Tiny Houses: Minimal Space, Minimal Impact

As many people are now aware, the world is experiencing a shift in the types of energy we use and the way in which we use them. Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels were the dominant means of producing energy, whether that came in the form of coal for power stations or oil for use in combustible engines. In the last decade, however, amidst growing fears of global warming, rising sea temperatures, habitat destruction, scarcity of resources and population growth, there has been a major shift towards researching and refining better and more efficient ways of producing energy. In fact, the transformation has been so radical that solar power is now the cheapest new form of energy in nearly 60 countries.

This movement has been supported not only by governments, but also small and large businesses that are doing their part for a cleaner and more sustainable environment. For example, many offices have reduced their paper usage in favor of storing documents digitally. Businesses have also switched to cloud storage from onsite servers, sharing data centers that use vastly more energy efficient IT infrastructure and renewable energy.

At a more grass roots level, environmental sustainability is being achieved in a more interesting sort of way: through the tiny house movement.

Tiny houses: tiny footprint

What is the tiny house movement? It’s a shift towards smaller living spaces in which space is used more efficiently and economically. The reasons for this vary, but the most popular being fiscal constraints, wanting to live a more minimalist lifestyle, and environmental concerns. With the average size of a new single family home in America having grown from 165sqm in 1978 to 247sqm in 2013—despite a decrease in the average size of a family—there has been a growing discontentment towards the increasingly cluttered and material lifestyles. A tiny house typically has a living space of less than 37sqm, meaning owners are extremely restricted with the amount of belongings they can own and store.

A tiny house offers the chance for its owner to own a smart space that caters for everything they need without being weighed down by financial burdens such as a mortgage, monthly rent and major repairs. It allows owners to be more free and mobile, as a tiny house on wheels can often be transported most places, effectively granting the owner the freedom to live anywhere they like.

Perhaps the most important benefit is the greatly reduced impact that tiny houses have on the environment. This is achieved in various ways, the most obvious being that a tiny house requires significantly less resources to construct than an ordinary house. Some people, such as Gregory Kloehn, takes this a step further by constructing houses made from found material for less than $100. On top of the dearth of materials needed, tiny houses require less heating, cooling and electricity, which equates to almost 12000kg less CO2 emissions per year than an average house. They can also be powered almost entirely from solar power or other renewable energy sources given their moderate stature.

It’s these kinds of movements that are having a small but disruptive impact on how we perceive our ways of living. It’s a small step, but a tiny house could possibly be the solution to a sustainable and green future.

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