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!
Today I was researching codes and zoning when I discovered Charlotte now has an app for reporting public nuisances. You can snap a photo, mark the location on a map, then send it the complaint anonymously. You can see it at http://charmeck.org/Pages/MobileApp.aspx
For those of you who don’t know, I blog to you from Charlotte, NC; A decent sized city in the south with around 2 million people. It’s a great place, it has a lot to do, not a lot of traffic, good jobs, and while ranked 17th largest city in the US, I can still find a multi-acre lots here.
Well Charlotte is also a very difficult place to be a tiny house person, with the city growing by 40,000 people every year, our code enforcement and zoning are very busy, leaving little time to entertain the idea of a variance for tiny houses. Between strict codes that are difficult to get variances on and a most of Charlotte’s housing under HOA’s, its a tough place for tiny houses.
So I thought I’d share this new innovation that cities are taking up.
So just a few days ago I did a post on Japan’s new coffin apartments that are so small, you can’t even stand up in them, but rent for $600 a month! Today I ran across another post about Hong Kong’s urban density. The United States has a density of 88 people per square mile, while Hong Kong has 16,568 people per square mile!
It shows what an urban dense future could look like and allows us to understand what that would mean, more importantly hopefully perused us to keep an eye on our population growth.
These photos almost have an artistic quality to them, but then your realize people live in these.
Yesterday I was talking about tiny houses with another tiny house aficionado when the topic of how do tiny houses intersect with the need in the future for more urban density. There have been several studies suggesting that in order to meet the needs of the future, more and more people are going to have to live in cities. The land around cities will also have to be shifted to agricultural spaces to support these cities with food that can be produced within a few hours travel time.
So what do tiny houses mean for this potential future? Tiny houses provide a living laboratory for people to try out different design ideas, utility systems, storage solutions, and learn lessons that can be taken and applied to small sustainable housing of the next evolution of the city. I have been asked many of times: “how do you think you’ll get the same density with tiny houses as you do apartment buildings?” The simple answer is I’m not.
In a city setting essentially you could have same interiors, but the outside form would be one that is stack-able. Since you can’t have side wall windows or a sky light, we are going to have to make the end walls floor to ceiling windows to get enough light in. We will need to design as part of the master plan, outdoor living spaces that people actually want to hang out in, with roof top gardens, building courtyards, local community gardens, and great parks.
In the suburbs and rural areas I’d expect to see more mini villages pop up in the form of co-housing projects. These villages would most likely allow people who want to live in the country do so, but also be the hubs for agricultural activities for themselves and the cities.
I struggle personally with the notion that we may be faced with living more and more in dense cities because I am one that likes room to roam, a quite place to sit and think and green space to be in. Here in Charlotte, while it is a very sizable city, I live on several acres. I have been fortunate enough to travel a good bit and even cities that have done a really good job with their parks and green spaces, I still find myself feeling smothered by tall buildings and concrete. Cities certainly offer a lot to do, but there is something deep inside of me that resonates with being outdoors in the woods. Something that I fear no high density city will be able to provide me with.
How do you see the future of housing?
What will the cities and country look like for a sustainable future?
When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.
The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the grocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.
There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway! We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.
When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!