Hold Me Closer Tiny Builder

Hold Me Closer Tiny Builder

Design and style are the focus of most articles on the tiny house trend. But what about the technology that keeps these tiny homes running?

Although a tiny house (defined as under 1,000 square feet for this article) uses a lot less energy than an average sized home (2,600 square feet in 2013 according to the Census Bureau), it still needs electricity, water and heat. If it’s on a foundation, it needs to meet local code requirements.

Despite being called “tiny” homes, some of them aren’t that tiny. “I’ve found that people love the concept of tiny houses, but they really don’t want tiny-tiny… people are just wanting smaller than what they have,” says architect Arielle Schechter, whose “Micropolis” home plans have become a popular part of her business in Chapel Hill, NC.

Her micro-homes start at 450 square feet and expand to 1,500 square feet, a significant down-sizing for people living in 3,000 square foot homes. Schechter’s smallest design is the “Tadpole” at 450-square feet with a detached 160-square-foot office or studio. She’d eventually like to build a small neighborhood of tiny homes.

“These small houses can be so much more livable than the vast, cavernous mansions where you don’t use 40 percent of the space and it feels wrong to leave those rooms unused; it grates against people,” Schechter says of her designs.

Millennials have the most interest in the trend. “They think this is a really cool way to live and want to make a healthier environment by having less of a footprint.”

But Schechter says the idea is also appealing to retirees. “They don’t want a lot of upkeep anymore,” she says. “Why should you pay to heat and cool those spaces if you’re not using them? Just make things more efficient and smaller.”

Heating and Cooling a Tiny Space

A conditioning energy recovery ventilator, or CERV, by Build Equinox, ventilates Schechter's Micropolis homes.
A conditioning energy recovery ventilator, or CERV, by Build Equinox, ventilates Schechter’s Micropolis homes.

Schechter focuses on making her all of homes as efficient as possible, working with builders to design net-zero homes in the Chapel Hill area. Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with living efficiently.

“I think it’s easier to hit net-zero with a tiny house for so many reasons.” One of her tiny homes only needed a 2.3 kW solar panel array to generate enough energy to meet net-zero requirements.

Schechter uses mini splits to heat and cool her micro-homes, but the real challenge in Chapel Hill is the humidity.

Quick Hit: Passive House Goes High Tech

“Our summers are horrible. We get 100 degree days that are 90 percent humidity. It’s almost unbearable,” she says. “We’ve been putting in ERVs and CERV [conditioning energy recovery ventilation] systems that monitor humidity as well. They cost about $5,000 but that’s something that’s beneficial in our climate.”

A two-burner cooktop, like this induction cooktop by True Induction, fits ideally in a tiny house, but not every tiny home buyer wants to without a four-burner stove.
A two-burner cooktop, like this induction cooktop by True Induction, fits ideally in a tiny house, but not every tiny home buyer wants to without a four-burner stove.

A Kitchen with a Place for Everything

The small size is the major appeal of the tiny home, but people (particularly Baby Boomers looking to downsize) still don’t want to give up comfort.

“They really want their tiny house to have the luxuries and comforts of a big house,” she says.

The kitchen is one place where wants collide with size, but there are some solutions. Schechter’s most popular design the “Little Ant” has an 8-foot by 8-foot kitchen inspired by boat galleys, where there’s a place for everything. “Everything has a place and things have dual functions. It has some pull-out surfaces, and if somebody wants a little more luxurious kitchen, I try to give them a little baking island.”

Schechter recommends double unit cooktops, separate oven and an under-counter refrigerator. She can also design a kitchen for a full range and hood, a dishwasher and full refrigerator.

“I build in as much storage as I can, but it’s not like a large American house where you have tons of pantry space. You’re probably going to have to go shopping a little bit more and bring home fresher things.”

Eating healthier, saving energy, and living smaller. Good things do come in small packages.

5 Tiny Home Designs and Floor Plans

[nextpage title=”Butterfly Cottage” img=”11630″]

Butterfly Cottage

Architect Arielle Schechter's Micropolis homes are designed to be energy and space efficient. Most of her designs are under 1,000 square feet. This is the 981-square-foot Butterfly Cottage.
Architect Arielle Schechter’s Micropolis homes are designed to be energy and space efficient. Most of her designs are under 1,000 square feet. This is the 981-square-foot Butterfly Cottage.

