Smaller homes are they the next big thing

Tiny House movement

The smaller house movement began in earnest In 1997 with the publication of “The Not So Big House” by Sara Susanka. The small house movement isn’t just about cost – though that’s part of it. It’s about the environment, about the need to use less energy, to decrease one’s “carbon footprint”.  It’s about shedding “stuff” and about authenticity.

This idea of living with only what you need is not new.  It can be traced back to tHenry David Thoreau whose famous cabin on Walden Pond. This might be called the prototype for the modern small house. The notion of a more modest way of living remerged in the “back to the land” ethos of the 1960’s hippie movement. And, It was eloquently articulated in the widely influential book “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Shumacher. Published as America was entering the “energy crisis” in 1973, “Small is Beautiful” stood in stark contrast to the “bigger is better” philosophy.

Definition of a small house

A small house is is defined as being a 1000 square feet or less. As of 2012 the average cost of such a home was between $20,000 to $50,000. Such narrow confines and limited budgets require ingenuity and creative design skills. These small homes have sparked a spate of innovations including unique approaches to heating, cooling and waste removal. Utilizing vertical space to maximize storage and technologies such as flat panel heaters, are ways architects have leveraged the limited available space. Many of these houses are so small that they are on wheels. This allows for easy transportation from one location to another.

Challenges to smaller homes

While the aesthetics of a simple life and living small are quickly capturing the imagination of many Americans, there are still some hurtles to be overcome before moving in. Depending on where you live, it’s unlikely that you can simply place a small house on land you own without going through your local zoning board. Zoning laws and building codes will need to be modified to provide true legal status to these new dwellings as a primary abode.

It’s hard to imagine people abandoning their large home for these small houses. But there are other factors that may make such a transition more attractive. The older population of baby boomers are looking to downsize. There is also a growing number of single person households in America. Rising energy costs and the availability of smaller lots may make smaller homes a true alternative in the coming years.

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