I was approached by a friend of mine to design a tiny house as part of their vision for a more sustainable and minimalist lifestyle. The design was fitted to a 7’ wide by 25’ trailer—175 square feet—roughly the size of a small studio apartment in NYC. I found the design to be challenging yet fun.
I wanted to discuss my research in more detail for those who are curious or who are ambitious enough to design their own tiny house.
One of the most important decisions you can make when designing a tiny house is to determine whether or not you want it to be off the grid or not. We determined early on that we would have to connect to existing 110V power and a city sanitary / water line. However, we also wanted to integrate a solar array / photovoltaic system as well as a rainwater collection system. For the rainwater, we ran a downspout to a holding tank and allowed for the option to connect a pump to the tank when you want to use that water. We also went with a tankless water heater (110V), a compost toilet and a smaller, stackable 24” washer/dryer combo. The client also wanted overhead storage for herbs and containers and a stovetop (no oven) in the kitchen. I combined the kitchen sink with the bathroom sink as well.
Architecturally speaking, the intent was to use wood paneling for the façade, a standing seam metal roof, and vinyl clerestory windows to light the loft space. There are two loft spaces above for additional bedding / storage options. The roof was pitched in one direction to allow for solar paneling in the future facing south. Also, we discussed the possibility of doing a green roof but determined our Midwest climate was not sufficient enough to support it.
For the solar collector, I recommended the Solman Portable Solar Collector (qhich retails for 4995). The nice thing about this system is that it is capable of satisfying all of your energy needs and can be packed up and loaded into storage when you travel. But it is a pretty penny.
This project was quite an experience but a great one for any designer. Exploring the world of compact and tiny design has always been a subject that I’ve been interested in. It’s important to step out of your realm of comfort and explore new subject matter every once in a while.
Brandon E. Young