Tiny House Made of CNC-cut Panels

The tiny house movement has come a long way these last couple of years, which has led to many innovative approaches to constructing these sustainable dwellings. The tiny house firm Extraordinary Structures of Santa Fe, NM is one of those companies that has been pushing the envelope in finding new and innovative ways of building these structures. Their latest offering, the so-called SaltBox was constructed with the help of digital fabrication.

The SaltBox rests atop a 24-foot-long trailer and measures 200 sq ft (18.6 sq m). It was constructed using a rapid-assembly system, which the firm has developed. This method of construction utilizes CNC-cut materials and a panelized system of SIPs which greatly shorten the time it takes to build this tiny home. An envelope made of permeable house wrap and a thermal wrap of mineral wool board makes up the first layer of the home. Next is the metal exoskeleton made out of 22-gauge steel, which serves the purpose of acting as a rain shield. The roofline of the SaltBox is asymmetrical, and this shape was inspired by the traditional New England saltbox-type roof. It was also chosen because it makes it easier to install solar panels.

The interior was kept quite open and minimalist. They left the panels and joints exposed, which gives it a very modern aesthetic. To save space they’ve also installed built-in storage cabinets, and a Murphy bed that can be folded up and thus moved out of the way during the day. When lowered, a couple of ottomans provide support for it.

The kitchen and bathroom share a wall, so that they could reduce the number of plumbing lines that needed to be installed. The kitchen is fitted with a large sink, a two-burner induction cooktop, a fume hood and a small smart drawer refrigerator. The bathroom features a Japanese-style ofuro tub, which was handmade out of cedar. The home also features a composting toilet. Over the bathroom is a small loft, which can either be used as a reading nook, or a guest bedroom. The home is heated using a high-efficiency gasifier woodstove, which takes up very little room.

The fully fitted version of this home sold for $82,500, while the company also offers a stripped down, basic version for $50,000.

Sun-Speckled Off Grid Cabin

The Olive Tree House is a tiny summer cabin that was designed by Greek architect Eva Sopéoglou. It is located in Halkidiki, Greece and operates completely off the grid. As an interesting an unique design feature, it is also clad in metal, which is perforated with decorative shapes that cover the interior walls with dappled sunlight when closed.

The Olive Tree House has a floorspace of just 226 sq ft (21 sq m) and is located in an olive grove that overlooks the sea. It was also built in a way that allows for easy dismantling and reassembly should the need arise. It features a chestnut wood frame and has concrete foundations. The sloping roof is made of corrugated iron. All the metal seems a questionable choice given Greece’s hot climate, but the walls open all the way, providing great ventilation, and even when closed, the perforations still let air inside. The interior layout is also such that it provides a good cross draft.

The perforations and small jutting-out leaf pieces that cover the metal siding were created with a CNC punching machine and by hand, and took quite a long time to complete. But the end result is impressive and really sets this tiny home apart from others.

The entire cabin was prefabricated off-site, while the design also took into consideration the natural path of the sun on site so as to provide ample shading. To create more space, the living room extends to the outside. The house also features a kitchenette, while the bedroom is separated off from the rest of the space by storage closets. The bathroom features a composting toilet, sink and shower.

The Olive Tree House is completely independent of the grid. Electricity is provided via a solar panel array, and water comes from a tank. They have plans to also install a rainwater collection system in the future.

Modern Rammed Earth Home

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Using earth to build a home has many sustainable advantages, while also keeping costs down. And a rammed earth home can also be very modern. The latter has been proven before, and now again by the Chinese design firm Hypersity. They drew inspiration from traditional cave houses of the Shanxi province and created a gorgeous home with curved walls and a very modern look.

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The home was designed for an Internet star who already had a cave house in the area and wanted to renovate it into a more modern version. The so-called “yáodòng” or cave houses have been built in this area for a long time, and they are still getting constructed. They are normally carved out of hillsides or dug from a pit that later acts as a central courtyard, and by some estimates 40 million people still live in them. The firm Hypersity began the renovation by first demolishing a part of the existing home to create space for a bigger courtyard, while also creating a rammed earth perimeter.

