How Tiny Houses Bring Opportunity for Architects

The “tiny house” trend, for some architects, may not seem like a good place to flex their creative muscles. When you hear about tiny houses and their recent rise in popularity, something like what’s pictured below may come to mind. A “box on wheels” that’s simple, utilitarian, and boring.

basic tiny house design

image from

But there are many ways in which tiny houses present great opportunities for architects. Whether it’s crafting “tiny luxury” or working to improve access to affordable housing - the versatility of tiny homes is something architects should be noticing.

Finding Beauty in Sustainability and Flexibility

In her recent article for ArchDaily, Susanna Moreira shows that tiny houses can be both sustainable and beautiful. With the lack of excavation to build a foundation needed for wheeled tiny houses, they leave their surroundings undisturbed. Having virtually no environmental footprint means these tiny homes can rest in locations where traditional home building is impossible or impractical.

This flexibility brings endless design opportunities for architects. If a customer wants to live in an area special to them, but is unable to build a traditional home there - a beautiful tiny house could be the solution.

CABN tiny house in forest

This CABN tiny home creates a place to appreciate its surroundings without getting in the way.

CABN Tiny House

Tiny Houses can present many design opportunities for Architects

One example of this “off the grid” living comes from CABN in Australia. CABN’s goal is to provide people with a “means to disconnect from the crazy we have brought upon ourselves.” Their eco-friendly tiny houses are set right in the middle of some of Australia’s “most stunning and stimulating landscapes.” Being able to work in such spaces creates a world of possibilities for architects. With tiny houses, their designs are not as limited by the context of its environment as their massive, earth disrupting “normal house” cousins.

Creating Efficient, Affordable Housing

But as you know, the beauty of architecture is that it’s not only about beauty. It can create safe, sustainable work or living spaces that improve the lives of people all over the world.

Affordable housing is a global issue. It’s projected that 1.6 billion people will lack adequate housing by 2025 if nothing more is done to solve the crisis. “Adequate” housing, according to Eduardo Souza, means more than just a roof over someone’s head. It means a person’s home is integrated with the city, jobs, infrastructure, and city services.

Emerald Village Eugene (EVE) an Oregon-based tiny house community focused on providing quality, affordable housing for lower-income individuals and families. Each tiny house is designed as a 160 - 288 sq ft permanent dwelling on a slab foundation. Thanks to mostly private donations, EVE has been able to construct all 22 homes for about $55,000 per unit (including land). Many local architects contributed to this project, who created designs that don’t forget about style despite the space constraints.

Arbor South Architecture EVE Tiny House Floor Plan

Floor plan by Arbor South Architecture, PC

Completed Arbor South Architecture Tiny House

Completed Arbor South Architecture Tiny House in EVE Community

“Tiny Houses are unlikely to be the solution to the global housing crisis,” Souza says, “but they certainly have a role to play by providing an opportunity for improved quality of life through a smaller financial and ecological footprint.”

What do you think about tiny houses? Have you wanted to try designing one? Let us know on social media!

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Design Ideas for Safer, Post-Pandemic Schools

While many people are currently considering whether or not schools should open this fall, let's take a step back and look toward the future of education spaces. These design proposals, shown in ArchDaily, give a glimpse of what post-pandemic schools might look like.

Many new designs revolve around a common goal: increasing sustainability, emotional wellness, and physical health by creating more space for learning - especially outdoors. For New York-based design firm Cooper Robertson, blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors essential for post-covid learning.

For their work on the Lyford Cay International Baccalaureate School in Nassau, Bahamas, Cooper Robertson prioritized creating learning environments with better access to light, fresh air, and outdoor space. The main building is only one room wide, creating cross ventilation for all interior spaces, with 12-foot-wide verandas that flank each classroom to expand floor space into the outdoors. The campus also features a dedicated outdoor classroom space.

Layford Cay Concept: Image from Cooper Robertson

Recently, the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB) and the Urban Projects Collaborative (UPC) partnered with six New York-based architecture firms to create the "Back to School Facilities Tool Kit.” In this toolkit, the six firms proposed design ideas that “allow for proper physical distancing and a safe journey from home to school.” The most effective ideas will move forward through design, construction, and installation in preparation for occupancy.

Integrating new requirements for health and safety, the guidelines will become a resource for schools to create fair, equitable plans to reopen their doors, while protecting the well-being of all students, teachers, staff, and their families.

Ideas from the tool kit include ways to improve the school entry process, and new classroom layouts that support social distancing.

Classroom Concepts from the Tool Kit. Image from ArchDaily

How would you improve the layout of schools or any public building to make it safer for today and the future? Let us know on social media!

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