Tiny Houses – An Environmental Movement

Introduction

The tiny house movement (also known as the “small house movement”) is an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes.
The small house movement has been gradually and consistently picking up steam for many environmentally and financially conscious homeowners who seek to live a simpler life. There are a variety of reasons for living in a tiny house. Many people who enter this lifestyle rethink what they value in life and decide to put more effort into strengthening their communities, healing the environment, spending time with their families, or saving money.

Our idea for this project was to research and find out if tiny houses could be the next big step in living more environmentally friendly and whether the tiny house movement is taking place in Switzerland because there are thousands of people already part of this community worldwide. Read on to find out more about this interesting topic.

Basic Loft
Basic Loft

 

Research

Environmental Benefits of Tiny Houses

Smaller homes are less expensive than larger ones in terms of taxes, building expenses, heating, maintenance, and repair costs. The lower cost of living may be advantageous to those with little savings, such as people aged 55 and older. In addition to costing less, small houses may encourage a less cluttered (überladen/überfüllt), simpler lifestyle, and reduce ecological impacts for their residents. They can easily be built with recyclable materials and they typically use less materials to construct. Another benefit is that small houses usually emphasize design over size. This means to utilize dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture as well as incorporating technological advances of space saving equipment and appliances. Vertical space optimization is also a common feature of small houses. An example of this is the use of loft spaces for sleeping and storage.

Is Tiny House Living something that has been around throughout history?

Living in small houses is not something new. They have actually existed in some form for thousands of years. Throughout history, small houses such as Yurts (from the East) and Tipis (from Native Americans) have always existed and it has only really been in the last century that houses started getting bigger in size.

Why do people choose to live in small houses?

Humans have been living in small homes due to various reasons. The main reasons as to why some people may choose to live in small houses are either practicality or conservation of energy.
Another point is that the tiny life provides huge financial advantages and the ability to live a lifestyle filled with adventure. On average, many people spend a lot of time figuring out how to afford their homes. So, what is the alternative to this high cost of living? One solution is to live smaller and it is that realization that brings many people into the tiny house movement. While small homes are not for everyone, tiny house costs are much lower than a full-size building. Especially, when moving to a new place it is not that sustainable or suitable to build a large and extravagant house.

On the other hand, for someone who has some love for the environment, these tiny houses have a lot to offer mother nature. (eco-friendly)

How big is the Average Tiny House?

Believe it or not, just like any other home, tiny house sizes can vary. Generally, how large, or how small your tiny house can be is up to you. There is no hard and fast rule on tiny house limits. In America, where the movement is most popular, many tiny homes range anywhere from 60sq.ft. up to 500sq.ft on average. When you consider the average standard home size in America today is around 2600 sq.ft. The difference is huge.

 

Interview

After researching we asked ourselves if tiny house living exists in Switzerland and to our surprise the answer was yes!
We found out about the company PolyLoft. Polyloft is a company based here in Switzerland which develops and builds Tiny Houses.

We were even lucky enough to receive the great opportunity to interview Mr. Schumacher who is the managing director of Polyloft. Below is our interview:

Mr. Schumacher
Mr. Schumacher

Q & A: An Interview with Mr. Schumacher, Managing director of Polyloft (December 2nd, 2020)

When was the company founded?

In November 2019, the company Elma Bau AG was founded. (Polyloft belongs to this company)

Did you have start-up difficulties, as we estimate the Swiss population rather cautious and with such “unusual ideas (not Swiss standard)”

Polyloft is still in its startup phase so business is still a little slow, but people have shown us a lot of interest.

How many houses do you sell on average per year / How high is the interest? Are there any difficulties?

Because our company is still in its starting phase, we have only sold one tiny house so far. Yet to our delight, the interest and enthusiasm of our customers is high. Our exhibitions are filled with fascinated people. So there is lots of good potential for the future of our sales. The difficulty in Switzerland is that you need a plot of land and in Switzerland that can become real expensive real fast.

What do you advertise?

Polyloft advertises climate friendly Tiny Houses (check out their website).

Are the houses built in such a way that the insulation is so strong that the heating costs are reduced? (eco-friendly)

Polyloft uses underfloor heating, which is operated by a heat pump (Co2 free). These heat pumps are used to heat the whole house.

How much time does it take to implement new ideas for even more climate friendly houses, do you have a current example?

The current goal is to sell multi-family houses (multilofts). Which is a Tiny House settlement (looks like an apartment) with 8 Basic Lofts. This could take a few years.

Has the company been strongly affected by the current Coronavirus situation?

The Coronavirus has not had a big or negative impact on us. Rather the opposite. On a positive note, new ideas can be developed such as tiny offices to rent for working from home or tiny houses which can be rented as guest rooms.

Do you own a Tiny House yourself?

Sadly, I do not have a tiny house myself at the moment, as I have children and therefore need all the space I can get. But my brother owns one and I can imagine owning one myself in the near future.

What are your climate strategies, what do you do to stay environmentally friendly?

To stay environmentally friendly, we try to avoid always developing new prototypes which is a big consumption of materials. We also build the tiny houses out of wood, which is sustainable and better for the environment. Polyloft also offers stackable tiny houses (multiloft), which I think would be great to bring into the city. This way you could save space to be more climate friendly.

MultiLoft
MultiLoft

 

Conclusion

To Summarize, we think that tiny houses could and should become the next big thing to living an eco-friendlier Lifestyle.
During our project we found out lots of interesting facts. A big surprise was the realization of how long tiny houses have existed. Because tiny houses seem like such a simple, modern yet great idea, we figured that tiny houses have only been around for a few years. It was interesting to realize that they have existed for thousands of years and in many different forms.
After reading all the different facts about this different living situation and its many environment friendly benefits. It almost shocked us to believe that not more people live in tiny houses. We think that this movement is not as “popular” as it deserves to be. 
Particularly after the interview, our interest about these tiny homes definitely reached its peak. The way Mr. Schumacher explained to us the idea behind his tiny houses sounded like a great idea.
After asking around we even found out that many friends of ours have heard of this movement and are absolutely enthusiastic about it. Two friends of ours, who are both carpenters, even mentioned they would be interested in building a tiny house themselves. One of them has even converted an old bus into a small camper van to live in.
After writing this article and learning some new and interesting facts, our enthusiasm has only grown. We can imagine using one in the near future, for example as a vacation home or even building one as young adults.

Authors

Alexa Buser & Cindy Gehrig

Reviewer

Emanuela D’Andrea (former BM Student) 

Special Thanks

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Schumacher for the interview and the permission to use his images.

Video

Polyloft: Building a Tiny House (Youtube.com)

Links

[1] PolyLoft (polyloft.ch)

[2] TinyHousesThroughoutHistory (supertinyhomes.com)

[3] Tiny House Movement (wikipedia.org)

 

 

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

4 thoughts on “Tiny Houses – An Environmental Movement

  1. Hi
    So i have heard about tiny houses before and was really elated to see, that this “trend” is finding its place in society. I am a fan of the idea an appreciate the work you put in this post! Great work 🙂

  2. Dear Alexa and Cindy
    I loved reading your contribution. It is a very interesting and important topic, which I also think should become more known with people. I have heard about tiny houses before but I have learned a lot more about it.
    Kind regards
    Anabel

  3. very interesting project. I think this will certainly solve some of our problems with too few flats. I also like the style in which it is written. Well done.

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