Renovation in Tokyo creates a house for four generations

We have noted before on TreeHugger that Japanese houses are often demolished after a few decades; that old houses are considered worthless. Nate Berg recently picked up on the subject in the Guardian, writing:

depreciation of house pricesRichard Koo/Screen capture

Unlike in other countries, Japanese homes gradually depreciate over time, becoming completely valueless within 20 or 30 years. When someone moves out of a home or dies, the house, unlike the land it sits on, has no resale value and is typically demolished. This scrap-and-build approach is a quirk of the Japanese housing market that can be explained variously by low-quality construction to quickly meet demand after the second world war, repeated building code revisions to improve earthquake resilience and a cycle of poor maintenance due to the lack of any incentive to make homes marketable for resale.

But he also notes that this is changing and that people are buying older buildings and renovating them. One renovator notes that “Nowadays young people don’t have much money, so they won’t hesitate to buy older buildings.”

house for four generations stair© Satoshi Shigeta

Sometimes there are other reasons for renovating. V2.com shows a renovation of a Tokyo house by Tomomi Kito Architect and Associates, a 40-year-old timber structure, to accommodate a four generation family.

house for four generations kitchen© Satoshi Shigeta

The clients, a young couple and the wife’s parents, were already living here before the renovation.
Soon after, the wife’s grandmother, who lived alone in the countryside far from Tokyo, also decided to move in. As such, the clients requested to renovate the house and to make it suitable for accommodating 4 generations—the grandmother (1st generation), the parents (2nd generation), the clients (3rd generation), the clients’ son (4th generation

Yikes! That’s what’s been called the “Club sandwich generation”, where according to an article I quoted in MNN, “In 20 years’ time, one in four families will include frail great-grandparents in their 80s and 90s as well as infant great-grandchildren, who will require childcare.” That’s what is happening in this house.

house for four generations hall© Satoshi Shigeta

As the age as well as daily living rhythm of each family member are different, creating a space to promote a comfortable connection among them was one of the major challenges of the project.

house for four generations room© Satoshi Shigeta

Common spaces adjacent to private rooms were secured in each floor. They act as communication hubs to seamlessly connect different generations. The private rooms are also exchangeable among the members so as to enhance communication between generations; similar to a share-house lifestyle.

house for four generations room© Satoshi Shigeta

However, since private rooms were prioritized in planning, securing enough natural daylight in the common space on the 1st floor became another challenge; particularly as it faces north. Consequently, a catenary ceiling was designed on the 2nd floor to better reflect daylight into the 1st floor; this became a distinguishing feature of the house.

average area per capita© shinkthatfootprint

Like most Japanese houses, it is rather small at 140 square meters or 1506 square feet. That’s not much for six people;
just 251 SF or 23.3 m2 per person, even lower than the Japanese average of 35, but higher than the Hong Kong average of 15 and less than a third the American average of 77m2 per person. It’s tight.

house for four generations living© Satoshi Shigeta

But hey, thanks to good design, “The catenary-shaped ceiling now gently envelopes all 4 generations of the family who ultimately enjoy living in a space abundant of natural daylight and ventilation.” More at V2.com

Roadhaus is a modern tiny house & RV hybrid

There’s been some discussion around the internets about why tiny homes are not the same as recreational vehicles and trailers. But the line dividing them isn’t always all that clear, given there are some trailers that are so well-built that they seem more like a tiny home than a mass-manufactured trailer or RV, as well as a segment of tiny homes that are built with RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association) certification.

Wyoming-based builder Wheelhaus was one of these builders who previously showed how the careful and clever design ideals behind the tiny house movement might be integrated into the creation of park model RVs, also known as recreational park trailers (RPTs). Their 400-square-foot Wedge model — which was certified as an RV and could be towed and parked in any RV park or campground, is one of these tinyhouse-RV hybrids, which the company touts as the “the next generation of RPTs”. Now, Wheelhaus is back with a smaller version of this popular model, dubbed the Roadhaus Wedge RV.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

Coming in at 10.5 feet wide and 38 feet long, it’s a gorgeous design that looks familiar, but is also reminiscent of early Modernism or something Eames-like. It’s well-lit and topped with a roof that seems to float, letting even more light in, while offering more privacy.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

The main draw in the living room is the glass-wrapped corner on one end; part of it is actually a huge glass door that swings out, extending the interior space out over the included wooden deck.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus
Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

The kitchen is beyond; it’s not too big but has a bigger sink, a very small stovetop and an adjustable storage option with the pegboard.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus
Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus
Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

The bathroom is designed as a wet room; it’s covered with silver tiles and there doesn’t appear to be any separation between the shower and the rest of the space.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

The bedroom is all the way in the back, with enough space to fit a queen-sized bed.

Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus
Wheelhaus© Wheelhaus

The whole thing is on wheels, so it can be moved easily, more so than its larger predecessor, The Wedge. It comes in sizes from 160 to 240 square feet and is cheaper too, but not by much with a base price of USD $76,000. The clear advantage here though is that like The Wedge, the Roadhaus Wedge RV tiny house can be towed and parked in RV and trailer parks. But, as we’ve speculated before, this crossing-over between the two worlds may be the future of the tiny house movement, as regulations change and appetites for better designs emerge, possibly opening the door to more tiny houses certified as RVs, making their appearance in more RV and trailer parks. For more info, visit Wheelhaus.

“Subversive” rooftop cabin is shaped like a giant air duct to get around regulations (Video)

Building on top of city rooftops in response to rising housing costs is an intriguing idea that’s been bandied about before. There’s some merit to this, as it help to increase urban density, without the need to purchase land. But the process of getting permits for these types of structures can be difficult, costly and may potentially have unfair loopholes.

Wanting to challenge these issues and bring awareness to the gentrification of the city’s canal waterfront, London firm PUP Architects created this “subversive” rooftop structure, that is shaped like a giant air duct, and clad with recycled Tetra Paks, turned inside out. Take a tour of this rooftop hideout, via Dezeen:

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PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects

Built as part of a series of “antepavilions” commissioned by the Architecture Foundation and the property developer Shiva, the rooftop H-VAC aims to draw attention to the recent decisions by the local planning authorities to greenlight large luxury developments along the canal side, while apparently making it difficult for other less-profit-oriented projects to get off the ground. The project also hopes to highlight existing loopholes in local planning regulations that allow for two-storey service structures to be added to roofs. Say the architects:

We wanted to provoke a conversation about why, if you can build this type of strange plant equipment on the rooftop, why can we not use it in a more positive way, to inhabit and liberate all these hundreds of thousands of square metres of rooftop space?

PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects

The structure has been built on top of a warehouse that sits beside the canal. It has been framed with wood, and covered with recycled Tetra Paks, the same material used for cartons. Here, the cartons have been turned inside out, folded into squares, and attached to the outside to provide a waterproof skin, though it has been affixed in a way that still lets air and light in. There are benches inside for up to six people to sit, and a big louvered window that allow views of the canal.

PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects
PUP Architects© PUP Architects

The structure is accessed via a staircase from an artist’s studio below. The designers note:

Although it was a practical aspect to enter from below, it really added to our concept of the structure being something a little bit subverting what a roof duct is, and this idea of covertness and secrecy. It means that you can use it without ever going on the roof, which is obviously not made to be accessible.

PUP Architects© PUP Architects

As prime real estate becomes more scarce and costly, developing alternatives and sensible local planning regulations will be key to making major cities more livable and affordable for everyone, not just the well-off. Building on roofs is being explored in some places like Paris and Barcelona, but in reality, it can be costly to stick structures up there, as it’s expensive to reinforce the roof and the rest of the building, and to get permits. But it can be done, and ultimately, it’s a discussion at least worth having. For more, visit PUP Architects.

Transforming wall hides all in young family’s micro-apartment (Video)

As real estate gets more costly in growing cities, there’s been a trend toward smaller but more affordable spaces. Creating this space for a husband, wife, and their young child, Spanish architect Angel Rico redid this small, 20-square-meter micro-apartment (215 square feet) by adding transformable, multifunctional elements and furniture, making the space much more livable for this young family. You have to watch all the pieces move to understand how it works (and well worth the few minutes):

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Angel Rico© Angel Rico

Located on the Spanish coast somewhere, this tiny apartment is right by the ocean, and as mentioned in the video, is home to a health care professional, her son and her husband. To maximize these views, all the functional components of closet, pantry and storage, as well as other zones like the kitchen and child’s bed have been pushed to one side and hidden in a wall unit of sorts.

