My interest in the Tiny House movement took a turn for the better when I saw these two designs on YouTube. The idea of a tiny house is fascinating but I don’t like the folded designs I am seeing. Almost all of them had a loft bedroom overtop the kitchen. There is something claustrophobic about a 3.5 ft ceiling, even though you don’t need much headroom when lying down. This design seemed to require a very awkward staircase arrangement to make it work. Also, so many of them were cluttered. A small space seems to call out for a minimalist design. I am particularly intrigued about the idea of a having cluster of units joined together such that each unit can provide a specialised function.

Abaton (Madrid, Spain) EU 42,000

There is something very special about what these designers have done. They created a very clean liveable space with extremely minimalist design elements. Large use of windows, vaulted ceiling, separate bedroom and bathroom. Even the exterior cladding is extremely simplistic and would fit in anywhere. Loved the added touch of folding window shutters. That would be great for transportation and when the unit is closed down for extended absences, but it is also a great way to increase the R-value of the glass walls during those extra cold nights in the middle of winter. Would love to incorporate this feature in our own designs.

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VIPP Shelter (Sweden) $585,000

Beautiful design that brings the outdoors indoors.



Design Goals
  1. Must meet highway traffic act requirements, which restricts the dimensions for the unit to 8.5 width and a 13 ft height;
  2. Must meet or exceed building codes so that it is suitable for Canadian winters; This means that all water pipes must be inside the insulation envelope. It also means that humidity must be managed to avoid the growth of mold during the winter.
  3. Must have a solid undercarriage so it can be easily mounted on simple piers anywhere; Ideally the wheel axles can be easily be removed and quickly reinstalled as required;
  4. Because it is a small structure, a minimalist design is essential;
  5. Because it is a shell structure, the interior space is non-structural and can easily meet any design goals;
  6. Must be an open concept with plenty of available light. This translates into a large window area, possibly on both sides. I would also like it to have the ability to roll back the windows to ease the transition between outdoors and indoors.
  7. Exterior wall panels, acting as shutters, that match the size of the sliding glass doors can be folded back in the summer or closed in the coldest times of the winter or when the unit is being stored or unoccupied for maximum security. These panels can add as much as R15.
  8. Small size does not imply sacrifice. Unit can be luxurious.

Wilderness-ready Design

Situating a tiny house in a wilderness setting has several implications for the design such as protecting the glass surfaces against falling debris and enabling the unit to be closed up for extended periods. Which is why we are starting with designs that have insulated shutters to cover the glass walls and the avoidance of such things as in-floor radiant heating which would require draining for the colder months.

Floating trailer bed

Instead of the dropped trailer design where space is lost by intrusion of the wheel wells into the wall cavity, a floating design allows for a completely intact floor bed and allows for the positioning of doors anywhere along the wall. With a dropped floor design, you couldn’t have sliding glass doors in the centre of the unit because of the wheel wells for example but a floating trailer bed would allow for this. This does make the unit higher off the ground and reduces the overall height of the unit so that it stays within the 13.5 ft height restriction. This is the main reason why the dropped trailer design is so popular – to provide enough space for a loft bedroom.

The trailer axles can be removed when not needed by raising the unit, unbolting the leaf springs and removing the axles and then lowering the unit back down to the ground and positioning on piers.

We have been investigating a design where the tiny house can be pulled on and off a separate trailer so that the unit can be lower to the ground when it is in use but quickly placed on a trailer for moving.

Traditional stick framing, Steel Studding or SIP

It is interesting that there are so many choices for construction. Traditional 2×4 wood studding seems popular but there are some interesting computer-aided equipment that uses steel studding or SIP construction.

Large retractable Glass doors

A personal favourite, is large areas of retractable glass doors to allow for living spaces that are outdoors.

Folding shutters to cover glass doors

Vaulted ceiling for wiring chase

Allows for running ventilation and wiring down the centre of the unit back to the utilities panel.


Flat or combination of Flat and Peak design for variety. Possibility of section of roof that can be slide sideways exposing a skylight.

Low energy devices and wiring

Multiple points of egress


Next Post

Living off-grid

Sun Jun 12 , 2016
Living off the grid has its own challenges. In these situations, say a wilderness setting, all the utilities would be contained in a separate structure located several metres away from the unit. The features that we take for granted in the city don’t come easy when going off grid but […]

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