Not all Small and Tiny homes are sustainable; they actually range in a broad spectrum from achieving high sustainability to not being sustainable at all… Many are sustainable because they use recycled, upcycled and minimal amounts of building material; with small space comes a smaller internal envelope, making heating and cooling less energy intensive; and by living the Small-Space lifestyle occupants generally consume and waste less store-bought products, further helping to reduce the planet’s overall carbon footprint. Sustainability in Small and Tiny home culture is a spectrum of principles and ethics based on the idea being mindful in how we interact with our personal and global environments’, which hopefully carries forward to our interactions with others.
The issues that work against Small and Tiny home design is that the Small-Space lifestyle does not suit people who have a lot of stuff, or are not in a financial position to make life changes, it is not reasonable to ask or expect people get rid of stuff or change their psyche to live in a small space. Additionally the cost of permits to legalize Trailer (Tiny) homes and Shipping container homes by California building codes is so expensive that the investment building these places is usually not worth the return. Other states are different and have more permissive building codes. For people who want to live mindfully of environmental issues not everyone needs to live in a small space. There are numerous options in larger types of architecture that allow an occupant to live by sustainability principles.
However, building-out small and tiny livable space can be a labor of love! To work with steel and convert an old shipping container into an appealing, attractive industrial looking guest room; to craft wood and colorfully paint a delightful Tiny home on a trailer frame; or construct an endearing artsy cottage from cob, cord wood, glass, or earth bags, these buildings have a charm and value separate than improving property values and wholly separate than living by ethics of environmental mindfulness, rather they can evoke a sense of artistic pleasure and are a form of interactive art that inspires awareness of how we relate to our surroundings.
Sustainable Spectrum - Design Ideals for Small or Tiny homes1) Uses an Independent energy source, solar, wind, geothermal, etc. (off the grid)
2) Has a high insulative total R- value, design has a low energy intensive foot print.
3) Lots of recycled and upcycled materials used. Minimal new building material used in construction and maintenance.
4) Any building materials used are non-toxic (or minimally toxic) to environment as they break down over time.
5) All materials used are locally built, manufactured and acquired. Materials used are manufactured with sustainable philosophies as much as possible. (No stuff manufactured in China)
6) Reduced square footage, which creates a low potential for occupants to consume large amounts of household products.
7) Waste water recapturing systems (grey water) and organic methods of processing black water.
8) Food garden, either indoor or outdoor integrated into the home’s design.
9) Positive feel and character, pleasing aesthetics, which creates a wholesome ambiance for the occupant when interacting with the living space.