Tiny House Goes Back to the Basics

The Japanese firm Muji has recently unveiled a their first offering in the tiny home sphere. The so-called Muji Hut is a minimalist tiny home, equipped with just the basic necessities, but it also looks very cozy and inviting. It would work great as a vacation cabin, a home office or a guesthouse, but might not work so well as a permanent home.

The Muji Hut measures 97 sq ft (9.1 sq m), but the exterior deck adds an additional 32 sq ft (3 sq m) to the floorspace. The exterior is made of cedar wood and was treated with the all-natural preserving method called Shou Sugi Ban. The interior cladding is unfinished Japanese cypress plywood, while they used polystyrene foam for insulation, and it appears that only the ceiling is insulated. That, together with the fact that the windows are only single pane, it seems that the Muji Hut is only suitable for mild climates, though it does have a fairly large wood-burning stove installed for heating. The Muji Hut also needs a reinforced concrete foundation, and has no electric power or plumbing installed.

The interior is comprised of a single room, which the owners can furnish according to their wishes. It would be easy to add a small kitchenette and maybe a composting toilet, as well as solar panels to the roof. This tiny home may not have a whole lot of extra features, but it does exactly what it is meant to do: it provides an affordable way to build a cozy dwelling anywhere you want to be.

The Muji Hut will be available in mid-2017 and will cost around $27,000 including construction. At this time, it can only be shipped in Japan.

Shape-Shifting Solar Cells

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The wider adoption of solar cells is largely being stalled by their cost. That’s why a lot of new research in this field has been focused on making solar cells more affordable. And now a group of engineers at MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have made a breakthrough.

They’ve created a 3D printed material, which is able to change shape when heated or cooled, and then return to it’s original form on it’s own. Among the many applications of such a material it could also be used as the turning mechanism for solar cells, which would allow them to effortlessly capture more solar energy.

The 3D printed material they created is capable of remembering its original shape, and always returning to it when certain key conditions are met. In other words, it can be bent, twisted, stretched and used to build complex shapes (such as a replica of a flower or the Eiffel Tower). These structures bend and stay in the new form until they are heated to between 104 to 356 degrees Fahrenheit when the material becomes rubbery and once again assumes its original shape.

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To create these structures, they used a special 3D printing method called microstereolithography, which etches patterns onto the polymers using light as they are layered. The thinner the structure the faster it reacts to temperature changes and they are actually calling this new tech 4D printing, since the changing of shape happens across the fourth dimension of time.

Designing an effective way of combining this new tech with PV cells would make them much more efficient at harvesting solar power, as well as make it possible to use solar cells in a lot more places. More efficient solar cells would also lessen the need for large battery banks.

Couple converts school bus into their first home

Rising rents and huge student loans, coupled with difficulty finding job security are leading more and more young people to reconsider what a home should look like. Brittany and Steven of Adventure or Bust are one example of a young couple who opted to convert a disused school bus into a full time home. They converted the bus themselves, and will use it to travel and work on the go.

The majority of the interior space is taken up by the lounge/kitchen area. The sitting area features an L-shaped sofa, which can be converted into a full-size bed for guests. There is also a flat screen TV in this area. The kitchen which adjoins this space is fitted with full-size, energy efficient appliances, namely a fridge, stove, and a washer/dryer combo unit. The bus they used for the conversion has a side door, and the kitchen counter they installed across it can be lifted up to make the door accessible.

The bathroom is fitted with a Nature’s Head composting toilet, and a small shower. The bus is very water efficient, since no blackwater is produced, and all the greywater is filtered and used to irrigate the vegetable garden. They use the compost on their fruit trees. The bus also features plenty of closet and storage space.

The bedroom is located at the far end of the bus and is just big enough to fit a queen-size bed. The latter can be lifted up to reveal a storage area, the 100-gallon water tank and grant access to the rear door of the bus.

They renovated the bus themselves, and the total cost came to just $17,600, which includes the purchase price of the bus. While the bus is very water efficient, it has to be hooked up to the grid for power. They are currently saving up for a solar power array so that they can use it completely off-the-grid. They also plan on painting the exterior as soon as funds allow it.

Affordable Tiny Off-The-Grid Weekend Retreat

The firm Modern Tiny Living just unveiled a tiny home, which makes other tiny homes appear like mansions in comparison. The aptly named Nugget comes fully equipped with everything you need for a cozy weekend retreat.

The Nugget rests atop a single-axle 12 ft (3.6 m)-long trailer, and weighs 4,500 lbs (2,040 kg). It’s floorspace is just 102 sq ft (9.4 sq m), which is tinier then even the tiniest competition. However, the Nugget has all one needs, including a kitchenette, a bathroom and a comfy sleeping area. They are marketing this one as a weekend retreat, which is quite accurate, since it is probably too small to be used as a full time home.

That said, they did maximize on the available space. There is a large sink in the kitchen, complete with a copper faucet, while the countertop is actually a hickory butcher block. There is a small fridge, but no stove, since the owner plans to use one of the portable camping ones. The bathroom is separated from the main living area by a pocket door, and is equipped with a composting toilet and a shower. The sleeping area doubles as the lounge, and features a good-sized bed.

The Nugget is completely independent of the grid, and is fitted with a rooftop mounted solar power array, which is connected to an inverter and a battery system. They also installed a 100 gal (378 l) fresh water tank and pump, which provides all the necessary water. A propane heater is used to heat both the interior as well as the water.

The home is also reasonably well insulated, with the ceiling and floors having an insulation rating of R-28, and the walls a rating of R-21, but the home is not really suitable for use in extreme climates.

To go with it’s size, the Nugget’s price is also small. It is currently being sold for $36,000.

Tiny Home That’s Easy to Take on The Road

The company Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses of Colorado have built another great tiny home. This one bears the odd name Ol’ Berthoud Blue, and it was commissioned by a client who had tried to build their own tiny home, but found it too demanding.

The home features an interesting layout, with lots of space allocated to the bedroom and bathroom, while it was also constructed with frequent travelling in mind.

Ol’ Berthoud Blue was built atop a 24 ft (7.3 m)-long trailer. The front entrance opens into the spacious living area, which takes up most of the ground floor. This area also houses the kitchen, which features lots of counter space, a full-size fridge, a propane three-burner stove and a sink. There is also a dining table for two. The sofa in the living area can be pulled out into a 6 ft (1.8 m)-long guest bed.

The bathroom is just off the kitchen and is large enough to fit an ALFI cedar bathtub, as well as a sink and composting toilet. In an interesting design choice, one has to go through the bathroom to access the winding staircase that leads to the sleeping loft. The latter is quite spacious, and can serve as a lounge as well. They installed lots of windows in this area, which lets in plenty of natural light. The home also features a second loft, which can be used for storage.

Some of the cabinetry was custom made, while some was purchased from IKEA. Since the owners intend to travel a lot, most of the storage areas have rods or other obstructions to prevent things from falling. The tiny home gets its power via a standard RV hookup, though they plan to add a solar power system in the future. A mini-split system takes care of the heating and cooling needs.

The home cost roughly $87,000 to build.