February 12, 2012

Density, Efficiency and Tiny Homes

512 sq. ft. lofted cabin costs $10,000
I currently live quite comfortably in a 586 square foot condominium. Because of the multi-unit nature of the building and resulting density, land and energy is used efficiently.

The efficiency of density is what makes New Yorkers among the lowest-impact citizens of North America. With a burgeoning global population, density is the way to go.

Having given a nod to lower-impact, high density living arrangements, I must admit that I do dream of having a tiny home somewhere with space for a nice vegetable garden.

Tiny homes take fewer resources to build and maintain, and are more energy-efficient. Compared to conventional homes that can cost you a lifetime of working, a tiny home will only cost a few thousand dollars. In addition to these advantages, tiny homes can also be used to increase density/land-use efficiency.

Some tiny home designs are so compact that they don't need a separate lot - many are finding their way into the big backyards of regular-sized houses. This is a way to house people at low cost, while increasing density in older neighbourhoods.

Thoreau might think this too large for his needs
I recently discovered some new tiny homes, as shown in the photos. The company, in the USA, produces models starting at 12x30 (360 sq. ft.) for $7500.00. The size seems downright Lilliputian until you consider that Henry David Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond was only 150 sq. ft., and he found that adequate for several years of beautiful, low-impact living.

The 16x32, 512 sq. ft. lofted cabin shown costs about $10,000, and is not finished inside. With a bit of sweat equity the tiny home owner could finish the inside, including extra insulation and energy-efficient systems, for a low-impact, low-cost dwelling.

And wouldn't a $7,000 - $10,000.00 small loan be nice to have, compared to a massive mortgage that takes 40 years to pay off?


  1. So cheap! Although I don't like the look of this one compared to many of the others. If we do build a small house some day, I wouldn't want a loft because I'd like build it to grow old in. No stairs, easy to make adjustments for accessibility, etc. We were thinking of something around 600 square feet, or else a bit smaller with a storage shed or garage for all the seasonal and outdoor gear. First I have to get my son through to adulthood, and then the fantasy can start to shape into reality.

    1. Geneviève,

      Sounds like a great plan. You raise some excellent points, such as accessibility, and gear storage. Where would you like to put your dream tiny home?

      Greetings to your young dude... and your old dude.

  2. Who knows what the future brings, but right now we're thinking Vancouver Island. We'd love to come visit your neck of the woods some time and get the lay of the land. I've heard good things about Sooke. Victoria is an option, but it would probably end up being a small condo instead of a tiny house. We'll see!
    I'll say hi to the dudes, although Bill may not approve of the word "old". That said, we are getting older. I turned 40 yesterday!
    Take care and hopefully we can see you guys sometime this summer.

    1. Happy 40th! Looks like I am the 'old man' in this discussion.

      The Sooke area is amazing, and land prices are coming down. However, land is still far too expensive.

      It would be nice to do a collective purchase of a farm out here. Then add a few tiny houses.

      There is a strong food security movement in Sooke that is working to preserve farm land, and improve conditions for new farmer operators.

      Linda just contacted this same group to organize a raised-bed garden plot in their community garden. Almost time to plant seeds!

      Victoria is nice, too. It is about 40 km from Sooke to Victoria. There is a beautiful rails to trails path between the two.

      See you this summer.

  3. Sounds lovely and I can't wait to explore the area. See you in the summer indeed!

  4. Awesome, I love the picture of the cabin. We are planning to downsize toward retirement and are considering becoming full-time Rvers. But we want a place we can come to as our home base and one of these would be just perfect!

    1. Mike, we are also considering doing the RV thing for a while. But where do you garden?

      Having a tiny home base would be a nice way to go.

  5. we live in a tiny house in holland, 54 m2, 2 adults and 3 greyhounds, and in holidayseason we get visitors as well. we have a lot off space in our hearts and live. We are happy and totally satisfied with our simple living, we have our own veggie garden and 6 chickens and try to make ourselves as much as we can/learn products, sorry my bad writing in english, marion anderson, holland

    1. Marion, I love your attitude. Your comment is very reassuring to those who may be wondering what simple living is like. You let them know - "It's great!"

      You are right - having a big heart is more important than having a big home. Visitors come to see the homeowner, not the home.

  6. Anonymous6/09/2014

    I am currently finishing a 12x36 derksen building to live in. all the necessities of home with out the bloat. alot of people dont understand it but whatever, they are the ones building houses to impress other people.

    1. Anon,

      Congratulations on finishing your new properly sized home. A lot of people may not understand what you are doing, but we here at NBA sure do, and we applaud your sensibility and courage.

      May you always enjoy your efficient abode.

  7. This is one of the buildings I have been looking at to purchase to make into my "vacation" home for when I go "back home" each year to visit friends and family. I have thought about the loft issue also for as I age... I think its still a good idea because now my young adult children (or my one remaining young one) can sleep up there or I could use it as rarely used storage for those things I just can't let go of but have no reason to hold on to lol...

    My issue has been trying to find a good floor plan to put in the building. Since I'll only be using it basically only one month out of the year being small is great. Then again while I'm there I still need things like a washer/dryer and I would prefer 2 bedrooms/ 1 bathroom. I love the space saving advances that are out there such as the tankless hot water heaters and the small plug in wall heaters (Texas and only there in the summer, so heat not an issue) even though I'd like to put a fireplace in. Not sure how I'd want to do air. I would love central air but what a waste of money... I hate the look and noise of a window unit. Lol... anyway I stray... So far I haven't found a good floor plan. I'm not creative enough to map out my own idea. :/ Maybe I'm just being too picky.


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