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Season 3: Episode 3 - What we Want

We have learned a lot, thought a lot about space, lifestyle and and written lots of things we like and dislike, and now it is time to condense that nebulous miasma of ideas, wants and needs into a set of design constraints we can work to.

But first an interesting tangent exercise.

When we were looking to buy a conventional house (and a huge chuck of debt) we went through a similar process - what are the criteria for a house that suits our values and lifestyle? How much of what we thought we wanted in a fixed dwelling can still be achieved with a Tiny House on Wheels? Below is our decision making criteria, roughly in order of importance when we tried to buy a house. Lets take a look:

1. Location. Somewhere in our preferred central Huon Valley area. We just so happen to have 3 different potential parking spots lined up, all in our preferred area. We have been really lucky to build a community of friends with land in the area who are supportive of our Tiny House adventure. Check.

2. Enough land area for a couple of outbuildings. We expect to share resources with the land owners wherever we park. The tools from the shed (and while-not-in-use musical instruments) that won't fit in a tiny house will probably end up in a storage sea container that travels around with us. Sort-of-check.

3. Existing, federation style house. An existing building is lower impact than a new build. Also we like the charm and character of older buildings. We will try and make use of reclaimed materials and architectural cues in our design that reference the styles of fixed buildings we like. Check.

4. Price < $450 000. Our goal was a (relatively) modest mortgage where we could work less and enjoy our lifestyle more. No mortgage is the most modest mortgage. Check.

5. A warm house. The rental we live in at the moment was built in the 70's and leaks air like a sieve. It is always cold, with abysmal thermal performance. Our tiny house will be well constructed with an excellent thermal envelope and be comfortable to live in, as a result save on heating bills. Check.

6. Potential to renovate and add value to the existing building(s). We get to scratch the DIY renovation itch by actually building our own home. We can bypass the majority of the labour costs by doing a lot of work ourselves (and with the help of friends). Labour tends to make up around 50% of the final build cost in a commercial purchase of a tiny house. Check.

7. North facing living area. Parking locations we have looked at are generally pretty orientation-flexible. Also winter solar gain is less of a problem in a super thermally efficient tiny space. Check.

8. Good Bones / Structurally Sound. With care and attention to detail, weather protection during construction and the use of quality materials in the structure, we can achieve this. Check.

9. View of Huon River or Mountains or nice scene. Our likely parking spaces are typically rural and not suburban. Everywhere here is beautiful, it's one of the reasons we moved. Check.

10. Verandah. An abutting deck is an element of our design which includes a 'cat-io'. Check.

11. No Asbestos. We will know all of the materials that go into our tiny house. Asbestos won't be one of them. Check.

12. Dam or watercourse. Our likely parking spaces all have water for food irrigation. Check.

13. Close (but not too close) to a town. None of our likely parking spaces are easy-walking-distance to a town, but all are within a 5-15 minute drive of a town centre. Check.

Just like with the Season 3 Introduction Blog, it is interesting to realise that we had got things a bit back-asswards. We were looking for a house (constraint) that fit our lifestyle wants and values, rather than imagining our lifestyle and identifying the way in which meeting our shelter need could be done. A fixed house dwelling isn't the only way to meet the shelter need.

Lets flip things around now and look at what we have decided are the right design constraints to place on our tiny house, for us.

1. VSB1 Compliance

Having a Tiny House on Wheels that is VSB1 compliant and legally a caravan provides many benefits: It may be registered as such, it is road legal, it is easier to insure, it may transported without special permits or licenses, it is easier to insure and it will have a better resale value.

2. Weight

Our tiny house will be less than 3500 kg, such that it can be towed by a car that we own. While VSB1 compliant caravans can go up to 4500 kg, typically this weight of trailer requires a light truck or Ridiculous American Truck to tow. We want the freedom and flexibility of being able to move the Tiny House on Wheels ourselves, hopefully with a Land Rover, but also with a Land Cruiser / Hilux / Amarok / Ranger / BT50 etc. The weight limit also means our tiny house will be built within a 6 m long, 2.5 m wide and 4.3 m high maximum build volume. Loosely tied to weight, all of the things we want to keep being part of our lives need to fit in the tiny house:


Room for coats and bags

Room for jars of things

3. Off Grid

Not requiring a connection to mains power, water or sewer provides much greater flexibility in where you park your tiny house. Ours will include solar power, battery storage, rainwater collection, greywater storage / treatment and a composting toilet.

4. Fossil Fuel Free

Gas for instant hot water and cooking is super convenient. But gas is also a finite fossil fuel that releases greenhouse gases and is increasingly collected by fracking. We are going to aim for a combination of wood fired and solar electric energy for cooking and hot water - lets see how we do!

5. Beautiful

Every single thing that goes into the construction of our Tiny House will be carefully considered. The palette of materials, interfaces between structures and furnishings and attention to detail in finishes is important to us. We aren't under any particular time pressure to get our Tiny House finished, so quality of workpersonship is more important to us that expediency.

6. Selected Reclaimed Materials

Where we can incorporate reclaimed materials into the tiny house in a way that doesn't compromise on the structural integrity, weight limit and style of the place, we will. Our current list of possible reclaimed stuff includes things like floorboards, tapware, basin/sink, cladding timber and fixtures. We are working on it.

7. Cost

We would like to realise our finished tiny house for less than $70 000 in materials and professional labour (electrician, plumber, other trades).

There are a whole bunch of other design details and requirements (cat friendliness, room in spaces for activities, appliances we want, etc. etc.) that have evolved through working on the design, and you will see those come to light as we progress.

Next episode we will look at some of our early concept designs and our first weight and cost estimate.

All our Love,

Adam and Ruth,

Foraging for Vegan Treats

Season 3 Statistics:

Mortgage purchase attempts: 2

Funds raised through selling stuff we were not using: $700

Tiny House University Units Completed: 37

Land Rover For Sale Gumtree Ads Bookmarked: 3

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