While I’ve seen plenty of articles about tiny houses, it is hard to know just how big the “movement” is. Here is a story about tiny houses that discusses one couple but also suggests the homes are now part of the curriculum of one college:
Their origin is often attributed to Sarah Susanska’s 1998 book The Not So Big House. In it, she argues that new houses typical of the McMansion era—upward of 2,300-square-feet—were too big and a waste of resources…
The Tiny House movement is part of the sustainable technologies curriculum at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, which offers two-year associate degrees in the discipline.
“We do believe that part of sustainability is having a smaller carbon footprint and that means for us using fewer materials, using locally sourced materials and being extremely energy efficient in what we build,” says Laura Lauffer, the coordinator of the sustainable technologies program. “The Tiny House movement fits all of that criteria.”
The curriculum includes two classes in which students collaborate to build a tiny house. This year they will enter their final product in the competition. The Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro and Habitat for Humanity are sponsoring a tiny house contest in which novice builders will compete for best design. Each house must be less than 500 square feet, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
Limited evidence for claiming this is a movement. One couple does not a movement make and the stories about tiny houses tend to focus on small groups of people who are interested in these homes. Additionally, it is interesting that this would make its way into college classes but then again college classes address all sorts of social phenomena, some with longer staying power than others. However, there are hints of broader interest such as several cities looking into micro-apartments and trying to help the homeless in several places with tiny houses. But, how many of these tiny houses have been built? Will we eventually get Census data that will be definitive? In the meantime, journalists and others should be wary of calling this a broad movement.
I would also be interested to hear more about the links to Sarah Susanka’s Not-So-Big-House. Susanka was not calling for super small houses; rather, ones that weren’t as big as McMansions. The homes she features in her books still tend to be around the national average and they are not necessarily cheaper with all of their customized features. The principle of having a smaller house may fit with Susanka’s ideas but she wasn’t strongly calling for houses less than 200 square feet.