Dr. Page’s Cube Project

I have been bombarded by readers asking me to share the Cube Project and somehow it keeps getting put off. I am finally getting to it and it may be old news buy now, but I find this design to be quite attractive and a good example of space put to maximum use.

The Cube Project which is currently on display in St. Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival is an initiative of Dr. Mike Page of the University of Hertfordshire.

Cube Photographed by Allan MacDonald

Dr. Page set out to build a home for one person that measures 3 x 3 x 3 meters on the inside, is fully modern, comfortable, and has minimum impact on the environment. The Cube is the result of his experiment. I personally think he did quite well, though some on the internet have called it a glorified cell. I disagree.

What are your thoughts? How would you improve on his design?

A tour of the Cube from Mike Page on Vimeo.

Cube Interior Photograph by Allan MacDonald

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Teleia - May 18, 2011 Reply

I don’t think it’s a glorified cell at all. In fact, it’s the opposite; a cell is all empty space. This cube uses every inch for some purpose, and the stairs are ingenious. I find it to be very attractive and would love to tour one.

Before I’d seriously consider building one, I’d want to try out the stair system. When I’m 85, I want to know that I’ll be able to navigate about without falling and breaking a hip!

    alice - May 18, 2011 Reply

    I have 2 really bad knees and those stairs would be tough since I have to go one step at a time like a baby. If there isn’t room for 2 feet on each step it won’t work for me. Otherwise I love those stairs, but if you have to go up the way I do they may not work.

    alice - May 18, 2011 Reply

    I have 2 really bad knees and those stairs would be tough since I have to go one step at a time like a baby. If there isn’t room for 2 feet on each step it won’t work for me. Otherwise I love those stairs, but if you have to go up the way I do they may not work. I’m hoping to figure out a simple, safe and comfy hand cranked sling seat for getting up and down inside and outside.

      Donna - May 18, 2011 Reply

      These steps with added handholds would be easier than the typical free-standing ladder to a loft that most designs have.

        alice - May 18, 2011 Reply

        I can get up and down a ladder just fine, if slowly, moving one foot at a time with both ending up on the same rung in between lifting movements. On offset stairs I would need to be able to walk up the ‘normal’ way, alternating steps, which I can’t do any more. I can only lift myself up with my right leg, not my left. Coming down is easier, especially in a narrow stair with handholds on both sides, like a companionway on a boat. The steepness of a ladder or stairway doesn’t make as much difference as the height of the step for my knees. I don’t know if every body with bad knees has the same problem. If both of your knees can lift you’re fine, if neither one, you won’t climb either stairs or ladder very well. Regular ladder rungs are adequate handholds, though a wider rung is more comfortable for your feet.

Anne B - May 18, 2011 Reply

I find much to love here! The cork flooring, stairs with storage, chairs/table arrangement, raised floor for upper level, solar panels, composting toilet with reed bed for gray water. All things I want to use in my tiny house.
In SE Arizona I will be concerned with cooling. Putting the bed at a dead end higher than the kitchen (with no visible windows for ventilation) invites stale odors and hot air to linger there. I would put windows at strategic locations for cross ventilation. And south facing window with overhang so as not to miss out on passive winter heating. Otherwise, I really like it!

    Jeff - September 14, 2011 Reply

    you can’t have anything on the south wall because it’s covered with solar panels (although not in the prototype on display at the edinburgh science festival). hopefully no stale smells from the kitchen should be there because of the air cleaning cooker hood. i would have a problem with the heat as well though. i need it to be cold when i sleep.

robin yates - May 18, 2011 Reply

very innovative but no mention of cost.

Baram Avraham - May 18, 2011 Reply

Hardly surprising that so many have likened it to a cell as there are sooooo many in Scotland who have first hand knowledge of what the inside of a cell does look like. Indeed the numbers are so great the prison authority is thinking of installing revolving doors to relieve the traffic burden.

Jen - May 18, 2011 Reply

Not bad, but he’s no Jay Shafer!

    Donna - May 18, 2011 Reply

    I think Jay Schafer should take note! Jay had a good idea but now has to catch up to the future.

Shawn G. - May 18, 2011 Reply

I really like the way the space is used. I might add a vaulted ceiling with an opening skylight. It would add more natural light to the kitchen area and provide ventilation for cooling. I think it would also reduce the “cell” feel.

