 square feet this little house, designed by Marco Pierazzi, occupies a tiny spot in an alley near Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square in Rome. While the floorspace was minimal, Marco took advantage of the height and built a loft layer above the kitchen/living area. A tiny bathroom is tucked into the back of the home.

The loft bed turns into a sofa during the day and a trap door, leading to a small staircase, can be lowered to increase the upstairs floorspace. But as you can see from the photos this small space isn’t just about utility, it’s decked out in fine Italian style.

The linked article reports:

“Architect and designer Marco Pierazzi saw the potential in an abandoned, one-room alleyway house just steps from Roman landmarks like the Pantheon and Saint Peter’s Square. He bought it, fixed it up, and lived there with his wife until their child was born. Pierazzi now rents what he calls the “smallest house in Italy” to friends, acquaintances, and tourists, making it a convenient place to stay on a Roman holiday.” – Yahoo Finance

See more of The ‘Smallest House in Italy’. Photos by Matteo Rossi.

Below: Front door, and only side with windows.
The Smallest House in Italy - Looking in Front Door

Below: Main living area with the table folded away. Notice the bathroom in the back.

The Smallest House in Italy - Table Down - Bathroom Door Open

Below: Now the table is out and ready for a meal.

The Smallest House in Italy - Kitchen Dining

Below: A peek down below through the loft’s trap door.

The Smallest House in Italy - Down the Stairs

Below: The loft in bed mode.

The Smallest House in Italy - Bed Loft

Below: The loft in sofa mode.

The Smallest House in Italy - Sofabed Loft