The housing crisis – aren’t you sick of hearing about it? Well, many Australians are sicking of living it, personally. It’s no secret that housing in Australia is becoming prohibitively expensive, and more difficult for the younger generations to buy into. As we wait for the pollies to stop bickering about negative gearing, stamp duty and superannuation, some keen manufacturers and DIY junkies are coming up with their own solutions. Enter stage left—the flat-pack home.
Flat-pack: From furniture to humble abode
Ah, flat-packs. Causing household arguments circa 1950, and still going strong. A trip down to your local IKEA can see you trundling home with a wagon full of flat-pack goodies and a head full of hopes for the future. If you manage to remain sane beyond the allen key-fiddling and wrong-piece fitting of your furniture-building endeavours, you’ll find yourself the proud new owner of an affordable set of bookshelves or side tables. Now, the same can be said for houses!
Australian architect, Alex Symes has created a flat-pack home which he says anyone can construct. Describing it as ‘IKEA on steroids’ Alex’s objective was to tackle the housing affordability crisis, while pursuing sustainability. With nothing more than a wrench, a hammer and a drill, you can put together one of these 13.75m2 homes yourself, and for the bargain cost of $65,000.
Big World Homes (pun intended?), of which Symes is the founder, aim to create ‘Big World communities’ which people can live in, while they save up for a traditional home, or else live in a more sustainable and flexible curated community. As architect Tim Horton explains:
“This is happening around the world. WikiHouse chapters occur in every state of Australia. Big in the US. Big in the UK,” he said. “Big World Homes in some ways is Australia’s answer to this—a home-grown version.”
You can check out their video, from ABC here.
The Tiny House movement
If you’ve taken but a fleeting glance at Pinterest lately, you’ll surely have happened upon the tiny house movement. Small, transportable homes which are self-sufficient and adorable are taking off as a phenomenon around the world. Shedding the stigma of a caravan, and creating bespoke works of miniature housing art, tiny homes are hippy DIY heaven. They’re also a very real solution for many who have trouble entering the traditional housing market, or want to enjoy a moveable, flexible, or off-the-grid lifestyle.
Some purport that the tiny house movement began during the depression, when materials and cash were both hard to come by. During times of economic unrest, low employment and increasing populations, the world has often responded with more affordable, smaller options for home-builders. The tiny house movement of the 21st century is both an answer to housing crises near and far, as well as an exciting project for the DIY die-hards among us; and companies are getting on board!
In 2011, a couple of blokes from a London-based design agency got together to begin a project which would bring Creative Commons-licensed content on building to the public. With a heavy focus on resource-light and sustainable development, WikiHouse is now a global enterprise, with chapters popping up all over the world. Via the WikiHouse site, punters can download and customise housing designs, and even get tips and advice from other builders.
According to their website:
“WikiHouse is an open source project to reinvent the way we make homes. It is being developed by architects, designers, engineers, inventors, manufacturers and builders, collaborating to develop the best, simplest, most sustainable, high-performance building technologies, which anyone can use and improve. Our aim is for these technologies to become new industry standards; the bricks and mortar of the digital age.”
Another exciting development in the housing industry comes to us from the realm of 3D printing. We’ve seen vast and rapid developments in the capabilities of 3D printing over recent years (not all of them for the greater good). Now, the technology has made its way into home building, with the advent of 3D-printed homes and house parts.
A Minnesota man recently built his own 3D printer, capable of printing in concrete; and subsequently went on to print his own castle! You can check out the article, and his video here.
Another private firm in Shanghai managed to print ten basic houses in only 24 hours, using a mixture of repurposed construction waste and concrete. The houses will be used as offices for the time being, however the project just goes to show the incredible possibilities posed by 3D printing technology. As the technology advances even further, we will see more sustainable materials being used (or recycled as the case may be), as well as the design parameters being expanded to be more flexible.
If you’re a bit beyond owning your own 3D printer of this magnitude just yet, and don’t have a spare $65,000 to purchase a flat-packed house, don’t lose heart. There is a plethora of information online to help you construct your very own tiny house, at a size to suit your budget and needs. As well as WikiHouse, YouTube can be an excellent resource for tips as well as trial-and-error solutions discovered by other DIY-ers.
What do I need?
First and foremost, you need a trailer which is strong enough to support the load. There are plenty of forums online which can help you out with the maths, if you’re not sure about that aspect. The trailer can be the most expensive piece of the entire build, so be sure to choose or build one which is going to support the dimensions and weight of your tiny house.
Next, you’ll need your building materials—most likely for a wooden frame and inside fitout. Frame building is another area for which you can find tonnes of helpful information from those who have done it before. Check out The Tiny Life for ideas, plans, tips and tricks on all aspects of tiny house building.
Your inside furnishing—probably the most fun aspect of the whole project—is more flexible than any other area of the house project. Soft furnishings, cabinets, wallpaper, the possibilities are endless. Pinterest is once again, your friend here. If you’ve never discovered the world of endless possibility that is the Pinterest universe, well…you’ve been missing out, my friend. Get online. Get an account. Start searching ‘furnish my tiny house’ and thank me later.
Check out this video of the folks from The SHED building their own tiny house (albeit, a fairly epic one) from start to finish, in time-lapse. Happy house hunting!