Mogavero Architects

Tiny houses are…growing

Saturday the 15th brought some unexpected events. The valley’s thirsty soil benefited from an early and slightly warm rainstorm, the SMUD sponsored Tiny House competition held at Consumes River Community College was, well – unexpectedly overwhelmed with participants. Anticipating only 2,500 attendees, event organizers believe over 20,000 people showed up, driven to fight the crowds and wait in long lines, just to fuel their passion for this small foot print design challenge.

Competitions like Tiny House drive innovative thinking aimed at reducing square footage, and its consequent energy benefits. At Mogavero, we are highly tuned to the challenge of making limited space more livable, so I was thrilled to be a competition judge. I’m looking forward to the challenge of integrating my experience as a Tiny House judge into our next affordable housing project.

A Fabulous turnout!

A Fabulous turnout!

There is nothing like extreme constraints to amplify the effect of design choices. No room for error, no hiding poor choices under acres of marble and LEDs. Careful selection of materials belied the limits of floorplan, creating spaces that felt, in some cases, even expansive. A seemly small design decision such as a metal-framed loft over traditional wood frame had an appreciable effect on a 250 square foot space – a concept thoughtfully incorporated by Laney College. Just inches of head space were donated by the metal frame, and it mattered, the space felt lighter. A playful use of verticality made for spaces that felt larger. Elevated areas were employed to create wall-less spatial boundaries. Flexible design concepts are another major aspect of lean livability; a bed transforms to a table, a staircase holds a chest of drawers, every inch seems to have multiple purposes. But not all concepts were debutants. Time-honored designs were employed with great success, the murphy bed for example. The old, the new and the growing interest in space re-purposing are great focal points for all deliberate, energy efficient design, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have studied all the entries.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and interest is growing, but before we can all down size en-masse, there are building codes to consider. Building codes call for stairs, not ladders; minimum room sizes; fire suppression, and more. The houses entered in the competition were all built to the RV code standard, so theoretically not only tiny but also mobile.

But what if you just want to do it? Make the jump to less-is-more, and skip the mortgage.

Jay Hyde, Mogavero Architects’ ultimate building code guru has the following to say about the future of building codes.

” Tiny houses are regulated by the California Vehicle Code, as they contain features that do not conform to current building codes. However, the International Code Council is voting this week on Code Change proposal RB16+8-16 which would permit tiny houses under the Residential Building Code. If adopted and ratified by the membership, tiny houses may be permitted under the 2019 California Residential Building Code” – Jay

Will building code acceptance change the dynamics of Tiny Houses? We will keep you posted!

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