Tiny houses offer one, albeit small, solution to lessening the construction industry’s negative impact on climate change. “According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the built environment generates 40% of annual global CO2 emissions [and] building operations are responsible for 27% . . . circularity and the use of bio-based materials are two key strategies to reduce embodied carbon in the construction sector.” (Waugh Thistleton Architects, 2023).
Research into the development of tiny homes at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Arts, demonstrated that tiny houses only make sense for re-densification in inner cities if placed on vacant plots, on top of buildings, or in car parks. Tiny houses are also finding their way into the countryside as an increasing number of people choose to escape from city living, a phenomenon likely intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic and a rise in homeworking.
In many ways, tiny houses are capturing the popular imagination. On Instagram, the hashtag “tinyhouse" has almost 3.3 million posts. Their appeal is widespread (if not widely adopted): the tiny house offers an opportunity to downsize and declutter, live simply and sustainably, and embrace a slower way of life.
The tiny houses presented here showcase a range of models and styles in a number of locations.
Students completing the “Sustainable Planning and Design” Master’s program at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Arts in the Bavarian town of Coburg, designed the prototype of a Circular Tiny House. Acting as a research building, the house is made from straw, timber, and clay. The accommodation offers 19 square meters (205 square feet) of usable floor space; the structure is sustainable, inexpensive, easy to build and disassemble.
In Quito, Ecuador, El Sindicato Arquitectura designed the tiny Casa Parásito. At just 12 square meters (129 square feet), the house sits on a rooftop in Quito’s popular San Juan neighborhood. With its minimal design, this A-frame house focuses on “solving the basic habitation necessities for a person or young couple,” says the architect. By placing the structure on an existing rooftop, with available connections to water, waste, and electricity, the architects minimized further densification of the city.
Designed by Condon Scott Architects, the Kirimoko Tiny House in Wãnaka, New Zealand, is a compact 30-square-meter (323-square-feet) one-bedroom home. The house was built with structural insulated panels (SIP) and utilizes passive heating and cooling techniques.
In Amsterdam, this “tiny house for a tall guy” was designed by Julius Taminiau Architects. The 35-square-meter (377-square-feet) home limits anything that is superfluous, ensuring the space feels roomy, bright, and balanced. A space-dividing cabinet separates the bed from the living area and kitchen.
Brazilian architect Marilia Pellegrini used the Container House to showcase the way in which shipping containers can be reconfigured as imaginative, contemporary homes. Working with shipping containers promotes sustainability and the reuse of materials. Moreover, construction time is considerably shortened.
This tall and slender timber home in Tokyo’s Setagaya special ward is built on a “flagpole” plot — a square plot with a narrow approach. Designed by APOLLO Architects and Associates, the 80-square-meter (861-square-feet) house demonstrates the potential for architects to build small homes on confined spaces in high-density cities.
In Georgia, USA, architect Catherine Mock Pageau designed Treeangle, a 78-square-meter (840-square-feet) two-story cabin. Building the home against a slope inspired its triangular design and name. The cabin’s chemical-free, thermally modified black-brushed Thermory Pine cladding is complemented by the use of locally sourced wood with its natural tone. The Treeangle house is based on a tiny living concept.
Adraga is a tiny house designed by Portuguese architectural studio Madeiguincho. Created for a retired couple with a desire to live close to nature, the small wooden house maximizes the use of space and includes an upstairs bedroom.
Designed by Ana Rocha Architecture, the Micro House Slim Fit is a 50-square-meter (538-square-feet) dwelling that was created for urban densification. The structure occupies a site of 16 square meters (172 square feet), which is less than two parking spaces. Slim Fit can stand as a single or connected unit and between buildings.
Waugh Thistleton Architects (2023). Timber Typologies. London: Timber Development UK.