Angel Rico© Angel Rico

It’s not immediately apparent, but the wall has multiple layers. Like a puzzle or pancaked nesting doll, part of the wall hinges out to unfold and reveal a series of cubbies, one of which is a special closet for the homeowner’s long dresses. The bed for the son can now be hinged down; the previous hinged wall acts as a privacy screen. Obviously, it’s not the most ideal situation when the child gets older, but at a younger age, it’s workable.

Angel Rico© Angel Rico

Then, the top half of yet another part of a wall can unfold, to reveal the kitchen and its storage. It has been designed so that it fits perfectly together (though it seems that in order for the kitchen to close upon itself, the counter must be clear). Below that is the small refrigerator, hidden behind a cabinetry surface.

Beyond that is the bathroom, hidden behind a thick, hinged wall unit that’s actually another closet, which allows everyone to bathe and get dressed in the bathroom itself, without having to leave the room — a clever workaround in this home that has no other rooms or partitions.

Angel Rico© Angel Rico
Angel RicoAngel Rico/Video screen capture

Right above the bathroom is a lofted space for naps. As the homeowner mentions in the video, she works late shifts at the local hospital, and she wanted a private space to nap or relax when she comes home. In the future, it could possibly become a bedroom for a growing child.

Angel RicoAngel Rico/Video screen capture

At the other end of the apartment is the living room; it’s furnished with a sofa-bed, and is where the couple sleeps usually. This space also doubles as a place for entertaining up to 11 guests, thanks to a extendable table and chairs that are hidden in a ceiling hatch. The living room overlaps with the balcony space, which expands the sense of space to the outdoors, and given the mild climate, it creates an extra sense of spaciousness.

Angel RicoAngel Rico/Video screen capture

The apartment is small, but by virtue of some clever space-making ideas, it feels a lot bigger than it really is, enough to accommodate this family living by the sea. For more, visit Angel Rico.

[Via: ArchDaily]

Why a tiny home isn’t really a trailer or an RV

Some ask, “Why not just buy an RV or a trailer instead of a tiny house?” Well, the answer is that it depends — and they really aren’t the same.

The popularity of tiny homes has prompted a lot of discussion about the possible benefits of living more lightly on a smaller footprint. But what began has mostly an ‘underground’ do-it-yourself movement has evolved into a full-blown trend, replete with professional builders, municipalities, universities, dedicated websites, print publications and television shows capitalizing on this surge of interest in mortgage-free lifestyles.

All these factors have converged into tiny homes becoming more of a legally ‘official’ thing in an increasing number of places — and that has also meant heftier price tags too, as more professional tiny house builders offer their services. This has led people to ask, why not just buy a trailer or an RV instead of a tiny house? After all, they seem to serve the same purpose, and when bought used, RVs might actually come out cheaper.

But upon closer examination, there are actually a lot of differences between RVs, trailers and tiny houses — and there are a lot of factors that go into deciding which option is best. So below are a few reasons why tiny houses are not like their recreational ilk.

Kate Russell Photography© Kate Russell Photography

1. Tiny houses are more durable and less toxic.

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth it to say it again: tiny houses are generally built with better, higher-quality materials. Since they are meant for leisure travel, RVs and trailers are generally built with materials that add to their lightweight-ness, rather than durability, lending some credence to the unspoken secret of RVs being constructed with “sticks and staples.” That said, since RVs are more lightweight, they are easier to tow more frequently, whereas tiny homes are meant to stay in place for longer periods for full-time living.

Tiny houses can be less toxic than their RV-and-trailer counterparts too — that’s because tiny homeowners generally can choose what kind of materials and finishes to have in their homes. This can be a real boon for those with chemical sensitivities. Recycled, eco-friendly materials? Low-VOC paints? No formaldehyde? No problem.

chemical free house exteior© My Chemical Free House

2. Tiny houses feel more like home.

This is a big one: tiny houses can actually feel like a real, permanent home. That’s probably due to the fact that tiny homes can be customized more fully to accommodate users’ needs, whereas RVs and trailers are mass-made and less flexible in their layout and use. But tiny houses offer a range of personalized designs and needs: want an intergenerational mini-home? Want a tiny house with a greenhouse? A wheelchair-accessible tiny? The sky’s the limit.

