The newest wave in American architecture has designers thinking big but building small. As the “tiny home” movement continues to gain momentum around the world, design/build firms are increasingly tasked with luxury builds — albeit on a much smaller scale. While the size of the typical American home has increased from 1,700 square feet to 2,600 square feet in the last four decades, a small percentage of homeowners insist on resisting the trend.
About 1% of all homeowners in America own tiny homes. Typically defined as a structure of less than 400 square feet, a tiny home can afford its owner financial peace of mind. For about the cost of a new luxury car — $60,000 or less — a homeowner can contract for a new tiny home. Although zoning restrictions can be difficult in some heavily-populated urban areas, many tiny home enthusiasts are excited to purchase small tracts of urban real estate that would otherwise go unused.
The ideal tiny home is ecologically sustainable: thermally broken steel windows and doors can offer homeowners thin sightlines and a robust urban aesthetic. Rated for fire safety and constructed with energy efficiency in mind, steel framed windows and doors rank high on the list of tiny homeowners’ “must haves.” Steel windows and doors should save homeowners enough money on heating and cooling expenses that they remain an investment with an unusually high return.
The installation of ecologically-friendly amenities such as solar panels, metal roof shingles, and thermally broken steel windows is becoming standard practice among tiny home enthusiasts. Some tiny homeowners insist on wiring their homes for plumbing and electricity, but others want a more rustic feel. Composting commodes, gray water recycling, and the incorporation of recycled materials into homes’ interiors is also popular.
Architectural firms the world over are becoming familiar with “off the grid” design and alternative construction methods, even for luxury tiny home builds. The ideal tiny home must be flexible in its interior design: tabletops should be retractable, ladders must double as bookcases, and living areas must be convertible into sleeping areas. Owners who contract for luxury tiny home builds must converse with architects and builders to ensure that their finished home meets ecological, safety, and livability standards.
Steel windows and doors can allow for a relatively lightweight finished product. Some tiny home owners intentionally mount their homes on small, wheeled flatbeds in order to transport and relocate their residences year round. Architects may also find themselves tasked to create tiny offices that can be situated on an existing property or driven to a new location.
Overall, the movement toward small homes and offices may present new challenges for designers and builders, but the outcome is designed — and guaranteed — to be both innovative and ecologically-responsible. In the next decade, the demand for small, easily transportable offices and homes should continue to increase, along with the market for tiny-scale luxury amenities. In a booming residential real estate market, design professionals are putting their expertise toward designing tiny, multi-functional homes with much smaller carbon footprints.