little houses for limited mobility

Don’t cross little cozy houses off your wish list, if you or your loved ones have limited mobility. Small places aren’t only for energetic, ladder-climbing loft dwellers anymore — and may work well as secondary units, retirement abodes or vacation spots.

Hobbitat's Blue Sky model sports 455 square feet and accommodates disabled visitors or residents. (hobbitatspaces.com)

Hobbitat’s Blue Sky model sports 455 square feet and accommodates disabled visitors or residents. (hobbitatspaces.com)

We’re pleased to shine light on Hobbitat, a tiny house builder which already complies with the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) through its Blue Sky house plans. Hobbitat may be the first tiny builder to do so!

In the Blue Sky home, you'll find a sleeping nook for two which is separate from the great room. (hobbitatspaces.com)

In the Blue Sky home, you’ll find a sleeping nook for two which is separate from the great room. (hobbitatspaces.com)

To accommodate wheelchairs and/or walkers, small homes need to have wider doors and more open living spaces to maneuver around. It may translate into adding a bit of square footage to fit perfectly.

Here;s the Blue Sky great room and kitchen, looking down from a second, lofted sleeping area. (hobbitatspaces.com)

Here’s the Blue Sky great room and kitchen, looking down from a second, lofted sleeping area. (hobbitatspaces.com)

To serve physically limited users, bathroom space becomes more spacious than what’s typically found in a tiny house. Extra bathroom fixtures and wall bars get installed to comply with the ADA.

There's a full-sized bathroom in Blue Sky, likely appreciated by disabled and able-bodied users alike. (hobbitatspaces.com)

There’s a full-sized bathroom in Blue Sky, likely appreciated by disabled and able-bodied users alike. (hobbitatspaces.com)

Hobbitat sells its Blue Sky construction plans ($450) directly. Alternatively you could arrange for the company to build, deliver and place a home on your prepared pier foundation. More information about ordering is here.

LEED certify your small home

As you know, it’s possible to save energy consumption simply by downsizing to a smaller home. You may also consider taking more deliberate steps to build a home that qualifies for LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification.

This one-story FreeGreen home is designed for high energy efficiency, within a roomy 1,356 square feet. (Houseplans.com)

This one-story FreeGreen home is designed for high energy efficiency, within a roomy 1,356 square feet. (Houseplans.com)

Greener house plans

Recently Houseplans acquired FreeGreen due to its current inventory of plans starting at 525 square feet. All the plans feature detailed prerequisites and credits used by LEED-certified builders today.

For a limited time, you’re invited to download a free set of FreeGreen house plans. Eight different styles are available, including the one-story home shown here and four others ranging between 1,000-1,900 square feet.

Inside this one-story FreeGreen home, you'll find a great room, three bedrooms and two baths (Houseplans.com)

In this one-story FreeGreen home, you’ll find a great room, three bedrooms and two baths. (Houseplans.com)

Building and living well

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “LEED homes are built to be healthy, providing clean indoor air and incorporating safe building materials to ensure a comfortable home. Using less energy and water means lower utility bills each month.” There are eight LEED categories:

  1. Innovation & Design (ID) Process – Special design methods, unique regional credits, measures not currently addressed in the Rating System, and exemplary performance levels.
  2. Location & Linkages (LL) – The placement of homes in socially and environmentally responsible ways in relation to the larger community.
  3. Sustainable Sites (SS) – The use of the entire property so as to minimize the project’s impact on the site.
  4. Water Efficiency (WE) – Water conservation practices, both indoor and outdoor.
  5. Energy & Atmosphere (EA) – Energy efficiency, particularly in the building envelope and heating and cooling design.
  6. Materials & Resources (MR) – Efficient utilization of materials, selection of environmentally preferable materials, and minimization of waste during construction.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) – Improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the creation of and exposure to pollutants.
  8. Awareness & Education (AE) – The education of homeowner, tenant, or multifamily building manager about the operations and maintenance of the green features of a LEED Home.

Building to meet certification requirements obviously takes expertise! As you look for a builder or building company, ask if they are credentialed and/or otherwise know a rater who may help you. Any of the LEED certification levels would be a sweet reward for a well-built home.

Or simply knowing you have built to green standards is a good thing, no?

more tiny tv shows, more reality

Tiny houses seem to draw TV audiences, just like they attract traffic online or at open houses. With increasingly mainstream exposure, it’s important to share tiny living realities on screen or online.

Here's a beautiful tiny house from Jamaica Cottage Shop. On Tiny House Nation, this home was built and the challenges of fitting a family were addressed well. (Tiny House Nation video)

Here’s a beautiful tiny house from Jamaica Cottage Shop. On Tiny House Nation, this home was built and the challenges of fitting a family were addressed well. (Tiny House Nation video)

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Tiny House Nation starts filming its second season immediately. A new show, Tiny House Hunting, also begins production. These series air/will air on FYI network, which replaced BIO channel.