Handcrafted Movement© Handcrafted Movement
Olive Nest Tiny Homes© Olive Nest Tiny Homes

3. Tiny houses can be better insulated and more energy-efficient.

Another monumental factor for year-round living in a smaller space is good insulation — which RVs and trailers generally don’t have, unless you buy a four-season RV. However, tiny houses can be constructed from the ground up for full-time occupation in extremely cold climates, or built to near-Passivhaus standards, even in hot climates.

For making the interior more comfortable while keeping energy use low, tiny houses can be outfitted with heat-recovery ventilators, radiant-floor heating, solar power systems, woodstoves, heat pumps and so on. While some of these features could be retroactively incorporated into a RV or trailer as well, tiny houses’ penchant for superior insulation makes these components more effective.

Tiny House Scotland© Tiny House Scotland

4. Depreciation.

New RVs are known for depreciating quite steeply, literally as soon they are driven off the lot. It’s not uncommon to hear how owners of large, high-end rigs that might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, becoming “upside down” on their motorhome loan (that’s when the vehicle’s value drops more quickly than you can pay down the principal owed on the loan).

While buying a used RV might be a way around the issue, the fact is that RVs are vehicles, and will decline in value over time. In contrast, tiny homes likely depreciate less over time, as they are built, marketed and perceived as more permanent structures (though this is debatable, since there isn’t too much data on the phenomenon). Even if one might only get the materials cost back during resale, one could look at it from another angle: a tiny house is a kind of mortgage-free home that helps you avoid owning money to the bank for a mortgage, or at least save on paying monthly rent and maintenance costs.

Minimaliste© Minimaliste

5. The legal stuff.

Another issue is the legality of tiny houses. They aren’t built on trailer bases for mobility; tiny houses were built like this to generally “fly under the radar” of municipalities, whose regulations may require full-time homes to be of a minimum square footage. As Lloyd points out in an earlier post:

Tiny houses were designed under the RV rules to get around the building codes, but zoning bylaws often ban people living in RVs, and even the RV rules never allowed permanent occupancy, even though many people did. Even when you put them in RV parks, about the only place where you can legally live in them, the leases often ban permanent occupancy. Many of them won’t even allow tiny houses, because most are not certified by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

However, this is slowly changing as a growing number of municipalities are actually legalizing tiny houses or green-lighting tiny house communities, developments and even rent-to-own schemes. There are also efforts to rewrite the International Residential Building Code to include tiny houses. Even getting insurance for a tiny house is getting less uncertain, as a growing number of RVIA-certified builders are creating tiny homes that can be insured as an RV; more banks are willing to lend money for RVIA-certified tiny houses. So what was once a major disadvantage is now becoming less of an issue.

Marjolein In Het Klein© Walden Studio

All things considered though, the rising cost of getting a tiny home professionally built does seem to be a valid issue. It seems that tiny homes used to be simpler and cheaper, especially when self-built (like these tiny homes under $20,000). Now, with the firming up of regulations and some custom-built, high-end tiny homes now pushing upwards of $100,000 and up, it’s no wonder many are raising the question of “why not just buy an RV or trailer, instead of a tiny house”?

But it’s not such a cut-and-dried choice. After all, there are some in-between options too, like hybrid, RV-like tiny home designs, better-insulated and higher-quality park model RVs and renovated RVs and trailers, and even vans and buses converted into affordable motorhomes. Ultimately, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges, and the choice really depends on what your needs and goals are, what your budget is, how it will be used — in other words, to each their own.

Couple’s mortgage-free lifestyle includes a van conversion & garage as home (Video)

The popular stereotype of the van-dweller enjoying the “van life” is probably of someone of a younger vintage, who might choose to convert and live in a van to cope with high housing costs or realize a desire for a minimalist lifestyle, or for more travel opportunities. Despite the stereotype of fancy-free youngsters bucking social expectations to ‘settle down’, there are also more mature van homeowners who are adopting this lifestyle for numerous reasons.

