solar roof with heat and power

An open letter to Elon Musk:

We appreciate your commitment to solar power, as chairman of Solar City. Making photovoltaic cells available on a wide scale is an important mission, and these panels work for many homeowners. Improving panel efficiency through your Silevo acquisition is good news, since consumers could install fewer of them. We wish you (and others) much success.

New heat and power roof: The top solar layer, seen here, generates electricity. Then heated air gets trapped between layers for heating purposes. (Renew Economy, Australia)

New Heat and Power Roof: The top solar layer, seen here, generates electricity. Then heated air gets trapped between layers for heating purposes. (Renew Economy, Australia)

What are your plans? Combining solar collection and heating elements is now possible. Australians just replaced an old metal roof with the first building integrated photovoltaic thermal (BIPVT) system, on a Sydney-area house. It creates air flow which heats water or air as well. This $5 million project was funded by a government grant and BlueScope, a steel manufacturer.

What happens next? Investment leading to manufacturing the BIPVT roof lies ahead. While in test phases, this technology may also need support to reach consumers. It’s already undergone five years of feasibility, pilot and material studies from research universities. (See results from “steel BIPVT” search.)

Should we fast-track? Maybe you can help cheer-lead, assess and lead the demand for this next-gen roof — even with others in the solar industry. We are not experts, and look forward to hearing what you think!

Sincerely,

Tiny House Joy

so many small and tiny interiors

Celebrate small and tiny interiors in Apartment Therapy’s recent Small Cool contest. With the interior focus, standalone houses participated and mixed among apartment cousins.

We pored over contest entries and found five stellar standalones. Check out their sweet great rooms and kitchens, below.

One Small House: 801-999 sq. ft.

Lauren's 923 sq. ft. home is located in Charlottesville, VA. She loves her cozy cottage, which is "furnished mostly with vintage pieces and objects I've found in my travels. It makes my home feel very personal." (Lauren, Apartment Therapy)

Lauren’s 923 sq. ft. home is located in Charlottesville, VA. She loves her cozy cottage, which is “furnished mostly with vintage pieces and objects I’ve found in my travels. It makes my home feel very personal.” (Lauren, Apartment Therapy)

Lauren appreciates an old-fashioned, separate living room and kitchen because they are "very generously sized given the size of the house, and there is an astounding amount of storage." (Lauren, Apartment Therapy)

Lauren appreciates an old-fashioned, separate living room and kitchen because they are “very generously sized given the size of the house, and there is an astounding amount of storage.” (Lauren, Apartment Therapy)

Another Small House: 801-999 sq. ft.

Emily's 900 sq. ft. home is located in Covington, KY. "What I love about my small home," she declares, "is that it's, well, home." Emily learned to decorate, use a saw and became engaged here. (Emily, Apartment Therapy)

Emily’s 900 sq. ft. home is located in Covington, KY. “What I love about my small home,” she declares, “is that it’s, well, home.” Emily learned to decorate as well as use a saw here. (Emily, Apartment Therapy)

Emily has an eat-in kitchen, giving it style with cool yellow chairs and bare tree limb walls. We aren't surprised this home made the top four finalists in the Small Cool 2014 contest. (Emily, Apartment Therapy)

Emily has an eat-in kitchen, giving it style with cool yellow chairs and bare tree limb walls. We aren’t surprised this home made the top four finalists in the Small Cool 2014 contest. (Emily, Apartment Therapy)

One Little House: 601-800 sq. ft.

Cristin and Zach's 676 sq. ft. home is located in Kirkwood, MO. "We've really made sure that our home is family friendly and that we all feel comfortable living life here," says Cristin. (Cristin and Zach, Apartment Therapy)

Cristin and Zach’s 676 sq. ft. home is located in Kirkwood, MO. “We’ve really made sure that our home is family friendly and that we all feel comfortable living life here,” says Cristin. (Cristin and Zach, Apartment Therapy)

Cristin and Zach's kitchen fits right into their bungalow, and is important because they have a young child at home. We like the bright and light feel here. (Cristin and Zach, Apartment Therapy)

Cristin and Zach’s kitchen fits right into their bungalow, and is important because they have a young child at home. We like the bright and light feel here. (Cristin and Zach, Apartment Therapy)

One Tiny House: 401-600 sq. ft.

