Big Living in a Small Box – The Tiny House Movement
House sizes around the world vary depending on a wide range of demographics such as: culture, family size, income, land availability and construction materials.
A house might be a one room hut in a developing country, or a massive, one hundred room mansion in the hills of Hollywood.
For the average family though, it’s a 2-4 bedroom home, with lounge, kitchen, bathrooms and a two car garage. That’s a lot of space to build, fill and pay for.
Introducing the Tiny House Movement
The Tiny House Movement is a worldwide trend towards minimalism, de-cluttering, downsizing and a more sustainable lifestyle through smaller living environments. Homes are downsized from 2,600 square feet (the average size of an American home) to a comparatively tiny 100 – 400 square feet.
These tiny houses are usually inhabited by single people, couples in their twenties or those who have retired and are looking for are more cost effective, minimalist approach to their life. A tiny house still contains all the necessities of life, such as a sleeping area, storage for clothing and bedding, a tiny (but well planned) kitchen, living area and a fully functional bathroom.
Often these buildings contain many environmentally friendly design features, such as solar power, composting toilets or concepts borrowed from green buildings which makes them perfect for off grid, self contained, green living.
Tiny Houses are Cheaper too!
The increasing costs of standard land and housing put the average family home out of reach for those who are just entering the property market. This makes the idea of a smaller, more cost effective and less resource intensive home more attractive for those who are just entering the property ladder. A tiny house is also tiny on price, meaning less debt when purchasing or building your first home.
A normal home generally costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, once you factor in building materials, labour and of course – increasing compliance costs. Tiny homes are generally much, much cheaper to construct – in the tens of thousands of dollars instead. When more and more first home buyers simply cannot afford a full sized home, a tiny house can be purchased outright for cash (we’ve even seen stories of children in high school building their own tiny homes with money from after school jobs in the United States).
Moving Towards Minimalism
Of course a smaller home also means less room for all that stuff you have, forcing dwellers in tiny houses to considerably downsize their belongings to just the essentials – one reason why tiny houses are so attractive to 20 somethings that have returned from a backpacking trip across the world!
This means you need to get rid of almost everything that you have, but never use: excess furniture, books you’ve already read (or will never read), clothing that doesn’t fit or is a decade out of fashion and appliances that spend most of their time in a cupboard or under the kitchen sink. Just think to yourself, how much stuff do you have in your home right now that you’ll never use again. Chances are that there’s a lot of it!
Contemplating a tiny house could be the first step in seriously de-cluttering your life – one reason why the tiny house movement isn’t just one of economics, it’s a zen like philosophy as well.
Shipping Containers – A Modular Building Block for Tiny Houses
And this is where shipping containers come in to the picture. Shipping containers are a cost effective, easily accessible, easy to modify building block for creating your own tiny house. Shipping containers are the backbone of international trade, and are produced (literally) by the boatload. They are durable and strong, often stacked up to nine levels high on container ships or in ports, and designed to survive the rigours of a rough trip at sea.
3 Great Examples of Tiny Houses Built from a Single Shipping Container
Here are some of our favourite tiny homes constructed from a single used shipping container:
Brenda Kelly’s Home – Auckland, New Zealand
Brenda’s home was featured in the excellent blog “Living big in a tiny house” and is a great example of off the grid living in a modified shipping container. She’s taken a 20 foot long, high top shipping container and done an amazing job turning it into a functional, livable space.
Her design is notably different from many shipping container home designs we’ve seen, in that it has a large section of the front removed and used as a covered entry and porch area. This modification allowed her to reduce the actual size of the building to under 100 square metres, meaning that she did not require a building consent in Auckland – saving her both time and money in the project.
This reduction in size obviously has some trade offs though, and she has had to put even more thought and creativity into efficiently using the limited space that she has. The design combines a kitchen and office area at the front door, has full length windows on the other end that house a sunken sleeping space and a raised living/lounge area above.
Casa Cubica – Costa Rica
Cubica are a Costa Rican company that specialise in constructing buildings from second hand shipping containers. They’ve built everything from commercial premises, government buildings and residential housing using shipping containers – but their Casa Cubica definitely fits the definition of a tiny house.
Casa Cubica is constructed from a 20 foot shipping container, with an decked extension for additional living space. The home contains a living space, a bedroom as well as cooking and laundry facilities. Generally marketed as holiday accommodation, it is also an ideal layout for a single person or young couple.
The home utilises its small amount of space incredibly well, with a well mounted bed that disappears into a cavity to provide even more living area when not being used, and fully functional cabinetry along the far wall to provide as much storage space as possible.
Outdoor space is provided with the front decked area, as well as a fully decked area on the roof of the building accessed by a ship’s ladder. Added security is provided by a roll down shutter that can fully enclose the glass doors when the property is not in use.
The Porta Bach – New Zealand
What is it with these Kiwis and their Tiny Container houses? Anyway – for the uninitiated a ‘bach’ isn’t just a composer, it’s also a term for a basic beachside holiday home in New Zealand.
The Porta Bach is designed by Wellington based architects Bonnifait + Geisen. Like the Casa Cubica above, the Porta Bach can easily sleep a family of four in holiday mode. At a stretch it can house a single person or couple by repurposing it as a permanent tiny home.
The Porta batch, as it’s name suggests, allows for portable housing, needing only six concrete slabs as a foundation. It’s self sufficient with solar panels for electricity and a composting toilet meaning that it can be used without a power and water supply (if absolutely necessary).
Fitted with both bunks and a fold down bed, it makes the most of available sleeping space which also converts to lounge and living areas that open up onto the decking. The decking also serves a dual purpose, folding up when the bach is not in use to securely close the bach up when not inhabited.
California Container Home for Under $4000
On the complete other end of the scale is this container home that has been built simply and effectively – on a budget. The owner used a shipping container that she got for free, and converted it into her own container home for around $4,000 USD. All the modifications were carried out by herself, cutting the holes in the container for doors and windows with a jigsaw (and going through a lot of blades)
The house was insulated using styrofoam and bubble wrap, with flooring and wall frames being constructed from 2×4 beams of wood. Almost everything that went into the house was scavenged from the local dump or purchased second hand and upcycled. Hot water is provided by a portable propane camping heater, while cooking is also done on a propane powered camping stove. Essentially the entire house is built in a similar way to a boat, except instead, it’s inside a 20 foot container.
Her bathroom is a simple lean to constructed from plywood, again using scavenged materials allowing her the simple necessities in life – such as a massive claw foot bath. All in all her house was constructed in around a month, after three months of collecting construction materials. As her brother tells her:
“You always like poverty with a lot of style”
And with a tiny house built from a shipping container, she is able to have just that – a stylish, simple life, on a tiny budget – enjoying the important things like good tea and a hot bath. Her next plan is to build a barge, with her container house on top. The portability of her container home allows her to move to pretty much anywhere – even her home country of Argentina.
What Would You Do?
What would you do if you didn’t have the stress of mortgage debt, a huge house to clean, massive heating or air conditioning bills, or had the freedom to move your home with you? What would you spend your time and money doing with your new found freedom?
Are you ready to begin building your own tiny dream home?
Contact the team at Gateway Container Sales & Hire now to find out how this could all be a reality. Our team have provided shipping containers for building everything from tiny offices and accommodation buildings to massive shipping container mansions. We’ll give you advice and put you in touch with the right builders & architects, while our onsite workshop can even do some of the modifications for you.