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Thread: Small dwellings a response to climate change (was:Home petite home)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Small dwellings a response to climate change (was:Home petite home)

    Article about a 640 sq. ft. house built by a couple with a toddler and a cat:
    http://www.bangormetro.com/media/Ban...e-Petite-Home/

    I wasn't sure where to put this but one of their motives for building it was environmental. So hopefully this is a good spot.

    I very much like the idea of downsizing our American tendency towards McMansions. It is nice to see that there other people who believe in it enough to act on it. Though I am reminded that many places there are restrictions on how small you can go. The good intention behind that is to foil slum lords. But it also turns into a headache for folks who want to downsize their lives and find it is "illegal", so to speak.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Environmentalism, Voluntary Simplicity, and a general protest to mass consumption are all good reasons for this.

    I love hearing this and while I live with my wife and 2 dogs in 1200 square feet, I love to converse with people who just know we will need to move up when the kids come

    Heck, maybe we'll downsize like these folks out of protest.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Gee, I thought I own my crackerbox house because we are a single-income household. Apparently I actually may be on the forefront of a trend.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    I love hearing this and while I live with my wife and 2 dogs in 1200 square feet, I love to converse with people who just know we will need to move up when the kids come
    Funny thing: with my ex out of our lives, my kids and I have steadily shrunk how much space we actually use. Two of the three bedrooms in my apartment are unoccupied. I think kids need attention from their parents more than they need a zillion toys. (The hard part is convincing relatives <cough> grandparents<cough> to go along with such mad schemes.)

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I firmly believe that a family of four needs no more than 1,200 square feet for a house.

    Anything more is just superfluous.

    Now 640 sqft is pretty small, and I would have to try it first though.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    I cannot adjust to huge energy bills following the addition to our small house anything >$250 is hard to take.. Still trying to coordinate three heating systems.Natural gas and electric in floor water heat. Nothing is set higher than 64/66 during the day. the warmest rooms are the cozy kitchen and the bathroom. And the warmish slab o' crete is much nicer than a frozen one. If we lit the fireplace it would only beat back the drafts pouring in through "character flaws" in the floor and wall.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    We’re at 1400 square feet with a footprint of roughly 22 x 25 (it’s a tall house). The kids (all three of them) are doomed to sharing about 350 square feet for their shared bedroom. At one point I wanted an addition for kid bedrooms and my wife opposed that idea saying that every child getting their own room is an American thing. She also said that any addition to a 1400 square foot house for 5 people is excessive and not sustainable. We went back and forth on this issue until I got an estimate for the addition. On one income that sealed the deal and it was curtains for the kids—a shared bedroom they shall have. Our goal now is to get creative with the space and carve out little sleeping areas and the rest of the space will be communal. So I don’t think it’s a matter of how big a house is in terms of serving the needs of a family, but rather its all about layout and giving up conventional thought (and privacy)—either by force (in my case) or by choice (in my wife’s case).

    On a side note, our zoning ordinance has a minimum square footage requirement of 750 square feet. The original intent was to prevent mobile homes. There is a move afoot to eliminate this minimum to allow for smaller homes from a sustainability perspective. At one point we had one town that wanted to cap square footage allowances in an effort to promote sustainability. That suggestion never really made it out of the gate and soon after they got an application for their biggest house yet, 12,000 square feet.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Good luck working out that arrangement! I have talked of turning two bedrooms into one big shared space for two kids. Sleep and dress in one area, study, lounge in the other space. But as expected no one is going for it in the house. If we ever build new I would actually like to incorporate sliding partitions ala shoji screens...

  9. #9
    maudit anglais
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    I think we kind of blew it with our new house, as much as we love it. We had a nice little 700 sq. ft. bungalow in Toronto (plus another 700 sq. ft. of unfinished basement), and that worked just fine for the two of us. We then moved to a 1000 sq. ft. apartment in Ottawa, and wondered how we would ever fill it up, though it was nice to finally have a guest room. The new (old) house is a monster...probably close to 2500 sq. ft., plus the basement. We have way more space than we currently need (the idea was to fill it up with kids) and there are several rooms that we hardly ever use. And yet, I still don't have room for the gigantic model railway of my dreams...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails house 3.jpg  

  10. #10
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    That's one stunning home, Tranplanner! In addition to the merits of living small, there is, I think, also value to maintaining existing historic structures - call it "recycling" if it makes you feel better - such that they don't fall into disrepair, get torn down, and end up in a landfill somewhere. Anyway, even with that much space, one can do a lot to improve its efficiency. Plus, its just so good looking!

    Anyway, we live in about 1200sf with two kids, two dogs and a cat in a 100 year old home. The kids share the "second floor" which is really the renovated attic of a hip-roofed house, so the roof line encroaches on the space from all four sides (meaning I knock my head at least 5 times a day). Still, the space up there is great for the 7 and 2 year old - a dressing area, two sinks, shower, toilet AND plenty of room for two beds and toys (which we are pretty streamlined on). The real bonus, though, is that we have a separate guest house and office space in the back of the property, so a bunch of stuff doesn't take up valuable real estate in the home.