FYI producers are pleased that “season one of Tiny House Nation improved the time-period average 37 percent in total viewers and 48 percent among adults 25-54 compared to last year’s BIO Channel average before the rebrand.”

We appreciate that viewers saw many tiny houses and learned about off-grid power, different toilets, kitchen options and multiple-use designs. One glaring omission? Getting municipal approvals and/or permits to live tiny.

Tiny House Nation: What happened

Each episode introduces the downsizers and builds a home quickly. There’s brief coverage on how they are doing now, while our online search finds new challenges after the cameras departed. Here are two examples:

  • 500 Sq. Ft. Rocky Mountain Mansion (video) – After a couple builds a swoon worthy home on the site of their forest-fire destroyed place, they’re stymied by a roof leak and still await their certificate of occupancy.
  • 210 Sq. Ft. Studio Retreat (video) – One young couple is very pleased with their Minim house, though face challenges about where to park and live in a new house on wheels. They want to remain local and advertise for help.

Tiny House Hunters: What matters

Have you seen house-hunter shows? Usually several options are shown and buyers make an offer which gets accepted. There’s some footage after the owners settle into their new place. All is well and good.

Yet with tiny houses built on foundations, issues may arise when owners decide to make any modifications. Compliance with zoning and building codes becomes a local pursuit:

  • Exterior footprint or height changes which violate zoning codes
  • Interior space changes that may not meet old building codes
  • Historic district locations with constraints of all kinds
  • Utility installations, upgrades or changes

Viewers and would-be tiny house buyers deserve as much reality as possible. Post-airing discussions could attract waves of on-demand viewing — and then everyone wins.

name these three buildings

These three buildings pay tribute to houses, though it’s hard to tell their exact functions. After taking a look, identify whether you see an apartment building, hotel or standalone house. (Answers at bottom.)

Holland — Apartments or Hotel?

HOLLAND - Smile at the fanciful building facade, located 10 minutes from Amsterdam's city core. (Dezeen)

HOLLAND – Smile at the fanciful building facade, located 10 minutes from Amsterdam’s city core. (Dezeen)

HOLLAND - Like a mirage, this building rises with hundreds of houses. The picture comes from its 2010 construction. (Dezeen)

HOLLAND – Like a mirage, this building rises with hundreds of house facades. The picture comes from its 2010 construction. (Dezeen)

Cambridge, MA — Apartments or House?

CAMBRIDGE, MA - This modern structure provides privacy yet surprisingly open and light interiors. Is it one or three units? (Archdaily)

CAMBRIDGE, MA – This modern structure provides privacy yet surprisingly open and light interiors. Is it one or three units? (Archdaily)

CAMBRIDGE, MA - This plywood-clad structure includes three slightly rotated and assembled modules. (Archdaily)

CAMBRIDGE, MA – This plywood-clad structure includes three slightly rotated and assembled modules. (Archdaily)

New York City — Apartments or Hotel?

NYC - On the right is a rendering of an approved building in four subtle colors. Can you tell its future use? (nArchitects)

NYC – On the right is a rendering of an approved building, in four subtle colors. Can you tell its future use? (nArchitects)

NYC - During construction, each living space will be assembled by crane. They look like modern tiny homes! (nArchitects)

NYC – During construction, each living space will be assembled by crane. They look like modern tiny homes! (nArchitects)

Answers: (1) Successful Inntel hotel in Holland; (2) Standalone “X-S” house in Cambridge, MA; and (3) Future modular apartment building in New York City.

first time for a recording loft

For the first time, a recording studio loft has been custom-built in a tiny house on wheels. There are sound dampening squares placed on the loft floor and walls, plus an interior window to keep sound from leaving the area.

Let’s see the studio and entire 220 sq. ft. modern home, below.

Here part of the recording studio loft within a tiny house on wheels. The musician at home says he appreciates its acoustics and roomy area to sit, play and record. (Tiny House Nation)

Here’s part of the recording studio loft within a tiny house on wheels. The musician at home says he appreciates its acoustics and roomy area to sit, play and record. (Tiny House Nation)

This modern home, painted an energizing blue, features a sloped roof and plenty of light shining through highly-placed windows. (Tiny House Nation)

This modern home, painted an energizing blue, features a sloped roof and plenty of light shining through highly-placed windows. (Tiny House Nation)

We love the transition, from the chartreuse entry door to the calm seating area. Also notice the bathroom, with herringbone tiling and a traditional tub. (Tiny House Nation)

We love the transition, from the chartreuse entry door to the calm seating area. Also notice the bathroom, with herringbone tiling and a traditional tub. (Tiny House Nation)

It fits: a U-shaped kitchen, sleeping loft and expandable dining table. The table even becomes a quilting zone, with one sewing maching and materials hidden there. (Tiny House Nation)

It fits: a U-shaped kitchen, sleeping loft and expandable dining table. The table even becomes a quilting zone, with one sewing machine and materials hidden there. (Tiny House Nation)

Meet the homeowners, a traveling nurse named Angela and her musician boyfriend Hydrect. They are flanked by Tiny House Nation hosts Zach and John. (Tiny House Nation)

Meet the homeowners, a traveling nurse named Angela and her musician boyfriend Hydrect. They are flanked by Tiny House Nation hosts Zach and John. (Tiny House Nation)

More access: Want video? The Tiny House Nation show offers a video tour that’s free. The “Bohemian Escape” episode may be viewed online via your cable provider here or pay $2.99 to view itunes.

