Build Small

A Tiny House Whirlwind

Christian Parsons of  Tiny House Expedition  snapped this shot of the Tiny House Conference.

Christian Parsons of Tiny House Expedition snapped this shot of the Tiny House Conference.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of tiny house events on both coasts! Four weeks ago today I was headed to the East Coast for Tiny House 101 in DC. Three weeks ago today I was on my way to Vermont to teach Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow. During the 2-week course we constructed the shell of a tiny house on wheels for a fellow named Nick who, at 26 years old, is super clever about establishing housing stability and flexibility. I wish I had been so wise at that age! During the evenings we had studio time to explore tiny house design considerations and students worked on creating their own tiny house designs. If you'd like a sense of the day-by-day flow of this course, you can check out previous posts about Tiny House Design-Build.

We wrapped up there a week ago tomorrow and I flew across the country again to be back home in time to speak at the Tiny House Conference, which was in Portland this year. I've been at all four of the Tiny House Conferences now and it's neat how it alternates between the East Coast and the West Coast. I spoke about Tiny House Community on Saturday and then facilitated the Open Space session on Sunday. During the rest of the time I joined Track C, a new addition to the Conference this year for those of us who are already living or building tiny. It was fun to have conversations about the future of the movement and to swap stories of our biggest mistakes! The Conference is always a great opportunity to connect with fascinating folks from all over the place and I look forward to hearing updates about people's tiny house journeys!

On Monday BA Norrgard and I led a Tiny House Community & Zoning Workshop through the Tiny House Collaborative. We explored various tiny house community models, discussed zoning challenges and opportunities, and laid out some steps (and tips) for creating tiny house community. We were fortunate to have an awesome venue at the Cully Grove Common House so we were able to talk about creating community in the community living room of a very cool community! We also had some special guests join us, including Alexis Deharts Stephens of Tiny House Expedition who (along with her partner Christian) has probably visited every tiny house community in the country! We also had a panel discussion with four community members from two different tiny cohousing communities in Portland. Thanks again, Tony, Karin, Lori and Kyra! It was fun to show people our tiny house community and to have Pam Westra show off three of the tinies at Tiny Digs, Portland's other tiny house hotel. (I've written about Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel in the past and I love that tiny houses are so popular in Portland that we now have TWO tiny house hotels!)

On Tuesday I attended the Build Small Coalition meeting, which is a reconvened group previously dubbed the Space-Efficient Housing Working Group. This is Portland's collection of professionals working to support tiny houses, ADUs, micro apartments, and other space-efficient creative housing solutions. It was great to see familiar faces and hear their updates as well as meeting new folks who are taking on neat projects. I look forward to seeing what we accomplish this coming year!  I have a hunch it's going to be another big year for small homes!

Small Home Weekend Wrap Up

Tiny-Houses-on-Park-Blocks-Fur.jpg

tiny house on Portland's Park Blocks during Build Small, Live Large Summit What an action-packed weekend it was for little houses!

On Friday I enjoyed visiting with other small home advocates and enthusiasts from all across the country at the Build Small, Live Large Summit. Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute and Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings laid the scene perfectly in their Keynote Address: The Power of Small. I especially appreciated that Alan’s point that small housing is so often illegal and his encouragement to think really BIG about how we can move forward housing options that are better for people, communities, and natural environments. It was hard to pick between the concurrent sessions, but I’m glad I went to the one about demographic shifts and housing trends because it was really interesting learning about how certain trends (towards smaller households, larger homes, longer lives, delayed marriage and childbearing, increased desire for walkability, etc.) are impacting housing choices.

The five panelists for the Space-Efficient Housing Policy Round Table (Eli Spevak, Jean-Pierre Veillet, Danell Norby, Liz Getty, and Rachel Ginis) did an excellent job describing the regulatory challenges they face in their daily work as they attempt to create small homes. They also presented clever solutions to address or work around these challenges and we left the audience with Tangible Ways You Can Support Space-Efficient Housing.

The Courtyard Clusters session with my heroes Ross Chapin, Mark Lakeman, and Eli Spevak was full of incredible ideas and images. I tried frantically (and failed miserably) to capture the poetry of how smart land use creates sustainable community. I also learned new words like “pre-legal” which I have already begun employing. (Thanks, Mark!)

The Best of Small Design Slam was fabulous, too. As he was ducking out at the end of Mark Lakeman’s presentation, Mayor Charlie Hales leaned over to me and said: “I know a vacancy coming up soon and that guy would be a good candidate to fill it!” I completely agree, Mayor Hales.