Patricia's 500 sq. ft. home is located in N. Topsail Beach, NC. Converted from a 1907 residential auto garage, she decorated with "elegant and primitive designs" to fit her Victorian home and neighborhood. (Apartment Therapy)

Patricia’s 500 sq. ft. home is located in N. Topsail Beach, NC. Coverted from a 1907 residential auto garage, she decorated with “elegant and primitive designs” to fit her Victorian home and neighborhood. (Patricia, Apartment Therapy)

Patricia says she likes "to divide the space into actual rooms, using every inch for storage.". Her kitchen is well-equipped with a range and stove, microwave, full sink and separate counter space. (Patricia, Apartment Therapy)

Patricia says she likes “to divide the space into actual rooms, using every inch for storage.” Her kitchen is well-equipped with a range and stove, microwave, full sink and separate counter space. (Patricia, Apartment Therapy)

One Teeny Tiny: Under 400 sq. ft.

Adele's 240 sq. ft. home is located in Oakland, CA. "Even though my cottage is tiny," says Adele, "it has high ceilings and it's surrounded by huge windows, so it doesn't feel too small." (Apartment Therapy)

Adele’s 240 sq. ft. home is located in Oakland, CA. “Even though my cottage is tiny,” says Adele, “it has high ceilings and it’s surrounded by huge windows, so it doesn’t feel too small.” (Adele, Apartment Therapy)

Adele keeps her great room quite open, with the kitchen in the back of her home. "I've figured out a place for each of my belongings to live, so the whole space can feel as open as possible." (Apartment Therapy)

Adele keeps her great room quite open, with the kitchen in the back of her home. “I’ve figured out a place for each of my belongings to live, so the whole space can feel as open as possible.” (Adele, Apartment Therapy)

musicians and artists as houses

A clever Italian artist, Frederico Babina, personifies musicians and artists through modern house archetypes. We promise to make you smile while looking at his Archimusic and Archist.

If you’re considering a micro-modern, then inject a little whimsy. Throw in new colors or shapes, even in artwork. Here are six of our favorite Babinas.

Archimusic: Modern houses reflecting musicians

Aah, jazz melodies can be heard from John Coltrane's saxophone here. This instrument shaped building is a sweet homage, with several stories for inhabitants. (Archimusic)

Aah, jazz melodies can be heard from John Coltrane’s saxophone here. This instrument shaped building is a sweet homage, with several stories for inhabitants. (Archimusic)

Alt-rocker Radiohead breaks rules, famously releasing a digital album and asking for money. Their stacked container house is wild, though a few containers might work. (Archimusic)

Alt-rocker Radiohead breaks rules, famously releasing a digital album and asking for money. Their stacked container house is wild, though a few containers might work. (Archimusic)

See anyone familiar? These four tiny houses represent the heads of the fab four Beatles, in their younger days. The rest of their bodies merge below them. (Archimusic)

See anyone familiar? These four tiny houses represent the heads of the fab four Beatles, in their younger days. The rest of their bodies merge below them. (Archimusic)

Archist: Modern houses reflecting artists

Isn't this Piet Mondrian perfect? He loved those colored squares and boxes, which don't represent anything. We are ready to build this amazing tiny house! (Archist)

Isn’t this Piet Mondrian perfect? He loved those colored squares and boxes, which don’t represent anything. We are ready to build this amazing tiny house! (Archist)

Joan Miro used signature shapes in his surrealist art, honored here. This playful home must have the right paint and window treatments. Anyone like brightly colored glass? (Archist)

Joan Miro used signature shapes in his surrealist art, honored here. This playful home must have the right paint and window treatments. Anyone like brightly colored glass? (Archist)

Salvador Dali's flowing shapes do translate into a surreal tiny house. Is it a spaceship or dino fossil? There's a full floor and large loft inside this sui-generis place. (Archist)

Salvador Dali’s flowing shapes do translate into a surreal tiny house. Is it a spaceship or dino fossil? There’s a full floor and large loft inside this sui-generis place. (Archist)

conservation cheers to a tiny house

By moving into a well-insulated, smaller house, you easily conserve energy and reduce your footprint. Even in very cold or hot locales, it’s possible to live comfortably and save money.