    2leftfeet - May 24, 2011 Reply

    Good idea – agree, a skylight would open the space beautifully. There are wonderfully clever ideas here, eg the sliding table and ships stairs. But not sure I understand the staggered half-levels. (I’d be afraid of stepping backward and falling off the narrow kitchen level.) One possible improvement – raise the roof slightly and divide the cube into three full levels – 1st Kitchen/seating & toilet; 2nd Lounge/Living; 3rd; Shallow loft-bed area. To keep the space feeling open, use wide 2′ strips of thick recycled glass; clear glass block, or plexiglass for flooring on the second level, set around the room’s lesser used perimeter areas. Could look kinda cool.

    TwoLeftFeet - May 24, 2011 Reply

    Great idea – agree, a skylight would open the space beautifully. There are wonderfully clever ideas here, eg the sliding table and ships stairs. But not sure I understand the staggered half-levels. (I’d be afraid of stepping backward and falling off the narrow kitchen level.) One possible improvement – raise the roof slightly and divide the cube into three full levels – 1st Kitchen/seating & toilet; 2nd Lounge/Living; 3rd; Shallow half-loft bed area. To keep the space feeling open, top to bottome, use wide 2′ strips of thick recycled glass; clear glass block, or plexiglass for flooring on the second level, set around the room’s lesser used perimeter areas. Could look kinda cool.

Moneca Kaiser - May 18, 2011 Reply

It’s a little bit brilliant and I wouldn’t dream of suggesting an improvement cause I have too much respect for how thoroughly and holistically it has been envisioned, Thanks for featuring this Kent, it’s inspiring!

TR Kelley - May 18, 2011 Reply

Beautiful! Makes me proud to be an American Scot. 🙂 Definitely though, I would put a small openable window for fresh air up in the sleeping area. Nicely done!

Tanja - May 18, 2011 Reply

Totally brilliant!

Hazel - May 18, 2011 Reply

This is the most innovative, sustainable, functional, modern, attractive tiny house design I’ve ever come across!!!!

The North American designs all seem to be similarly boring and wooden with just a small living area plus a loft; they have much wasted vertical space and few green energy technologies. Being older I would opt for the Cube’s stairs, perhaps with added handholds, over climbing up and down a free-standing ladder!

The Cube is so attractive and modern! The various levels, large windows, and use of vertical space makes it seem so much larger. The Cube is not just a tiny house; with its solar panels, heat pump, composting toilet, triple glazing, and renewable local materials, it is a truly sustainable home. Clever, clever!!

Bob H - May 18, 2011 Reply

Very innovative, can see a lot of time, effort & some fresh thinking. I am a fan of small houses but not these so-called micro houses. Maybe you can use one as a camper, but full time housing forget it.

Nora Mae Ball Smith - May 18, 2011 Reply

Ok so I have a family is there an addition for each member with out all the other needed kitchens for my kids or my spouse or are these for just singles???? Is the water re used is there a self composting toilet.. I do weaving and sewing and have to have the storage of my materials does this make any sense that impact means waste of materials such as our body waste the water used etc.. not the space needed…. that is if the COMPANIES can see we will not have to pay their much greedy prices if we all made our own with the correct materials and patterns… that what they waste making and shipping we could cut impact of their waste all costs to build holding cells and to add have they done any study of what it can do to a persons body mind etc to have to live in a small space to start with …. now come on that would come in handy for camping but daily living with a family…. what is the world coming to … look at the cost of housing and see how many are actually empty before stepping so low to live in a cramped place as this! By the way whats the cost to build one and what would they sell one for?

Dave - May 18, 2011 Reply

Does the air-source heat pump work below 40oF? Ours does not. Perhaps it has backup heating coils…..

Hazel - May 18, 2011 Reply

The Cube is supposedly designed for one person, but I think 2 people could live there very comfortably. All it takes is the reduction of belongings to what is actually used, and to live outside as much as possible which is a healthy way to live!

It would be interesting to work on a family-sized Cube.

Angelica - May 18, 2011 Reply

As a recent architecture student I see this and think he followed all of the “assignment” and took note of all the programs required for the structure. There are many interesting moments in this structure, but I think that it feels cluttered and it’s already a small structure, small does not have to mean cluttered. I think he does make good use of the space and that someone with a very utilitarian mind set would definitely be able to live here, however, if this structure was placed in a say an area that rained most of the year one would feel “trapped” in such a structure. Overall it is an interesting structure, but I don’t think that people will be standing in line to purchase one. The thing that makes building on a flat bed trailer appealing is that it can go wherever you take it, this structure offers a more permanent situation which then requires one to find permanent land to put it on. I think if we actually went to visit and experience this structure it would tell a very different story than watching a video. When is small too small? There are so many things one must consider when designing such a small structure and I think that the first and most important thing to think about is the site: where is this ending up? What’s the weather like there? The only way solar panels will work in the way he describes is if there is enough sun collection to power the house. I think a more innovative model would be using extreme weather conditions as a starting off point, to me that would be a challenge.

