Touring websites, sub divisions, and housing developments one comes away with a feeling that living large in a MacMansion, grandiose homes, and mini castles that tout themselves as being “green” – size does not matter. Build the house to withstand cold winters and the summer blazing sun is all that matters. What really seems to matter is keeping up or at least slightly ahead of your neighbors, family and friends. They have a parlor, formal living room, recreation room, or built in gym/tennis court and so should we. The builder responds and tries to fill the dreams of the buyer, and build the home to code for as cheaply as possible, because we want it all! The house has to have a certain amount of glass/natural daylight, the attic has to be an R40 or better, and the house must breathe or have an air exchanger. What happens is that we have built a very large, inefficient home that wastes a lot of energy, money, and is not “green” They are mini castles or “starter “castles and really do not meet the green criteria, and should not even have been built under a green standard. To be built totally green, as a tiny house can be, would drive up the costs so astronomically that none would buy one, even in a prosperous market. And builders and industry think that by throwing a few “green” items at it, it is now green. They are almost right, they are – greenwashing!
So what is the big deal if someone uses some energy? Well here are some figures to think on.
Let us make some assumptions about this home;
It is 4000 square feet, has 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, Master bedroom, master bath, guest bedroom, guest bath, a formal living room, a formal dining room, large foyer and is considered green. How can it be considered a green single family home when it only houses 2 people?
The house costs approximately $479,000 and to heat/cool runs around $3,600 annually. It is a relatively highly efficient home. Traditional homes such as this one lump all the rooms and costs into one structure. That can help save energy if all the rooms are used a lot of the time. However, just the opposite is true!
For instance; the living room that is never used, consumes approximately $36,000 of the mortgage and 7% of the heat/cooling. The Formal dining room that is rarely used consumes $29,000 of the mortgage and 6% of the heating/cooling costs. The master suite that is used 29% of the time consumes $44,000 of the mortgage and 9% of the heating/cooling costs. The guest bedroom and bath which is used rarely, let us say .005% of the time consumes $27,000 of the mortgage and 7% of the energy to heat/cool. Furthermore, the air currents from the furnace and AC running deposit dust particles in all the rooms which required energy to clean them…and some of the rooms were not used.
Even the master suite, the most used room, is still vacant 71% of the time! This says that for every $100 dollars spent to heat and cool the room $71 was wasted! For the formal dining and living room, well, for every $100 spent, $100 was wasted! Can you imagine if you could save all that wasted money and spend it on something you really liked, maybe a Alaskan cruise, a romantic vacation on a secluded island, or pay for your car with CASH!
Or a tiny house!
A tiny house uses a different set of rules, and that is subtractive design, the systematic elimination of all that does not contribute to the intended function of a compostion, in other words taking out all the stuff that is not needed; formal dining room, living room, halls, large closets, etc. and finding the essentials. What this means is that tiny houses are created for dual and often multi-purposes functions. And just by being small, they create a smaller carbon footprint. Another benefit by being small, one can really use a lot of green technology, and materials, and still have funds left over for adding character. They do not break the bank and they do not leave you house poor!
Can a Tiny House on a trailer meet the green standard? Not in Minnesota! It can meet all but one standard and that is location. For by being mobile it can never be evaluated, and by being mobile it uses a vehicle to pull it, therefore has a negative carbon footprint and can never earn the states green stamp.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new single-family American residence in 1950 was 983 square feet. Today, it is nearly 2500 square feet. As home sizes ballooned over that time, family size shrank. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1950, an average American family consisted of 3.8 people; today’s average family contains 2.6 people.
These figures prove how inefficiently we use our resources when we build homes with such drastically disproportionate size-to-occupant ratios. Instead, as we go forward, we must adhere to a stricter code of square-footage-per-person, particularly when we speak of green projects.