Microdwelling Exhibit 2015 in Phoenix offers look into tiny house movement and reflections on how much space one needs
This past summer my husband and I downsized. We sold, donated or discarded more stuff than we now own. Even at that, we still have more space and stuff than we need. I know we could manage in a smaller space than we downsized to, but I’m not sure how well we’d manage with the small spaces advocated by the tiny house movement. Microdwelling 2015, an exhibition of owner-built and human-inhabited micro-dwellings at the Shemer Art Center and Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, provided an interesting look into small house living and alternative construction techniques.
The exhibit also offered food for thought about what kind of space we need. Similar events ran about the same time the previous year and two years prior to that.
The movement to small spaces is driven by economic, environmental and lifestyle concerns. In densely populated areas, there is less living space available. Small, energy-efficient homes mean less income spent on housing. For some, small spaces are all about reducing one’s environmental footprint, creating spaces that foster sustainable living for families across the world. I know from my experience with downsizing the sense of freedom gained from getting rid of stuff one doesn’t need. A smaller space and simpler lifestyle may mean more money and time to pursue other interests.
Although some organizations within the movement to small spaces talk about space in the 100 to 400 square feet range, Microdwelling Exhibit allowed more space than that. All structures were required to be 600 square feet or less, self-contained, modular and portable. The exhibit highlighted the positive environmental benefits of conscientious material selection and elimination of waste.
One of the most fascinating exhibits was the Geeza Pyramid. The structure was about 500 square feet, included covered patio areas. The pyramid shape eliminates need for walls and roofs, leaving you with Woofs. The woofs can be made of polycarbonate, metal, wood shingles or canvas. The creator likes polycarbonate because of its lightness, toughness and translucence. Partially attached by magnets, some of the panels opened upwards and became roofs for attached patio areas. Insulated panels could be pushed into the panes of the panels to block light and adjust temperature. With its high pointed roof and ability to open into attached patio area, it felt quite spacious.
A couple of the exhibits featured loft sleeping areas that raised the question of how well these spaces work for those with disabilities, a question posed by another visitor to the owner of the Permutative Cube, one of the units with a sleeping loft. Although she didn’t get into specifics while I was listening, she said she had experience working with disabilities and the spaces could be adapted.
One exhibits showcased the use of clean-burning solar-powered hydrogen energy. At another exhibit showcasing foam construction, the owner claimed foam construction resulted in a 75% savings in energy costs.
Many of the exhibits were designed to interact with nature, making use of indoor and outdoor space. This is a lovely concept, but I couldn’t help thinking it would not be viable in my home province of Manitoba. It might work in the summer, but not in the winter, when temperatures are well below freezing, often -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) and lower. Turning to the Internet, I found sites offering advice on how to build tiny homes for cold climates. Those homes would look quite different than the ones I saw at Microdwelling 2015.
What do you think of the tiny house movement? Have you seen a tiny house exhibition? How small could you go with your living space?