On Saturday Eli and I both lead Guided ADU Tours with 14 participants, showing them a great line-up of accessory dwellings. Many of the people in my group are considering creating an ADU on their own property so they had lots of questions about the ins and outs of the upcoming Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments and the impacts of Multnomah County’s new method for assessing property values on properties with detached ADUs. It poured down rain all day, so we ended up soaked, but morale remained high as we went to as many ADUs as we could fit in.

That evening we celebrated Simply Home Community’s 1 Year Anniversary with a party at our place. It’s always fun to get our friends together to mix and mingle. We hosted little parties in our tiny houses (at one point I had 17 people in The Lucky Penny!) as well as activities in the Big House. And, of course, we had singing and s’mores around the bonfire to wrap up the night.

Yesterday during our Simply Home Work Party we donned our rain coats and put our garden to bed. (Amazing how much we can get done quickly when working together!) Then Jake, Isha and I hunkered down at Bison Coffeehouse in the rainstorm to work through our Tiny House Considerations Lesson & Challenge for Week 2. (Since I've fallen in love with The Guy Next Door, I'm going through the same process of scheming a tiny house as the other participants in the E-Course!) We had a great conference call for Week 2 of the Tiny House Considerations E-Course and I look forward to sharing the Lesson and Challenge for Week 3 because it’s full of fun design exercises so participants can consider what’s most important to them. The bell rang for Community Dinner just as the conference call wrapped up, so we trooped inside for one of Lindsey’s fabulous meals. Our Heart Meeting after supper focused on capturing our Values in preparation for upcoming conversations about Vision and Mission.

If my weekends are going to be so full, I'm glad that they're full of great things and wonderful people! With a good breakfast in my belly (fried green tomatoes from yesterday’s garden harvest) I’m ready for a brand new week! Happy Monday, everyone!

Small Home Weekend in Portland

This weekend is jam-packed with small house events! Some folks are even referring to it as Tinypalooza! Build Small Live LargeThe Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, Nov 6th will take place at Portland State University. I'm moderating the Space Efficient Housing Policy Roundtable, which includes a great line-up of panelists. On Saturday and Sunday Dee Williams' company Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) is leading a Tiny House Basics Weekend Workshop.

OADU Tourn Saturday, I'll be leading a Guided ADU Tour, showing off 11 fabulous ADUs in Portland. I've lead Guided ADU Tours a couple times now and they're always a blast. This one should be, too, because the ADUs on this tour are beautiful and use lots of clever space-saving tips which I get to point out. Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project the past two years has been a fabulous experience! I've learned a great deal about the challenges related to ADUs as well as the creative solutions homeowners, designers, and builders have developed. It will be fun to share these tips, tricks, and cautions with the group of people joining me for the tour. My guided tour is sold out, but you can still Register for the ADU Tour and take yourself on a self-guided tour. If you can't make it, keep reading the ADU Case Studies to learn about how other people have created second dwellings to create community, housing flexibility, and additional income.

TandemFinally, on Sunday Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel is hosting a Tiny House Tour and they've asked me to be there. It's always fun showing off Tandem, the tiny house I helped finish out for Orange Splot when I had my Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building.

I look forward to the chance to geek out with so many other small home lovers this weekend. Will you be there? If so, what are you most excited about?

Build Small was BIG!

The first ever Build Small, Live Large Summit was a big success! Approximately 300 people attended the conference on Friday, October 26th at Portland State University, which was hosted by Cascadia Green Building Council.

As Jordan Palmeri introduced the summit he described the DEQ study that showed building small is our single greatest green building strategy. Jordan explained that the study results inspired the Accessory Dwellings website and formation of the Space Efficient Housing Workgroup, which includes folks like Eli Spevak of Orange Splot and Kol Peterson of PDX ADU. I've been privileged to be part of this group for the past year as we've discussed ways to mainstream small as a sustainability strategy. Coordinating the Build Small, Live Large Summit was a big step in the right direction.

Ross Chapin presented a fantastic keynote address about how pocket neighborhoods have caught on as people seek a balance of community and a little place of their own. The rest of the sessions addressed challenges to building small, financing small spaces, and design tricks for maximizing small spaces.

I was delighted to be among the presenters as I shared the stage with Derin Williams of UrbaNest Northwest and Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwelling for the Biggie Smalls: The Notorious Tiny House session, which explored radical smallness. We had a great time sharing our stories and responding to the audiences questions and comments.

