Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop: Day 2

 

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This is the newest model Tumbleweed’s selling, the Linden. Modeled in the 1920s plains style from the American Midwest

Again, still processing the info here, but I figured writing helps.

Things learned today:

  1. Composting toilets are awesome!!!! They don’t smell and don’t require any water. By separating solids and liquids, decomposition happens and everything can get dumped in the garden within a few months of deposit. Check out this beauty, the Nature’s Head.
  2. Tumbleweed Tiny houses seem to be for upper/middle class retiring couples and/or young yuppie couples with minimal building experience.
  3. You can do the electrical wiring and plumbing on your tiny house. No inspections required because it’s registered as a custom RV at the DMV and not a house which would have to conform to get inspected by the city or town. Still though, safety…I’d hire out this stuff.
  4. The Europeans and Japanese already have the space efficiency thing down! We’re working on catching up.
  5. Confirmed: tiny houses are glorified RVs.
  6. No laundry in a tiny house. Go to the laundromat. Washer/dryer take up more energy and space than they’re worth.
  7. No AC—these buggers draw an insane amount of power.
  8. Heating systems and water tanks can be real small and fit in unexpected places! The proposed units are about a foot and a half by eight inches and can fit under the kitchen sink or attached to the outside of the house.
  9. There are a few tiny house communities popping up as independently owned campground type operations. A resident buys a small plot and they can hook up their utilities there and live there semi-permanently.
  10. I hesitate to live with another human in such a small space. I do not hesitate to live with a dog and a cat.
  11. Tumbleweed gives us one way of building small. Do we have to do it exactly the way they tell us? Nope. The world is our construction-y dream oyster!
  12. And yes, they are quite cute and charming dwellings.
oregon tiny house
Tiny House community 

My cousin, a carpenter and architect from Maine, sent me these questions which I think bring up a major disjoint in my expectations for the workshop versus the reality. I went with 2 goals in mind, the first to learn about the logistics of building a tiny home, and the second to explore new options for sustainable housing for people in low income brackets. The workshop addressed the former desire and not the latter. As far as our hosts indicated, Tumbleweed does not have plans to get political. I experienced lapses in communication with them about the definition of affordable housing as well as the definition of social classes in the U.S.

Tumbleweed’s goal appeared to be selling their specific version of tiny homes to more people, not making the homes affordable or available to a less white, less privileged demographic. With that in mind, I have a lot to think about because I believe there is such great potential for cross-polination between the tiny house movement and the emergent need for more affordable housing in the U.S. and around the world.

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Take a look at some of the questions Tumbleweed facilitators answered:

  • Q: There is a great need for creative housing solutions that are energy efficient, attractive, and affordable to low-income families and individuals. Thus far your homes seem to only garner interest from young, affluent adventurers and counterculturists. Do you have aspirations to attempt to make your homes accessible to low-income people and/or people of color?
  • A: No. Tiny houses are affordable. (The workshop leader proceeded to facilitate a discussion with our entire group to give me a list of ways I can cut down on my spending to save for my tiny house therefore making it affordable for me.)
  • Q: Accessory dwelling units (ACUs) are becoming increasingly accepted as a way to increase community density so that community members can locate themselves more easily and affordably within proximity of public resources and job opportunities as to alleviate our dependence on automobiles. While small, trailerized homes such as yours provide interesting opportunities to satisfy zoning ordinances in attempts to densify areas zoned for conventionally detached single family housing, many of us have encountered great difficulty with local boards when it comes to hooking a backyard tiny home up to electrical and water systems. Has Tumbleweed a) been involved in or aware of any local or statewide zoning efforts to allow their products to be placed and serviced in residential areas or b) made attempts to incorporate off-grid solutions to utility hook-ups such as solar electric, self-contained composting toilets, rainwater catchment, etc as to satisfy these ordinances?
  • A: Tumbleweed is not involved with zoning efforts but encourage tiny home builders to check into local regulations. Solar electric, composting toilets, and rainwater catchment systems were briefly covered in the presentation and but haven’t been implemented by many Tumbleweed builders.
  • Q: While your homes are suitable for warmer climates, they do not have sufficient R-value in their envelope or large enough heating systems to function well in colder climates at least without the use of a large ground mounted oil tank or gas hook up which also present difficult zoning challenges. Have you attempted to address this issue in any way?
  • A: Tiny houses do have sufficient R-value for cold climates. Because the space is so tiny, it can be heated with a propane tank mounted to the outside of unit. It was unclear to me what can be done when the temperatures get below freezing which is when propane becomes less effective.
Shawn-and-Jamie-Dehner-Toilet1
Example of the typical bathroom. A sink is optional here because it takes up a lot of space and the kitchen sink is close at hand. These people are well stocked on toilet paper.

 

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