Ex-boat builder designs unique off-grid tiny house
Ex-boat builder and carpenter Jeff Hobbs from New Zealand-based studio Room to Move was recently commissioned to build a special bespoke tiny house for local resident Briar Hale. The 23.95 sq m (257.8 sq ft) house was built using structural insulated panels (SIPs) made from plywood and foam; recycled wood materials and sports multiple off-grid solutions. Hobbs chose to build the home using 62 mm (2.45 in) thick SIPs due to their lightweight, strength, durability and excellent insulation qualities, and also meant that he had extra floor space to work with when designing the home's interior.
"Thedesign was a collaboration between the owner (Briar Hale) and myself,but it really is her baby as she had a clear idea of what shewanted," Jeff Hobbs tells Gizmag. "There are eightdifferent types of wood featured in this little house, most comingfrom recycled natives."
Theground level of the home measures 16.75 sq m (180.3 sq ft) andfeatures a multi-purpose living zone, a large fully equipped kitchen,bathroom with a walk-in shower andcomposting toilet, a small office area and combustion fireplace. Theliving room is filled with natural light due to the inclusion ofmultiple large windows, a central skylight and double glass doorswhich open out onto a wooden terrace. The outdoor terrace wrapsaround three quarters of the dwelling, adding the feeling of extraroom and expansiveness to the home. The tiny house also features anelevated loft bedroom, measuring 7.2 sq m (77.5 sq ft).
Thelounge area can double as a guest bedroom, with the L-shaped sofaeasily transforming into a double bed. The loft bedroom, which has aqueen-sized bed, also features an additional sleeping space where theowner's young niece stays sometimes. The kitchen features a twoburner gas stove with overhead range-hood, an oven/grill, 130liter under-bench fridge, cupboard and storage space, wallpantry and a sink hand-made by owner.
"Oneof my favorite features of the home is the staircase because wewrestled so hard to get stairs that looked good, that were safe, nottoo expensive and functional," says Hobbs. "We obtained allthis plus we managed to put extra storage underneath them."
Thetiny house features a series of sustainable features, including asolar collector used to heat the water, which feeds into a 90 liter(approx. 24 gallon) water tank located on the home's roof. A wet backis also connected to this tank from the small fireplace, providinghot water during the winter.
"Thewater system is low pressure and is fed by a 110 liter (29 gallon)header tank," says Hobbs. "This means you use less waterand the shower uses only four liters of water per minute. It's a niceshower though and we are very happy with the Separette villa 9010composting toilet. It has no smell and the urine diverter goesdirectly into the grey water tank, making it very low maintenance."
Grey wateris collected into a 200 liter (approx. 53 gallon) tank via astainless steel mesh which strains all food waste and hair etc. Thewater is pumped out into the garden on a weekly basis, and thestrainer is emptied onto the compost heap. The home alsofeatures two 300 watt solar panels located on the roof. The panelsare hooked up to a 12 volt battery bank with a capacity of 445 amphours. A 1,300 watt Outback inverter runs the washing machine.
Theoverall costs of the materials to build this tiny house were higherthan your usual tiny build, coming to a total of NZ$75,000(about US$50,250). The home took 2,400 hours to construct, with theowner paying a final figure of NZ$130,000 (about US$87,100).
"I makedouble that amount building boats, but these little houses are verysatisfying to create," says Hobbs. "Wewanted to create something that was functional, beautiful and thatwould last a long time. Hopefully it will become a classic in 50years and I know they will be quicker to build in the future. Ourbiggest difficulty was building the tiny house in a time frame thatmade it affordable for both the owner and where the builder didn't gowithout in the process. We started building this one in April andfinished in December 2015. Most of the time there were two of usworking on the project at a time."
Hobbsis currently building a tiny house shell for his son and hisgirlfriend, and although he is tempted to go back to boat buildingfor the money, he is passionate about the tiny house movement and thefreedom it offers the younger generation.
"Ilove working with small spaces, because of the challenges to achievefunction and beauty," Hobbs explains. "I hope I can work out away of making SIPs available to young people so they can make theirown tiny houses to a high standard. I would love it if bio foambecame more affordable or even available in New Zealand aspolyurethane foam is oil based, but I'm convinced SIPs are the futurefor tiny houses, especially when they are on wheels. I'd like to beable to help in some way to make the tiny house movement become apractical and viable option for young people and for the older too.My hope is for urban tiny house villages, all self-sustainable, usinggardens to deal with the grey water."