One questions that comes up a fair bit about tiny houses is what about tiny houses in cities? Its a good question because currently over half of the world’s population lives in a city and we only expect that number to grow. For the most part, tiny houses have existed in smaller towns, on the edge of a city or in rural locations. But the truth is there are a lot of city dwellers that want to live tiny.
My go to response to the question about tiny houses in cities is that we can still have tiny houses in the city, but most likely what we will do is take the design principals of tiny houses and then apply the to the design of apartments. Essentially taking tiny houses and stacking them. It is important to make sure that we don’t loose sight of our focus on design, make sure there is a strong connection with the outside, and to develop green spaces and public places for us to enjoy.
I think the biggest challenge of adapting tiny houses to a city is ensuring there is enough natural light. And I don’t mean window that only opens to a light shaft in the center of a building, at worst it would open to a open space within a building that is build around a large courtyard. Having visited NYC several times, I couldn’t imagine living in a place where your only window was a mere few feet from a solid brick wall. Honestly, I feel like humans should live like that; I feel like there should be at least one large window that allows your sight to extend a few thousand feet.
While I do technically live in a city – Charlotte, NC – its a very different kind of city. You can easily pickup an acre lot here, go 20 minutes outside the city and you can get 10 acre lots. There is a lot of woods still here and nature isn’t too far. For me personally I just need to see lots of greens and browns, to have that connection with nature. Something just clicks with me when I’m outside in the woods.
I say all this to point out that however we meet the needs of urban density and however we implement tiny houses in a city, we need to make sure there is good connection with green spaces. It is very important in tiny living because you really do need to extend your living space to the outdoor world, which means we need quality places to go to.
What got me thinking about all of this is an interesting project out of the school of Savannah College of Art and Design. They posed an interesting question: as we transition to more public transportation, walkable cities and biking, what do we do with the vestiges of parking decks?
There response was to create modular units that could create housing out of parking decks. At first it seems odd, but I realized the potential and some of the drawings are pretty neat!
For those of you who have been following, the Solar Decathlon is going on right now. The Decathlon features innovative homes that are solar powered built by universities around the US. Its a pretty big production as a dozen houses are constructed on site to compete and showcase to thousands of visitors.
Well my home city of Charlotte NC has a team going to the Decathlon from UNCC. Here is their house called Urban Eden. Some of the neat features of this house is the rolling solar panel array that allows you to control the solar exposure in the summer months. They also have an interesting polymer cement that reduces the buildings impact. Check out the video below to see it all!
Many people know about the video The Story Of Stuff, since its release it has been very popular. Recently the same folks release a new video called The Story Of Solutions. The video talks about how for a long time the name of the game in our economy has been growing the GDP, having more, buy buy buy. I am preaching to the choir, but we all know while there are things we need, consumerism in America has become a little crazy.
So this video makes the assertion that that we shouldn’t focus on more, but instead better. I think the one point they should have made stronger in the video is that in some cases more=better, but it often has a different twist to it. In some cases more won’t be better and for an economy that is on a finite planet we need to grapple with that.
While the solutions they presented in the film are good ones, we also know we have a long fight ahead of us against those who have a financial stake in keeping the status quo. It made me think of the project Christopher Carson (of Tiny House The Movie) was part of, a local campaign to fight Xcel Energies deep pockets campaign to prevent municipal sustainable energy program.
Today I heard about a neat company almost right in my back yard, they are called Dirtball. This company is located in Hickory, NC and produces clothing from recycled cotton scraps and recycled plastic water bottles. They are also 100% manufactured here in the USA and uses 100% recycled materials. What struck me about them was that they had an innovative product that looked good and American made for quite reasonable prices. It certainly isn’t going to beat out an Old Navy, but in many cases we are talking $10-$20 more for something that is better quality, sustainable, and ethically made.
So I recently had the fortune of getting to tour what might be one of the biggest shipping container building companies in the US. Which happens to be right here in Charlotte. While they happened to be local, they have been developing container buildings all over the place. A lot of what they do is pop up trade show booths, but I was clued into some neat full building projects on the horizon. Here are some photos from my tour, check them out here
Above and below are two of their neat fold out booths that can be used for parties, events etc.
Below is a few sections of an office that is being built. You can see how they reinforce the insides so that they can stack them. This is just part of the office.
Their outdoor lounge.
Above and below are some of the larger corporate displays they’ve done. These where for google and shows different ways you can use the containers.