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The home is made up of several rammed earth volumes, which are connected by five outdoor courtyards that allow for great ventilation and let lots of natural light into the living space. The home features a lining area, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and storage rooms. These are located in the different volumes of the home, while the courtyards that connect them also act as a Chinese garden of sorts, letting more nature into the dwelling.

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The interior design of the rooms is very minimalist yet warm and cozy, which is primarily due to the use of natural materials and simple, functional furnishings. The living room, for example, features a barrel-vaulted ceiling, and is screened off from the rest of the home by a wooden partition. They also installed a so-called “light well” in the area between the bedroom and living room, which lets plenty of natural daylight into these rooms.

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The firm used locally sourced earth to construct this home, which brought down the costs considerably, but there is no word on how much the renovation costs. This project is a great example of how traditional architecture still has an important place in the modern world, especially one where promoting sustainable living is so important.

Bringing Light to Impoverished Underdeveloped areas of the World

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It’s always great to see green tech used to better the world. The so-called Dominican Light Project has set out to provide a source of light in the form of solar power lanterns to the poor in the Dominican Republic for only $5 per person.

The area where they intend to launch these lanterns is prone to frequent blackouts, so people are forced to burn harmful kerosene, and inhale candle smoke to be able to see. Even a single solar lantern can light up an entire home, giving children more time to do schoolwork, and extend the time in which adults can perform the necessary domestic tasks. Charging the lamp for 6-8 hours will provide about 12 hours of bright, LED light. The lamp itself also has a very robust design, which means it should last for quite a while.

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Candles and kerosene lanterns are the main source of lighting in this area, which leads to a lot of fires, and creates a lot of indoor air pollution. They also cost about 25% of an average working class person’s wage. Which is why the Dominican Light Project was started. They are currently trying to raise funds through crowdfunding campaign, to be able to provide solar lanterns to the community.

They have set quite a high goal, since an estimate $25 million would be needed to light up the entire Dominican Republic with solar lanterns. However, they have set their Indiegogo campaign goal much lower at $10,000, which will cover the costs of providing the lanterns to about 2500 families. There are no perks for backers, except the knowledge that they are doing something good for humanity, so I hope they meet their goal. The donations start at $25, which I think is a bit too high, but they are currently quite close to the goal.

Tiny House that Overlooks a Volcano

How would you like to wake up with the view of an active volcano out your bedroom window? Residents of the so-called Phoenix House in Hawaii can. The home was designed by the firm ArtisTree and can operate off the grid. It’s also available for rent.

Phoenix House is located on a lava field Kalapana, which is near the base of the active Mauna Loa volcano. There are other homes in this area, so it is considered a safe place to live. But the tiny home is very close to red hot flowing lava, while there is also a 100 ft (30 m)-high lava waterfall which crashes directly into the sea nearby.

Phoenix House has a total floorspace of 450 sq ft (41 sq m) and is not towable, as most tiny homes we see are. The home is clad in wood, which was preserved using the traditional Japanese method called Sho Sugi Ban, and recycled corrugated iron. The home is raised off the ground by stilts and has ample glazing, which lets the residents enjoy the spectacular view.

The home’s layout makes the most of the available space inside, so the tiny house appears quite spacious and comfortable. There is a reasonably large living area, with a sofa and a small desk. Next to it is a kitchenette which features a propane-powered stove, fridge, a fairly large counter and a sink. Further down from the kitchenette is the bathroom, which is fitted with a sink, shower and what is most likely a composting toilet, since the home operates independently of the grid. The bedroom is located in a loft which is accessible via a wooden ladder. There is space enough for a queen sized bed, the amount of headroom is very generous.

Electricity for the home is provided via a roof-top mounted solar power array, while there is also a rainwater collection system. Hot water is provided via an on-demand propane water heater.

Phoenix House is available for rent via AirBnb.