You can sign up for meeting notifications of Oregon DEQ’s Space Efficient Housing Workgroup by sending an email indicating your interest to Jordan Palmeri. You can also read Kol's perspective on the Summit in his blog post on the Accessory Dwellings website.

Three cheers for small houses! Hip, hip, hooray!

Build Small, Live Large Summit

A couple years ago Jordan Palmeri of the Department of Environmental Quality conducted research exploring the effectiveness of various green building strategies. The research was discussed in an Ecotrope article featuring My Summer Garden Cottage as a case study. It will likely come as no surprise to any of you that building small was the single most effective way to conserve energy and resources. But this “finding” has profound implications for our country’s building industry. Our society has committed to the bigger is better mantra. It’s created a mess of our finances, requiring unsustainable resource extraction, and supported sprawling development patterns that make us unhealthy. But reversing this trend is like swimming upstream.

Fortunately here in Portland we’re gaining critical mass. Jordan rallied a group of people to discuss ways to support what he calls space-efficient housing. Through my internship with Orange Splot, LLC I connected with the working group and I’ve been helping out here and there as the working group created the Build Small, Live Large Summit. The summit has been coordinated by Nicholas Hartrich of Cascadia Green Building Council and it will take place on Friday, October 26th at Portland State University. Dee Williams, Derin Williams, and I will be presenting in a session called Biggie Smalls: The Notorious Tiny House. We hope you can join us!

A Year of Little Living

moving into the tiny house a year ago Somehow it's already been nearly a year since I moved into a 121 square foot tiny house on wheels and wrote my first blog post: The Tiny House Adventure Begins. And what a year it's been!

This afternoon I was a virtual guest speaker for the Tiny House Design-Build Class at Yestermorrow and this evening I had a great conversation with my friend Derin about building tiny houses. Both of these got me thinking about how many amazing tiny opportunities I've had over the past year.

Through my internship with Orange Splot I coordinated the Pedalpalooza Accessory Dwellings and Tiny House Bike Tours and wrote several guest posts for AccessoryDwellings.org. Eli also connected me with the Space Efficient Housing Working Group and we've helped to plan the upcoming Build Small, Live Large Summit. I'll be presenting a session about tiny houses with Dee Williams of PAD Tiny Houses and Derin Williams of UrbaNest Northwest.

Tiny House Potluck

Speaking of Dee Williams, she helped me connect with other tiny housers in the area and our contacts spiderwebbed out from there. In the process I have met lots of great folks who are building, designing, living in, or dreaming about tiny houses. We've now had several potlucks and created the Portland Tiny Houses Facebook group and the Tiny House Network Google group. I've profiled A Tiny House Truck, A Tiny Natural House, and Advanced Fort Construction. We've chatted about the joys and challenges of the Little Life and helped each other with designing, building, troubleshooting, tiny house moves, and sharing resources and infromation. Dee also invited Brittany Yunker and I to participate in the Portland Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in June. I am extremely grateful to both Brittany and Dee for helping me to make these connections with other amazing tiny housers.

going whole hog on a tiny house build

Over spring break I had the chance to help a friend built the shell of her Tiny Barn and I apprenticed with Orange Splot for My Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design Building. In July we got Brittany's Tiny House On the Road again and I lived in an ADU which I dubbed My Summer Garden Cottage. I spent my days Going Whole Hog on the Tiny House, working on Tiny House Insulation, Roofing, and Interior Walls. The tiny house was featured on the Build it Green (BIG) Tour in September. I was able to use these design-building experiences as my practicum project for my Certificate in Sustainable Design and Building at Yestermorrow Design Build School in Vermont.

home, sweet yurt

I've been interviewed by journalism students for OR Magazine, by newspapers like the Portland Tribune, by a Canadian TV station, and by Vermont Public Radio. I'm also scheduled to do an interview with my friend John for  Portlandia's The Real Portland. Meanwhile, I've considered a plethora of tiny house issues such as Tiny Home Improvement, Shrinky-Dink PorchesTop 10 Reasons to Pick An Envi Heater, Creative Tiny House Storage Solutions, why Tiny Houses Turn Their Backs on the Street, and Tiny House Insurance (or lack thereof).

Now I'm Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House and, inspired by the 100 Thing Challenge, I'm currently Inventorying & Packing Up so that I can embark upon My Things Challenge. For the next school year I'll be living in a 113 square foot yurt in inner Portland, so the tiny adventures will continue. Thanks for following along everyone. Here's to another great year of the Little Life!