Exterior: Let’s look at the EDGE house, which stands for “experimental dwelling for a greener environment.” Built several years ago, this AIA-award winning house in Bayfield, Wisconsin costs only $30/month to heat.

Here's the exterior of EDGE, a real energy-saving house. It starts with 480 sq. ft. of living space and north/south facing windows. (Revelations Architect)

Here’s the exterior of EDGE, a real energy-saving house. It starts with 480 sq. ft. of living space and north/south facing windows. (Revelations Architect)

Interior: You’ll discover room to sleep, dine, bathe and hang-out inside EDGE. One reason is all the built-in and multiple-use furniture pieces. To get a sense of the house, we suggest watching this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel video.

The interior is sheathed in plywood, a popular look. See the great room, which opens up the space, along with one of two lofts and the hidden bathroom below. (Revelations Architects)

The interior is sheathed in plywood, a popular look. See the great room, which opens up the space, along with one of two lofts and the bathroom hidden below. (Revelations Architects)

Floor plans: There are two levels, including a 320 sq. ft. main floor and 160 sq. ft. upstairs. We appreciate the large amount of glass which creates views and invites nature into this shared space. As a tiny house, there is some storage though downsizing is a must-do.

The house is well-designed to maximize space, placing the kitchen and bathroom on either side. Upstairs lofts sleep four, with access by staircases. (Revelations Architects)

The house is well-designed to maximize space, placing the kitchen and bathroom on either side. Upstairs lofts sleep four, with access by staircases. (Revelations Architects)

Energy savings: In a Northland News Center video, architect Bill Yudchitz says the EDGE house has geothermal heat, air-to-air heat exchange, radiant floor heat and two barn-like doors that insulate by covering large windows.

What's missing here? The windows have disappeared from view, as heavy sliding walls now cover them and provide insulation for cold nights. (Revelations Architects)

What’s missing here? The windows have disappeared from view, as heavy sliding walls now cover them and provide insulation for cold nights. (Revelations Architects)

Water savings: The EDGE house also uses a rainwater catchment system, where water gets collected on the roof and channeled into reservoirs adjoining the home. Rainwater services both the bathroom and kitchen here.

See the butterfly or V-shaped roof, on top, almost ready to collect raindrops. Below, the roof gutter is getting installed as part of the system. (Revelations Architects)

See the butterfly or V-shaped roof, on top, almost ready to collect raindrops. Below, the roof gutter is getting installed as part of the system. (Revelations Architects)

no more library and office detritus

Once the detritus of going digital, library catalogs and office files now make regular appearances inside our homes. Their wood or metal cabinets are often used to create a throwback, industrial-style look.

As a small house solution, these simple cabinets actually hide and organize your stuff. Let’s see a few examples that look swell in their surroundings.

Look at this large library catalog, tucked under floating stairs in the great room. Since an HGTV designer, Genevieve Gorder, lives here, we wonder what's hidden in the drawers. (HGTV)

Look at this large library catalog, tucked under floating stairs in the great room. Since an HGTV designer, Genevieve Gorder, lives here, we wonder what’s hidden in the drawers. (HGTV)

In Spain, a large office cabinet contains 20 drawers. All this bedroom storage is terrific, though may require a tall person to reach the top files. (Elle Spain)

In Spain, a large office cabinet contains 20 drawers. All this bedroom storage is terrific, though may require a tall person to reach the top files. (Elle Spain)

French designer Maurice Padovani renewed a Marseilles beach home with an industrial vibe. Two former office cabinets have positions of honor in this great room. (Homedsgn.com)

French designer Maurice Padovani renewed a Marseilles beach home with an industrial vibe. Two former office cabinets have positions of honor in this great room. (Homedsgn.com)

Surprise! An old and ugly chest of drawers gets renewed with a library catalog veneer. What looks like three drawers across opens to a single, more useful drawer. (Twice Lovely)