1945 homeless shelter, for $2.5 mm

Yes, a 1945 homeless shelter designed by architect Jean Prouve is available for $2.5 million. With two originals in existence, Gallerie Patrick Seguin priced the early pre-fab like a rare masterwork.

See this 689 square-foot structure get assembled, video here.

Prouve’s shelters were designed for homeless families, whose towns were destroyed during World War II. Surprisingly, they incorporate new construction techniques, materials and other flourishes. Let’s take a closer look at the exterior and interior of our house-for-sale.

Designed 60 years ago, the metal framing and natural wood cladding look modern today. Notice the large glass panels are slightly angled away from house, an interesting touch from architect Prouve. (Patrick Seguin)

Designed 60 years ago, the metal framing and natural wood cladding look modern today. Notice the large glass panels are slightly angled away from the house, an interesting touch from architect Prouve. (Patrick Seguin)

Welcome to the empty interior of the Prouve shelter. Bent steel is used for the load-bearing, axial portal frame system. The architect developed and patented this "demountable" approach in 1938. (Patrick Seguin)

Welcome to the empty interior of the Prouve shelter. Bent steel is used for the load-bearing, axial portal frame system. The architect developed and patented this “demountable” approach in 1938. (Patrick Seguin)

Now staged with a mid-century daybed, desk, chairs, side table and shelves, the Prouve place looks cool. As a post-war shelter, we imagine more spartan decor, sleeping quarters and a small kitchen too. (Patrick Seguin)

Now staged with a mid-century daybed, desk, chairs, side table and shelves, the Prouve place looks cool. As a post-war shelter, we imagine more spartan decor, sleeping quarters and a small kitchen too. (Patrick Seguin)

trending: a not so big house for life

“Currently we think of the house as a place for living to take place in,” says architect and author Sarah Susanka in today’s Wall Street Journal (preview). “Our future house will be a place for accessing the world around us.”

Architect Sarah Susanka began sharing ideas about not-so-big houses during the late 1990s. Her concepts and designs have picked up steam ever since, as people seek to right-size their homes and lives. (Sarah Susanka)

Architect Sarah Susanka began sharing ideas about not-so-big houses during the late 1990s. Her concepts and designs have picked up steam ever since, as people seek to right-size their homes and lives. (Sarah Susanka)

When considering the future, Susanka moves beyond having highly functional and well-designed spaces. She also envisions a not-so-big house which fully supports our expanding lives:

  • Refuge – real beauty to “feed the soul”
  • Ease – interconnected “devices, appliances and control systems”
  • Longevity – needs met today and “for the long haul”
This North Carolina mountain home reveals a jewel box entry that's defined, open and calm. Architects Sarah Susanka and Tina Govan received a 2013 Fine Homebuilding finalist award for the refuge. (Fine Homebuilding)

This North Carolina mountain home reveals a jewel box entry that’s defined, open and calm. Architects Sarah Susanka and Tina Govan received a 2013 Fine Homebuilding finalist award for the refuge. (Fine Homebuilding)

The good news? Smaller-sized living is already seen as a viable option. In a 2013 Gallup poll, one-third of surveyed homeowners said they would move within 10 years. Of these movers, some 47% would buy smaller, 32% buy bigger, 13% rent, 2% buy the same size, and 6% had no opinion.

Surely there are financial, environmental, lifestyle or life stage considerations influencing U.S. homeowner plans. What’s interesting is that nearly half of would-be sellers plan to reduce their primary living spaces. Are you part of this group?

7/10/14 Update: For readers asking about the North Carolina mountain home beyond the entry area, it does feature Sarah Susanka’s principles writ large. Designed for a retired couple and their frequent visitors, the not-so-tiny place showcases efficiency, flow, comfort and nature.

North Carolina Exterior - This refuge honors nature and gets nestled into its setting by incorporating log, cabin, Prairie and Japanese house style elements. With extensive glass windows, the place looks inviting from a small hill. (Fine Homebuilding)

North Carolina Exterior – This refuge honors nature and gets nestled into its setting by incorporating log, cabin, Prairie and Japanese house style elements. With extensive glass windows, the place looks inviting from a small hill. (Fine Homebuilding)

North Carolina Interior - See the spacious and main gathering area, which remains wide open to nature. There's no need to over emphasize decor when trees and lake views become focal points for the entire space. (Fine Homebuilding)

North Carolina Interior – See the spacious and main gathering area, which remains wide open to nature. There’s no need to over emphasize decor when trees and lake views become focal points for the entire space. (Fine Homebuilding)