Bryan and Jen Danger are yet another couple who have come into the van life, yet have also chosen to keep their bungalow in Portland, Oregon, which they rent out, in order to pay down the mortgage. We covered them previously in a post about their cleverly self-crafted, mortgage-free home — basically the garage attached to the bungalow, which they legally converted into a accessory dwelling unit (ADU). What we didn’t see was their converted Sprinter van conversion, which they use to travel most of year in, meanwhile renting out their garage home when they aren’t in Portland. Alternative-lifestyles documentarian Kirsten Dirksen brings us a peek into their equally clever, renovated van. starting at 14:45:

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Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Wanting to travel and live something different, the Dangers quit their lucrative jobs five years ago. They found tenants for their bungalow and moved into a revamped VW van. After a year and a half traveling up and down the continent, they returned to Portland, and realized their bungalow now felt too big for them. That’s when they began renovating their wonderfully designed 480-square-foot garage home, doing most of the work themselves (there’s a lot of great design ideas here, covered in more depth in this post).

Houzz via YouTubeHouzz via YouTube/Video screen capture
Bryan & Jen Danger© Bryan & Jen Danger

The 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter van is their main home in many ways. Having sold the old VW bus in favour of something more reliable, the Dangers found that used vehicles were out of their budget, so they opted for a new Sprinter van, only because a new vehicle was the only way that their credit union would offer a loan. The couple then lived in a rough versions of van’s design-in-progress for a year, before finally building out the finalized layout in lightweight aluminum and bamboo.

Bryan & Jen Danger© Bryan & Jen Danger

The interior is wonderfully done, giving the impression of an airplane or boat — in fact, a lot of the design is inspired by the space-efficiency found on boats. There is curved cabinetry everywhere, as the Dangers wanted to avoid injury-inducing sharp corners, and these smooth forms were made possible by the versatility and durability of bamboo.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

The kitchen counter occupies the middle space; here you’ll find a stove that can be covered up to extend counter space. The refrigerator is actually a marine appliance, and allows the couple to use solar power to operate it.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture
Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

The bed sits on a platform, underneath which is a roll-out step for accessing the full-sized bed, which in turn hides a cartridge-style porta-potty. Under the bed is a compartment for storing the insulated, black-out curtains, which allow the Dangers to ‘stealth-camp’ — saving them RV park fees, and permitting them to park almost anywhere, whether in the city or in remote areas.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture
Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Outside, the van has an awning that’s actually made for boats, meaning that it can withstand near-hurricane-force winds, compared to flimsy RV versions.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

Another great feature is the custom-made, hidden hanging rack that’s located just above the van’s step, which lets them fold out the hooks only when needed to hang up wet gear without getting the rest of the van dirty.

Fair CompaniesFair Companies/Video screen capture

The Dangers’ van is quite well-crafted and polished, but Bryan emphasizes that they didn’t wait for a finalized version of the van before beginning to travel. In fact, he believes that the point is to start and not wait for everything to be perfect:

We talk to a lot of people who want to spend more time outdoors, they want to live in a van or whatever that thing is, but they spend so much time planning and thinking and worrying that they don’t ever actually leave. But I don’t know without just jumping and spending time, whether it’s living in a van or a very small space, if you’re still living in a five-bedroom home, it’s almost impossible to know what it is you want or what it is you need.

Bryan & Jen Danger© Bryan & Jen Danger

The couple continue to travel, and fund their low-cost lifestyle by designing small spaces for other clients, while at the same time, securing their financial future by paying off the mortgage on the main house by renting it out. It’s a creative approach that counters the idea that van life isn’t for more mature folks; in reality, it can be for anyone willing to think outside of the conventional box. For more, visit Fair Companies.

Modern salvaged tiny house covered with exterior climbing walls

Climbing walls seem to be a bit of an architectural trope in some tiny houses: the fact that you can build your own small, mortgage-free dwelling means outdoorsy types can personalize it with interior and exterior climbing walls, decks, drawbridges — you get the idea.

Avid climber Elke Rabé of the Netherlands designed and built this little gem of a home, using a lot of reclaimed materials. The exterior’s boxy form allows for a good climbing surface.

