Tiny House Iterative Design Process


In the news, there’s a lot of talk about process journalism and using a feedback loop to evolve stories.  It made me think about iterative design and the potential role of blogs and new media to transform projects.  Probably, one of the most interesting and current examples I can think of comes from Michael Janzen, who’s behind Tiny House Design, Nine Tiny Feet, and Tiny Free House, among other ventures.  Using Google SketchUp, Janzen transformed a shed cluster (through comments, analysis, feedback, and subsequent iterations) into a sustainable dogtrot home.  Check it out:

1.  Shed Cluster Concept, May 10, 2009 – the idea starts with a cluster of 8×12 sheds.  Janzen’s using sheds because they may not (depending on where you live) require permits.  Each shed might serve a different purpose.


2.  Two Sustainable Sheds, May 22, 2009 – the idea evolves to include solar on the pitched roof and rainwater collection attached to the rain gutters.  One shed is for living and the other is for the kitchen.  The deck provides indoor/outdoor space.


3.  Tiny Dogtrot House, June 3, 2009 – yet again, the idea changes to put the sheds side-by-side in a dogtrot looking configuration.  The roof isn’t connected, but that’s to fly under the permitting radar.  This version includes overhangs and large windows for passive solar benefits.


4.  Tiny Dogtrot House Part 2, June 3, 2009 – the idea grows to include a screened porch and a solar box around the rainwater tank.  The solar box opens during the winter to warm water connected to radiant floor heating.  The deck now extends out, too.


As Janzen explains on his about page, he’s just posting home design ideas and thinking through some of the various options.  But it’s interesting to watch ideas transform through random community feedback.  Sure, two heads are better than one, and in most any project teams, ideas bounce around freely.  Yet something about topical blogs having the power to create new iterations through the community — not some forced, crowdsourced audience, but a genuinely interested and volunteer community — is compelling.  Or maybe I’m overthinking this …

Rendering credits: Michael Janzen.

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  • Anonymous

    A great concept. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. The design has evolved.
    In the UK to erect sheds as seperate entites and call them home would be noticed, but fair play if it is allowed over in the States. We might get away with it in the grounds of our house as guest or work/play buildings.
    Keep this up Preston.

  • Brian N.

    I feel a “Jetson Green Home” coming!!!

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Well that may not happen entirely, but I do have a few strategic options that I’m brainstorming.

      • Brian N.

        That sounds intriguing. I look forward to it!

  • http://mportlandrealestate.com/ Portland Real Estate

    Nice concept, but I think it might be wiser in the long run to get the permitting and code rules changed rather than spend so much effort trying to fly under the red tape and radar. This would be a great solution to sheltering the homeless as well as providing cheap quick housing to disaster victims.

  • http://dalani.com/ dalani

    Essentially this process is what Open Design is all about: community based design developement. Check out OpenDesignNetwork.ning.com for community design projects.

  • http://www.secrets-of-shed-building.com/ John Coupe

    This a great idea.
    I just completed my entry for the competition to design new Shedworking HQ for Alex Johnson.
    After seeing this article I asked my readers to comment and offer suggestions for improvements. I was a little overwhelmed at the response, http://www.secrets-of-shed-building.com/the-new-shedworking-hq.html . The challenge now is to incorporate those comments in to a revised design!
    All the best

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