Surprise! An old and ugly chest of drawers gets renewed with a library catalog veneer. What looks like three drawers across opens to a single, more useful drawer. (Twice Lovely)

Mid-century goes industrial in this new dresser with pewter, bronze and brass pulls. It could be used in a great room or bedroom. Measures 48" W x 15" D x 36.5" H. (Dot and Bo)

Mid-century goes industrial in this new dresser with pewter, bronze and brass pulls. It could be used in a great room or bedroom. Measures 48″ W x 15″ D x 36.5″ H. (Dot and Bo)

video touring the tiniest houses

The smallest tiny houses are on wheels, built for longevity and licensed as RVs. With increasing demand for part-time or full-time living, we think it’s useful to see the tinies. Some full-timers have open their doors and you may watch videos below. Afterwards, also take a look at two tiny house documentaries.

Art Cormier:  House behind his business

Art is a Louisiana lifer, who brought building skills and reclaimed cypress, oak and pine to make a special home. He used SIPs rather than traditional stick (wood frame) built walls here, which is unusual. The best decision by far? Art lives right next to his business, a large climbing gym.

For a high-speed version of Art’s morning rituals and commute, watch this video that features a non-explicit shower scene. Also read more about his home and southern heritage here. And check out Art’s climbing prowess in a chair traverse video.

Ella Jenkins:  Time for art and music pursuits

Ella graduated from college, knowing that she wanted to take control of her life and pursue her artistic muses. She built her home, called Little Yellow, with a country cottage appeal. Inside are branches for jewelry and copper touches everywhere. Her harp also sits in a separate back room.

Since this video, Ella moved her home to the Northern California coast and lives well with her boyfriend, dog, harp, banjo and guitar. See glamor shots from a Sierra Club article, an updated video tour, and Ella’s music video that’s not to be missed.

Dee Williams:  Pioneer triggered by health scare

Ten years ago, Dee lived in a cute Portland (OR) home that took all her time and money. She thought she was happy until having congestive heart failure at age 40. After visiting Guatemala and learning about tiny living, she built her own home and currently lives in an Olympia (WA) backyard.

Tiny houses have become Dee’s life, and she helps others via Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD). Watch Dee’s “day in the life” video and profound TedX talk. She also wrote The Big Tiny, which shares insights about time, nature and more community.

Tiny Houses: Two Documentaries

We The Tiny House People documents people living in tiny houses and small apartments, while sharing pros and cons. Filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen meets them in Northern California, New York City, Hawaii, Idaho and Europe. She’s hopeful about paring excess living space, though leaves the future uncertain.

Filmmakers Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller crowd-funded TINY and it became a film festival darling. This documentary not only follows Christopher’s build but also seeks out tiny house influencers. The film trailer is shown above, and a complete DVD or stream may be purchased here.

sliding doors fit inside tiny houses

In tiny houses, you will typically find at least one interior door. It might be for a pantry, closet or back room. Most likely, that door gets installed to create privacy for bathroom users.

Why not get door-creative? Take a look at these bathroom sliding doors, built into three homes under 227 sq. ft. They are sweet alternatives to standard swing-out doors.

One Georgia cottage, built on brick piers, features a pocket door which slides into the wall to reveal a flush toilet, sink and shower. (Youtube, Ben Hartel)

One Georgia cottage, built on brick piers, features a pocket door which slides into the wall to reveal a flush toilet, sink and shower. (Youtube, Ben Hartel)

In Louisiana, a tiny house shows off its sliding Japanese-style door that's very thin. The bathroom includes a Nature's Head composting toilet, fan and shower. (Tumbleweed Houses)

In Louisiana, a tiny house shows off its sliding Japanese-style door that’s very thin. The bathroom includes a Nature’s Head composting toilet, fan and shower. (Tumbleweed Houses)

In modern Massachusetts place, there's a heavy sliding door on tracks. It covers a wet bath containing a simple composting toilet, sink and shower. (Youtube, Relax Shacks)

In a modern Massachusetts place, there’s a heavy sliding door on tracks. It covers a wet bath containing a simple composting toilet, sink and shower. (Youtube, Relax Shacks)