MYTHEL© MYTHEL
MYTHEL© MYTHEL

The inside is an eclectic mix of modern lines and salvaged materials, giving it a distinct character. We love how the sleeping loft has been done in particular; instead of a space-hogging stair to one side, the stairs have been pushed back, accentuating a tall, windowed corner, before leading up to a sleeping loft. No rails here, it’s Europe after all, where they seem a bit more daring with these things.

MYTHEL© MYTHEL
MYTHEL© MYTHEL

The home has a lot of vintage furnishings, paired with more modern items, like the desk and dresser. The alcove for the composting toilet can be closed off with a sliding door.

MYTHEL© MYTHEL

The kitchen has a skylight too, covered with solar panels to filter the light a bit.

MYTHEL© MYTHEL
MYTHEL© MYTHEL
MYTHEL© MYTHEL

No information on the cost of this unique little home, but what is certain that costs are lowered when you build your own home yourself and creatively reuse materials, as Rabé has done here. To find out more, visit Facebook.

[Via: Tiny House Talk]

Experimental lofted cabins for glamping in rehabilitated quarry (Video)

How might you get people to visit acres of wilderness that was once a quarry mine? Well, if you build it, and they will come. At least, that’s the aim of this series of futuristic cabins, dubbed “kudhva” (Cornish for “hideout”) which were designed by firm New British Design.

Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design

Seen over at Designboom, the cabins are part of a master plan to rehabilitate this property in a remote part of southwestern England. New British Design founder Ben Huggins collaborated with designer Louise Middleton, who bought the property a couple of years ago, to create elevated structures with a unique character which allow visitors to get a lofty view of the beautiful landscape.

Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design

Huggins says:

For as long as I can remember, the fascination with an elevated aspect has drawn me to certain objects from diving boards to the umpire’s chair. The familiar unfamiliarity of seeing an everyday scene or object from a strange position is the genesis of making it interesting again. Much of the spring of 2016 was taken up traversing the site with a tall stepladder in an effort to find a view through and above the trees.

The cabins were prefabricated off-site, then transported and erected on site. Made out of slatted larch, insulated pine panels with an EPDM rubber membrane covering, glass and galvanized steel, the interiors present a simple but geometrically intriguing atmosphere.

Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design
Kudhva / New British Design© Kudhva / New British Design

The cabins, along with six tree tents, can be rented by the public, are intended as an opportunity for getting close to nature, to enjoy the site’s quarry cave and waterfall; it’s simple glamping with a bit of extra comfort. There are communal showers, and a bar, and an eclectic array of events and activities in the works, from an architecture summer school, to surfing and foraging. To find out more, visit Kudhva.

High-performance #TinyLab house is the “Tesla of tiny houses” (Video)

The genesis of the modern tiny house movement grew out of a love for simplicity and freedom, meaning many earlier tiny homes having that stereotypical homey, rustic aesthetic that became the butt of a few too many jokes.

But the tiny house movement is evolving: it’s getting more professional builders coming on board, and more hi-tech iterations of the tiny lifestyle are also popping up. Take, for example, the #TinyLab residence built by Grace and Corbett Lunsford. It’s a high-performance tiny house equipped with all kinds of gizmos to keep the interior environment healthy and running efficiently. The couple, their baby and two cats wrapped up a tour with their house earlier this year before settling in Atlanta, Georgia — but we can still get to see a tour:

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#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop© #TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop

The Lunsfords are the building performance consultants and educators behind the Building Performance Workshop, and as advocates for building performance testing, they built the #TinyLab as their full-time residence and as the showcase for their “Proof is Possible” tour. The home has been built with air-tightness, healthy indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency in mind, from the underlying systems to the overall design of the spaces itself; they’ve nicknamed it “the Tesla of tiny houses.”

#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop© #TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop

The house is built on a dual-drop axle trailer that’s rated for 14,000 pounds. Coming inside, one faces the kitchen, which is equipped with a large double-basin sink that functions as the place to wash dishes, laundry, and even babies. This sink is connected to a 50-gallon freshwater tank below. Alternatively, the family uses a small, portable container for their drinking water.

