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“Tiny Houses:” A Panacea For Social And Environmental Ills?

Philip R. Stein & Shalia M. Sakona

Could the answers to crushing mortgage debt, homelessness and ecological degradation be one and the same? Across the globe, a ‘tiny’ movement is taking root. Space, energy and cost-efficient “tiny houses” offer their residents shelter with minimal impact upon pocketbooks and the planet.

Not all tiny houses are created equal. The most rudimentary models are as small as 32 square feet and can cost as little as $100 to construct. These basic tiny houses (also known as micropods, survival pods, miniature homes, mini-mobile homes, tricycle homes, etc.) have popped up in cities in California, Florida, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin as havens for the homeless.

But tiny homes may no longer be merely shelters of last resort. Drawn to the financial manageability and environmental sustainability of “tiny living,” a growing number of individuals are voluntarily turning to larger (approximately 100-400 square feet) and more sophisticated tiny home models, ranging in cost from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. These tiny homes are increasingly self-sustaining, with rainwater collection systems to provide running water, compost waste management systems, solar panels, and internal heating and cooling systems.

In other parts of the world, tiny home architecture is burgeoning into a sort of art form, with Denmark and Tokyo leading the pack. In these densely populated areas, tiny homes stylishly tackle very real land shortage issues. In Denmark, “Primeval Symbiosis” seems to float above the forest floor. In Japan, Lucky Drop House shines as a [literal] beacon of micro-architecture, and Paco House Cube challenges the merits of living outside the box. Sophisticated (albeit, costly) structures like these offer a more alluring take on tiny living, fascinating glimpses into the potential future of sustainable housing.

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