The tiny house industry has rapidly grown in the past decade across North America and is expanding across the world. As housing stock continues to lag behind demand and costs continue to rise, there is an increasing need for more diverse housing options to meet the needs of our communities, from young adults to retirees. That is where tiny houses come in as a sustainable, flexible, fill-in-the-gaps solution. They can be constructed in a variety of ways, both onsite and offsite.
What are Tiny Houses?
The terms “tiny house” and "tiny home" are a popular marketing terms that can refer to various types of structures and dwellings that range from tiny shelters for the homeless to Park Model RVs for seasonal use to tiny homes built for permanent residence.
Within the tiny home industry, a tiny house generally refers to a single dwelling unit of less than 400 square feet in area, built on a permanent or movable foundation. The terms “tiny house,” “movable tiny house,” “tiny house on wheels” (aka THOW) or other similar words may be included in the verbiage of state laws, local zoning ordinances, and local residential building codes. These terms commonly refer to dwellings suitable for full-time habitation. In contrast, the term “tiny shelter” often refers to a detached building without key building elements normally required for full-time residential use (for example, without a full kitchen or sanitary sewer connection). Tiny shelters are usually intended primarily to provide temporary sleeping accommodations and protection from the weather.
How are Tiny Houses Built?
Tiny homes can be built in compliance with one or more of the following standards and building codes:
- ICC Model Codes (IBC or IRC including exceptions allowed by Appendix Q, if adopted)
- Factory-built using off-site modular construction
- Site built
- HUD Code (Manufactured Housing)
- RV Standards (ANSI A119.5 Park Model RV Standard or NFPA 1192 RV Standard with additional requirements for insulation, wind loading and snow loading)
Please note that a growing number of professional tiny house builders can certify their buildings to simultaneously comply with two or more of these standards or building codes, allowing their customers greater flexibility in the placement, financing and insurance of their tiny houses.
What are the Advantages of Tiny Houses?
Tiny houses offer consumers and their local communities several significant advantages, as compared to larger residences:
- Lower purchase price
- Lower construction material waste
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Significantly reduced energy consumption
All of these factors contribute to the prospect of greater sustainability and affordability.
Tiny homes also offer a convenient option to implement infill housing programs without the need for government-funded subsidies or increased property taxes for the surrounding communities. They are easy to locate, hook up, and maintain without negatively impacting community resources and services.
Additionally, tiny houses offer immense flexibility of use. They can be used as starter homes, workforce housing, caregiver units, student housing, guest houses, disaster recovery housing, and more.
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