April 20, 2006 Relocatable housing is a recent concept in the grand scheme of humanity, but nomadic ways have been with us from the beginnings of man. Relocatable homes have captured a lot of interest recently, from fully mobile concepts such as General Motors Advanced Design Group’s mobile home, to this Expedition Class 4WD Motorhome and at the extreme end, the Red Bull Energy Station (makes mobil homes previously described as palatial seem like mere gazebos) through to fully relocatable homes such as Tom Chudleigh’s Free Spirit Sphere and Marcin Panpuch’s future house. The miniHome is different to anything that has been before though – it is designed to be ultra-energy efficient, so you can live off-the-grid with a negligible environmental footprint – anywhere you can get with a truck.
The miniHome is a four-season dwelling providing a healthy, warm and comfortable environment in a wide range of climates, using only the energy of the sun and a very modest supply of either propane or biofuels. With passive solar heating and passive cooling, its own power utility, waste treatment center, and rainwater collection system, it uses some of the most efficient technologies available. Whatsmore, it is very easily relocated and turned into a modern, go-anywhere home with almost all modern conveniences. The miniHome is a totally new concept in home design which debunks the myth that living efficiently means giving up style and modern conveniences. One of the key advantages is that the homes are so cost-effective and efficient; they’re much cheaper to run. Living well can be very frugal.
Through the use of highly energy-efficient systems and fixtures, like passive solar-heating, solar panels, composting toilets, and LED lighting, the miniHome will consume as little as 1/10th the water, 1/10th the gas, and 1/100th the electricity of a conventional home or cottage.
Also, the miniHome accomplishes this energy reduction by utilizing smart, compact design, with fewer square feet but offering a gracious sense of volume.
Within a well-organized 38 sm (350 sf), there is everything you need for comfortable, year-round, sustainable living. Several climate-specific variants of the miniHome are adapted to the extremes of southern, ocean and even arctic climates and can be further optimized by orientation, glazing and shading options to take full advantage of the 'natural-assets' of each site.
The first production model is the miniHome 'SOLO”, which is classified as a 'Travel Trailer' under Canada's CSA Z-240RV Standard, and as such, does not require a police escort for transit on federal or international roadways. The miniHome measures 8'-6” in width, 36' in length, and 13'-6” in height. Designed for a 50-year life expectancy, the miniHome offers the possibility for year-round, affordable living on almost any site. It is equally at home in a remote, wilderness setting – completely off-grid – or in an urban trailer park. Its remarkably sustainable combination of energy efficient systems and beautiful finishes usually associated with luxury condominiums results in a home that sings the virtues of simplicity and conservation. “We don’t need to remind anybody about the need to live more efficiently,” says Andy Thomson, designer of the miniHome and a principal of Sustain Design Studio (SDS). “The demand being placed on the world’s finite resources keeps increasing. Our goal was to create a home for people that required little or no consumption of those resources.”
“People are used to living with much more space than they actually need. There’s a cost to building that space and then you need to provide electrical and heat to make it livable,” says Thomson. “It’s possible to live with much less than you think you need.”
Thomson knows first hand about living in small space. The genesis of the miniHome came from his experience living with great frugality and delight with his wife and child in a variety of renovated vehicles during his days as a student in Vancouver.
“Just like the smart car is a rethinking of the automobile and how it fits into our lives, the miniHome looks at the places we live from a whole new perspective.”
In the near future, the miniHome will most likely be utilized as a vacation dwelling, guest cabin, outbuildings for camps, school and institutions or as a private, remote getaway. Ultimately, Sustain Design Studio imagines something like the miniHome as an answer to the increasing need for affordable alternatives to infill development. One that doesn’t place additional burdens on existing infrastructure.
Once ordered the miniHome will be built at Northlander Industries in Exeter, Ontario a quality-oriented RV and Park-Model manufacturer, and then transported to the buyer’s site.
“Our prototype cost Can$145,000, ,” says Andy Thomson, “and that is what we are selling fully optioned-out units for.”
“We will be offering rebates on our production models, when we know what our production costs are for multiples.
“Our best guess is between US$100,000 and $125,000, depending on the options selected - people place $5k deposits to hold a spot in the production run, then we will give a final quote before they sign the purchase agreement. If we get 100 people signed up, the cost drop will be more significant. There is also an add-on room in the works (single axle trailer 8'x12') for people with pianos, rugrats, freezer, washers, etc. - in other words, everything that may start to cramp the main volume.”