The propane-fuelled stovetop has dampers at the bottom to let fresh air come in. There are small slide-out counters to increase prep space, and even one with a hole in it that empties directly into the compost bin below.

#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop© #TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop

The house’s air quality is monitored in several ways: via a low-level carbon monoxide detector; a Foobot that monitors VOCs, CO2, particulate matter and has temperature and humidity sensors; a continuous radon monitor and a manometer that measures interior air pressure in relation to the outside. There is even a temperature sensor wrapped around the pipe that brings fresh air in, so that the couple will know if the temperatures get cold enough to freeze any pipes. The home also uses cork flooring and formaldehyde-free Purebond plywood throughout to keep off-gassed toxins out of the air.

#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop© #TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop

At one end is the home’s sleeping “underloft” and upstairs dining booth — which can also turn into a lounging area, thanks to the boat-style table which can be lowered and made into a place to relax and watch movies.

This is where the home’s high-efficiency, ductless mini-split unit is mounted on the wall, heating and cooling the house. The couple chose this unit because a woodstove would have been overkill to heat such a small space (in Atlanta), especially if the home is already well-insulated and sealed. In addition, the house also has a ventilation chute that’s been visually well-integrated into the design of the space, to bring fresh air in.

#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop© #TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop
#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop/Video screen capture

The house also has a mechanical room at one end, where much of the mechanical systems are stored. There’s the water heater, batteries, charge controller and inverter from the solar power system, a voltage transformer for the heat pump, heat recovery ventilator and propane tank. Solar panels reside on the ground, rather than on the roof, because the couple did not want to drill any potentially leaky holes into the roof, nor have the panels rip off the roof during travel.

#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop#TinyLab / Building Performance Workshop/Video screen capture

Even the house’s form has some thought put into it; rather than the cutesy gabled roof that snags everything low-hanging thing in its path, it’s aerodynamically shaped in a way that guides tree branches to scrape by and bounce off of it. There are a lot of design considerations and smart features here that make this house punch above its weight, and it’s an excellent example of how tiny homes can be high-performers too, in addition to allowing for some simpler and debt-free living. For more information, visit Building Performance Workshop.

317 sq. ft. micro-apartment transforms with help of giant rolling wall

Living costs and housing prices are going up in many cities, and as a result, living spaces are getting smaller. But these spaces don’t have to feel small; a smarter, space-saving approach to design can help immensely.

In Milan, PLANAIR (previously) has designed an impressive solution to a small 317-square-foot (29.5 square metres) apartment: by installing a huge, movable wall that can be rolled in place to be used as a room divider and piece of furniture, or out of the way to make way for the bed or to entertain guests.

PLANAIR© PLANAIR
PLANAIR© PLANAIR

Seen over at Contemporist, the TAAAC! apartment is part of a revitalization of a dockside area near Via Savona, Tortona and Darsena. While the apartment’s main lounge area — which includes the dining area and off to the side, the bathroom — remains static and open, it’s the middle zone of the apartment that gets the transformer wall treatment.

PLANAIR© PLANAIR

The designers explain their concept:

From a formal point of view, the project consists of two types of container cabinets: fixed and mobile. Those fixed rooms have service spaces and functions such as a kitchen counter and a laundry room. These furniture features temporary functions such as the study area and the breakfast / lunch desk, and the walk-in closet. The daylight is divided into three different areas, one with fixed cabinets, one with sliding and tilting cabinets, and one without large items and furnished with movable pieces.

When the thick movable wall is positioned in the middle of this space, it can deploy a folding desk out on one side and a folding bar table down on the other side, allowing for two functions at one. The sizable wall itself is full of shelving and storage — though from the looks of it, it’s only supported by regular caster wheels.

In entertaining mode, the wall can be pushed all the way to one side, to make more room for guests to mingle and sit at the bar table.

PLANAIR© PLANAIR
PLANAIR© PLANAIR

To get ready for bed, the wall is shifted to other side, and the fold-down bed opened out.

PLANAIR© PLANAIR

The one question here might be how to access stuff stored on the bar-table side of the big wall, once the bed is also pulled down, but it’s otherwise a neat design that expands and makes the most out of what would be an otherwise tiny space. To see more, visit PLANAIR.