    I also wanted to say that, as a family, I find there is a social benefit to living in a smaller space - more of the family is more engaged with one another more of the time, and that is a healthy thing. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as all lounging around the living room on a weekend day, reading, building with blocks, listening to music, etc. all as a family. I grew up in a BIG house with lots of rooms and, frankly, I was pretty lonely and the family had periods where we all seemed pretty distant from one another. I like the way we live right now just fine. Though admittedly, I wouldn't want to have any less space (we used to live in less that 1000sf, but that did get a little crazy. I was writing my thesis for part of that time and it was terribly annoying to work late into the night and know that I would also have to clean everything up again and put it all away before morning or there would be nowhere to eat breakfast).
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I also wanted to say that, as a family, I find there is a social benefit to living in a smaller space - more of the family is more engaged with one another more of the time, and that is a healthy thing. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as all lounging around the living room on a weekend day, reading, building with blocks, listening to music, etc. all as a family. I grew up in a BIG house with lots of rooms and, frankly, I was pretty lonely and the family had periods where we all seemed pretty distant from one another. I like the way we live right now just fine. Though admittedly, I wouldn't want to have any less space (we used to live in less that 1000sf, but that did get a little crazy. I was writing my thesis for part of that time and it was terribly annoying to work late into the night and know that I would also have to clean everything up again and put it all away before morning or there would be nowhere to eat breakfast).
    Most of my marriage, we had homes under 1300 sq ft. For a time, we lived in a house that was about 2200 sq ft. TV in the living room TV in the den, TV in the master bedroom. It had its good points (in part because my marriage was already in very serious trouble, so it was convenient to be able to avoid each other), but I really hated the tendency for everyone to be in separate rooms, relating to the TV instead of each other. We did begin homeschooling there and acquired a second computer and both computers were in the den, near one of the TV's, and that was kind of part of the kitchen. So it was possible for me and my kids to relate much the way we always had for most of their lives: mom cooking, them on the computer (doing schoolwork) or tv or playing video games within sight of me. Having all that space was an interesting experience. But I also found that trying to keep it clean and so on was too much. One of the great joys of having a smaller place and less stuff is how much time it frees up that might otherwise go towards maintenance of one's crapola. To me, that isn't a life. It is a little like the old joke about someone wishing to live in a big, rich home and *poof* they are the maid (or something like that).

    At the risk of starting a riot, I will add that I have read some things which indicate that all these traditional American ideas about what makes a nice home cater to the male dominated culture: it's a nice home if you go off to work and get to come home and be taken care of there (ie if you are the man in the traditional, idyllic nuclear family). It's not necessarily so great if you are the person slaving over keeping it nice and cozy and putting those home-cooked meals on the table, etc. I read an excerpt from a piece once called something like "A woman's place is in the city". As a single mom with older kids (who aren't moving out any time soon) and various special needs in the family, I find that our lifestyle doesn't mesh well with the conventional home layout. For example: we could live with a refrigerator sized more like what I had in Germany.

    I'll try to not hijack my own thread with some major gender equality tangent. Back on topic.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    I would like to see inside that petite home, from the outside it doesnt look so tiny!. But they have a toddler so where do they keep the big plastic brightly colored ltittle tykes junk?

    back in my newly expanded house my dining room table is still the homework zone, the 11yo has a desk/loft with chair in her room, but hardly uses it for HW. She likes to havve company when she toils on algebra, so like MZ my kids are nearby while I'm cooking, bill paying, "putering. That table is also the arts and crafts area, and it always has a stack of reading material in the middle of it.

    When the girls were babies we didnt need a monitor in our small house, sheesh you could hear everything! And they could hear everything too, so bedtimes meant lower the volumes on TV, radio. Annd in a small house smells migrate too. Woe unto us if the broccoli caserole fumes wafted into the upstairs.

    Not much room inside for kids to get rambunctious, but we had a huge huge dieck ( the yard has too much slope) and the kids got to run around on the deck when tiny.

  13. #13
    After 17 years in a 1000 sq ft condo, we just moved to a 1400 square foot place about 8 blocks away. We feel a bit guilty for having so much space, but we like that it is a mixed income building (about 50 of the 200 units are owned by a trust and rented to low income families - scattered through the development, the rest are market rate - Boston's market rate - ouch).

    About half the additional space is taken up by a grand piano we just inherited.

    I feel like I am living large!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jen View post
    I would like to see inside that petite home,
    That's always what I want to know. These articles full of words and a shot or two of the outside make me crazy. You can't get any real sense of what it's like to live in them.

    I don't know of any pics on the web for this particular house, but the house in this article is a modified Tumbleweed house. It seems that the Tumbleweed Houses website recently added videos to the intro page. Two of them offer tours of the inside of a tumbleweed house. http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/home.htm

    Plus, there are interior photos of other tumbleweed houses here:
    http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/houses.htm

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