Tiny homes make big impact with winning designs

Margot McCarthy's winning design

THE RECENT Sustainable House Day Expo and Tiny Homes Design Competition was a great success with more than 1,500 people attending the Mullumbimby Civic Hall on Saturday, September 17.

Tiny homes are becoming more popular as more people choose to downsize the space they live in.

Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.

People are joining the movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons include environmental concerns, financial concerns, social inclusion and the desire for more time and freedom.

Pocket neighbourhoods are multiple tiny homes clustered together around a shared open space such as a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley, designed to promote a close knit sense of community and neighbourliness.

“A Tiny Home in footprint is far smaller than a traditional home and is sustainable in the sense that we have only used as much room as we need and as little building materials as possible. Add simple design criteria with creative and talented local designers and we should have a fantastic array of designs to choose from” said Event Coordinator, Sandi Middleton, from The Sustainable House Day Northern Rivers Collaboration.

The competition called for designs that enable simple and sustainable living in a smaller space. Categories included Tiny Homes – A Pocket Neighbourhood Professional Category (Architecture and design professionals and university students), a Tiny Home Community Category (Lismore, Byron, Ballina and Tweed community members and young adults aged from 16 – 116) and a Teeny Tiny Home Young Peoples Category (16 years and under).

Designs were required to meet the principles of materials, thermal comfort, energy, water, site ecology, social sustainability and economic sustainability.

Organiser Natalie Myer said there was huge public interest in the tiny house movement, which began to take off after Hurricane Katrina left many people homeless in the United States in 2005.

“We saw it as an opportunity to address the issue of houses being built larger and larger and larger which, in the long-term, is not sustainable,” she said.

“From our region’s point of view, there’s a massive shortage of affordable housing, so we saw this as an opportunity to spur on some development and enthuse some housing developers to start including some of this type of housing in their developments.”

Designer Joe Harvey-Jones won an award at the event for his Suncatcher home, that rotates to take advantage of the moving sun throughout the day.

“When I was a kid in England my neighbours had a summer house on a circular track that spun so freely, a couple of eight year olds, like me and my brother, could go in there and spin the thing to annoy the neighbours,” he said.

“Then I compounded onto that the idea that you could maybe use the idea to track the sun for your solar panels, to keep them pointing at the absolute optimum angle throughout the day.

“You can sit in the house with a remote, like your television, and select spin left or spin right,” he said.

“Or you can just leave the thing on auto and the program will track the sun and move with a little spurt from the motor.

“I think it would be quite nice to be sitting in your arm chair watching the world go by,” he said.

“Admittedly, it would be the same world each time, a bit like watching a replay on television, but I think I’d find it quite relaxing and meditative.”
Warren Buys’s winning design can be transported.

“The only thing you need to take into consideration is that when you are moving you’re going to be moving all of your items within that space, so you can’t just pack up and leave with things displayed nicely on shelves,” he said.

“You need to have some sort of storage, which mine has, so you can move it as freely as a caravan.”
Mr Buys said his design had the potential to solve many sustainability issues.

“I think it leads to more sustainable land space usage and a more economical future for all of us,” he said.

“We’re all just realising that Australian dream of having a big house is not sustainable, and it’s not worth spending your entire life on that when you could build something, that may or may not move, and own it in less than a decade.

“It can move with the weather, it can move with your changing circumstances. We don’t all stay in the same place for 20 or 30 years these days.”
Margot McCarthy’s winning entry was inspired by the existing heritage-style homes in Mullumbimby.

“It’s a historical interpretation of a tiny house, in that it’s a little white weatherboard home that was adapted for modern-day living,” she said.

“The basic intent was to use that quintessential vernacular so that it fit in with other houses in the community.”

Ms McCarthy said the house was made from recycled timber, and built to cope with the heat and humidity of the New South Wales north coast.

“It’s very open-plan that allows the drafts and cooling breezes to come through, with shutters internally and externally,” she said.

The 40-square-metre design is also adaptable to accommodate families of various sizes.

“I’ve built it to be completely flexible with one bedroom and a permanent office, or the ability with a mezzanine to have another sleeping area upstairs,” she said.

“So you could have two kids sleeping upstairs and two bedrooms downstairs if you wanted, or three bedrooms and an office, which is pretty amazing in 40-square-metres.”

Ms McCarthy, who is studying design at TAFE, said she hoped to pursue a career specialising in tiny homes.

“I think people are questioning why we have these huge houses and don’t use them,” she said.

“People are thinking they could do other things with their money.”