The small house movement is going buck wild. Some say it's because of a concern for the environment. Others say it's because of the economy. We could all say it's a confluence of both the economy and the environment, but what's important is that people actually rethink what a home can be — including how big it needs to be. Just the other day, The Economist, published a story about two of the main players in the super small home genre, Tiny Texas Houses and Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. We've mentioned Tumbleweed previously, but I learned something new about Tiny Texas Houses.
Bill Randall built his architectural practice doing solar and energy-efficient design, but recently, he's had an itch to get into small, sustainable housing. So last November, he launched thesimpleHOUSE, and the concept has already been given an Honorable Mention in the 2008 green dot awards. thesimpleHOUSE is all about providing simple, contemporary, green house plans at an affordable price. You can order your choice of the expanding line of plans from prices of about $475 — a straight up deal when you think about it.
This Brooklin, Maine home, designed by architect Adam Kalkin, may not be brand new to the green scene (it was built in 2003), but its unique design still looks so fresh today that I had to write about it. The beautiful home stretches the boundaries of modern design and is truly a work of art. It was created by stacking a dozen orange "reclaimed" shipping containers in a T-shape while replacing some of the steel pannels with large windows looking out over the rocky peninsula to Blue Hill Bay.
We've been watching the prefab scene as close as anyone, and it seems the recreational variety is honestly taking hold. This company, Cottage in a Day, provides factory-built, energy-efficient, green homes. They currently provide roughly four models, which, not counting the included decks, range in size from 182 – 375 square feet or more. The homes are made in Traverse City, Michigan and built with locally sourced materials (except the bamboo). And the idea is that they can be put up quite quickly, assuming the concrete pier foundation is ready to go.
The Pacific Garden Mission has been a steadfast anchor in the Chicago community since 1877. The Mission has served as a safe-haven for homeless men and women, offering nourishment for both body and soul. Today, the Mission continues it's work in a newly constructed 156,000 square foot facility. It was designed by Tigerman McCurry Architects to obtain LEED Silver certification and includes 100 solar-thermal panels, green roof with native vegetation, low flow water fixtures, locally sourced materials, and recycled construction waste. The solar panels were donated by the City of Chicago's Renewable Energy Program, which all together, over $245,000 in clean energy grants were donated by the City of Chicago.
More and more, we're seeing designs that focus on energy efficiency and near zero energy operations. One company that has such designs is Solar Village, and they're offering Turn-Key Solar Village Homes — something that I find to be very interesting. The homes feature passive solar design, foil faced rigid foam and Icynene insulation, fiberglass windows with low-E glass, healthy indoor air, a solar hot water system, a 2.5 kW solar pv system with online monitoring, and super efficient HVAC system. As a result, the homes are close to zero energy, if not net-zero energy, and they can be built in less than three months!