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[nextpage title=”Corten Cottage” img=”11631″]

Corten Cottage

Architect Arielle Schechter's Micropolis homes are designed to be energy and space efficient. Most of her designs are under 1,000 square feet. This is the 1,197 square foot Corten Cottage.
Architect Arielle Schechter’s Micropolis homes are designed to be energy and space efficient. Most of her designs are under 1,000 square feet. This is the 1,197 square foot Corten Cottage.

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[nextpage title=”Corten Cottage First Floor” img=”11639″]

Corten Cottage First Floor

The 1,197 square foot Corten Cottage features two floors of living space.
Architect Arielle Schechter’s Micropolis homes are designed to be energy and space efficient. Most of her designs are under 1,000 square feet. This is the 1,197 square foot Corten Cottage, which features two floors.

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[nextpage title=”Corten Cottage Second Floor” img=”11640″]

Corten Cottage Second Floor

The second floor of the Corten Cottage design by Chapel Hill architect Arielle Schechter.
The second floor of the Corten Cottage design by Chapel Hill architect Arielle Schechter.

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[nextpage title=”Little Ant” img=”11637″]

Little Ant

Architect Arielle Schechter's Little Ant design was inspired by ants. "A Little Ant can be a lot more useful and easier to care for than a wasteful mansion!"
Architect Arielle Schechter’s Little Ant design was inspired by ants. “A Little Ant can be a lot more useful and easier to care for than a wasteful mansion!”

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[nextpage title=”Little Ant Floor Plan” img=”11636″]

Little Ant Floor Plan

How does everything fit in a tiny home? By careful planning on the architect's side and a willingness to do with less on the buyer's part. The Little Ant design is 785 square feet.
How does everything fit in a tiny home? By careful planning on the architect’s side and a willingness to do with less on the buyer’s part. The Little Ant design is 785 square feet.

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[nextpage title=”Tadpole Floor Plan” img=”11638″]

Tadpole Floor Plan

Schechter’s smallest design is the “Tadpole” at 450-square feet with a detached 160-square-foot office or studio.
Schechter’s smallest design is the “Tadpole” at 450-square feet with a detached 160-square-foot office or studio.

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[nextpage title=”Moddie’s Mod House” img=”11641″]

Moddie’s Mod House

Modie's Mod Micropolis House was envisioned as a "living palette" where homeowners can change the material or colors based on preference to make it suited to your individuality, which is what many tiny home buyers want. Schechter says this model is "slightly rebellious and would not get along with the home owners' association in a fancy development, but that is why we like it!"
Modie’s Mod Micropolis House was envisioned as a “living palette” where homeowners can change the material or colors based on preference to make it suited to your individuality, which is what many tiny home buyers want. Schechter says this model is “slightly rebellious and would not get along with the home owners’ association in a fancy development, but that is why we like it!”

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[nextpage title=”Moddie’s Mod House” img=”11642″]

Moddie’s Mod House

Modie's Mod Micropolis House was envisioned as a "living palette" where homeowners can change the material or colors based on preference to make it suited to your individuality, which is what many tiny home buyers want.
Modie’s Mod Micropolis House was envisioned as a “living palette” where homeowners can change the material or colors based on preference to make it suited to your individuality, which is what many tiny home buyers want.

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[nextpage title=”Little Paws Micropolis House” img=”11635″]

Little Paws Micropolis House

The Little Paws Micropolis House is 1,059 square feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a great room including kitchen, dining and living rooms, a screened porch, and lots of deck space. Plans for the basic home cost $3,200.
The Little Paws Micropolis House is 1,059 square feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a great room including kitchen, dining and living rooms, a screened porch, and lots of deck space. Plans for the basic home cost $3,200.

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About The Author

Casey Meserve is a TecHome Builder Staff Writer, creating investigative and timely articles for its eMagazine and Special Reports. She graduated from Bridgewater State University with a master’s degree in English in 2011. She began her writing career in 2005 as a reporter for Community Newspaper Company and later GateHouse Media. From 2010 to 2013, she worked as an editor at AOL Patch.

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