Kathryn Lee - 18 Apr, 2020

Want to get off the grid? Build your very own tiny house

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In what seems to be the modern-day takeover of the humble granny flat, tiny houses are taking Australia by storm; and amidst an ever-developing COVID-19 pandemic, their simplistic, low-cost lifestyle is certainly appealing.

Defined as a structure of 37-square-meters or less, tiny houses could be described as a bedroom on steroids.

Often touted as the solution to the housing crisis, they offer an affordable, space-saving option for the budget-conscious, all while keeping sustainability and minimalism at their forefront – making them popular with older and younger generations alike.

For older generations, they offer a way to downsize while still staying in their communities, with the structure’s small size allowing them to fit in most backyards. For younger generations, tiny houses offer an affordable way to get into the housing market, with the added incentive of a lighter eco-footprint.

Tiny houses and the COVID-19 pandemic

With the world’s economic circumstance now feeling somewhat dire, and predictions that Australia’s unemployment rate could reach 11% by June, tiny houses are holding an even bigger prospect in our modern world.

In Seattle, the United States, a tiny house village for the homeless has been fast-tracked to be completed in just the next couple of weeks, in a bid to reduce the homeless population’s chance of exposure.

And in China, miniature isolation pods have been 3D printed as makeshift quarantine rooms for hospitals struggling with space for COVID-19 diagnosed patients.

How do they work?

Generally, a tiny house will offer everything you need to live comfortably, only on a smaller scale. This usually means a loft bedroom (ladder access, or sometimes stairs), bathroom and a combined kitchen and living area.

Equipped with clever storage solutions, folding tables and smart design, tiny house owners have everything a person needs to lead a ‘normal’ existence; though a firm grasp of ‘minimalism’ is no doubt a non-negotiable pre-req’.

Some tiny houses are solid structures planted on a piece of land – like a traditional house – while others are planted on wheels; caravan like in functionality with unmistakably house-like aesthetics.

How to build a tiny house

For those who don’t shy away from a challenge, why not build your own tiny house?

Various courses exist across Australia which can teach you the DIY skills necessary, covering everything you need to know including:

  • Council regulations
  • Landscaping
  • Material selection
  • Insulation
  • Insurance help

Victorian-based company Fred’s Tiny Houses even offer an online course (in addition to their face-to-face workshops), meaning that even during a COVID-19 pandemic, you can still get your tiny house know-how.

Things to think about

Co-founder of Fred’s Tiny Houses, Shannon Schultz says that although there is a lack of regulation in the area, the structure’s need to be considered thoughtfully – which is where workshops become so important.

Speaking to Domain, she emphasised the importance of building a strong home and trailer with the ability to withstand wind, motion and vibrations.

“People are building frightening things,” she told Domain.

“It’s an unregulated area. Anyone can build a trailer, and they’re building it dangerously.”

This point is further emphasised on their website.

“We are living in a charmed moment in time when tiny houses on wheels are not regulated by building codes, which means we tiny house builders need to self-regulate when it comes to safety measures and building practices…”

“Just imagine the spectacular headlines if a tiny house comes off a trailer while being towed down the highway, or any situation that basically constitutes a tiny house fail. Regulators and naysayers will jump at the opportunity to put a kibosh on all unregulated building activities.”

Where can I get one?

If you’re not ready to put on your shiny yellow Bob the Builder hard hat just yet, tiny houses can be purchased from various manufacturers. Here are a few Australian based choices:

Designer Eco Tiny Homes, Ulladulla NSW

Situated on the NSW coast Shoalhaven coast – just 230km south of Sydney – Designer Eco Homes specialise in tiny homes which embrace the environment and sustainability.

Sowelo Tiny Houses, Brogo NSW

After following the American tiny house movement, Sowelo decided to try their hand at the Australian market. With their business located in Brogo on the far south coast of NSW, like many tiny house builders they keep environmental design and sustainable features at their forefront.

Aussie Tiny Houses, Coolum Beach QLD

Passionate about creating an alternative to the current Australian housing market, Aussie Tiny Houses aims to create affordable and practical spaces while still employing beautiful design.

Hangan Tiny Homes, Bayswater VIC

Located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Hangan Tiny Homes will custom-build the tiny home of your dreams.

Try before you buy?

Although we are in the midst of strict social distancing regulations, this doesn’t mean we can’t plan our next getaway – right?

Scour Airbnb and you can find various tiny house options (below), otherwise, Fred’s Tiny Houses offer bookable accommodation (complete with loft bed) in Castlemaine, Victoria.

So, dream-away about your next escape for when this is all over; these small communities will no doubt need your business, plus it’s the perfect chance to trial tiny house life.

Related: How to help your go-to businesses and services during the COVID-19 shutdown

Airbnb options:

Warburton, Victoria – Mountain Tiny House

Nestled in the forest, this tiny house boasts nature in abundance, and is perfect for those who want to experience the tiny house lifestyle while hidden away from the rest of the world.

Gladysdale, Victoria – Little Yarra Tiny House

Located on a farm in the famous Yarra Valley, this tiny house is perfect for the eco-conscious, with 100% rainwater usage and a composting toilet. Additionally, guests have easy access to swimming at the nearby Little Yarra River and animal lovers can enjoy the farm’s cows and resident donkeys.

Forthside, Tasmania – Modern Tiny house, 100% off grid (compass hut)

Just 10-minutes from Devonport & the Spirit of Tasmania, this Scandinavian-barn-style house offers the perfect chance to visit our cousins across the sea while testing out the tiny house lifestyle.

Possum Creek, New South Wales – Beautiful Tiny House in the Byron Hinterland

Located in the Byron Hinterland – and just 20 minutes from the famous Byron Bay – this tiny house offers everything you need to for tranquil and meditative stay.

Words by Kathryn Lee

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