Donna - May 18, 2011 Reply

Angelica, if I lived in a place where it rained most of the year…I would move! ;-P

Christina Nellemann - May 18, 2011 Reply

This is a great design that would be most appropriate for a student or a person living alone. I can’t really see two people living in this space.

The exterior and the kitchen are beautiful and the use of solar panels are great, but I think the “cell” feeling comes from there being no windows or skylights near the bed. That’s what I love the best about the French Cube: the unique introduction of light into such a small space.

The window near the seating area is wonderful and just one or two more windows would make a big difference. The stairs are a bit of a bother. They do seem to clutter up the space like Angelica says, and knowing me, I would break an ankle on them.

BenBrown - May 18, 2011 Reply

I LOVE the Micro Compact Home and I really love this one even more. Considering being a traveling nurse, this could allow me HOME wherever I went. As a student living overseas, [and in the US] I’ve lived in smaller apartments, this would be quite sufficient.

The shower space is big enough to be replaced by a Japanese soaking tub/hand shower. I like the idea of a bedroom skylight and would wish a genius could come up with some sort of handrail system that disappears when you don’t need it. The air system is impressive! I didn’t know they made them for dwellings this small. I would like to see several options in composting toilets, from NSA accepted Sun-Mar to present model designed for this home.

Having had the opportunity to spend time in contemplation and renewal [think Episcopal monastery] this is perhaps a little busy. That may be the fire engine red could be made more invisible or
the kettle could have been put in storage. That though is simple design correction I think.

The stairs are super efficient and a space saver. They beat a ladder to accomplish the same goal.

Overall, I’d give up a great deal to live in one.

Two wishes I have is that these plans were in the public domain and/or that purchase of plans like these would benefit research proving dwellings this size should satisfying building codes and improve the quality of life for millions of people, communities and regions, upper class, middle class and lower class.

…I lied, one more wish. I wish Bill Gates or the x-Prize would fund a multi million dollar contest for someone to beat this design and build a zero energy dwelling comfortable for one person to live in at 8 x 8 x 8, whose price was consistent with the size of the home. Personally, I think they would be hard pressed to do it. Fundamentally, I think Mike Page’s design is solid.

    LTB - May 18, 2011 Reply

    Ben, excellent points on public domain and proving these designs are indeed a legit form of housing. Unfortunately, I don’t think the AMerican Dream manufacturers ever intended for you and I to live freely and mortgage free. Sadly, we are expected to sign on the line for lifetime service to the Company. Dodging bureaucrats is no fun either. Playing nice and jumping through hoops to build a code compliant dwelling sounds like a hassle too. Right now, it looks like micro dwellings under the auspice of a shed is the only way to fly. Trailer living doesn’t sound too bad either.

Bob P. - May 18, 2011 Reply

I wish it was or had been my idea…..I love it!!!

Lucas - May 18, 2011 Reply

Really like the modern appeal of this unit. The bathroom landing looks like it wastes some space. Perhaps a wet bath toilet/shower combo would work better and allow for some more storage, etc.? Of course, this would negate the composting toilet, which factors into the greenness of this unit. There definitely needs to be a window in the loft. Stifling heat would shut down a good nights rest up there quick. I don’t see how this design wastes any less space than a Shafer style design. One really needs the vertical to open up a tight space in these micro homes. Likewise, the vertical really opens up some options for more efficient use of space. Every time I see these micro designs, I’m struck by Peter Green’s M.O. of small and simple, built in a weekend w/ a few tools. There’s no way any of us ever get out from under mortgages and the rat race if we continue to stare at the traditional construction paradigm.

jeremy j - May 18, 2011 Reply

I really like this design. I’ve been waiting to see some monk stairs in a tiny house. To think this is 25% smaller than twelve cubed and yet has a better “living room”. A few more windows for me and maybe a round staircase on the outside for some top deck BBQ or a screened porch…

jeremy j - May 18, 2011 Reply

I was also wondering what is underneath the kitchen and bathroom? Seems like quite a bit of space under there(gray water, batteries).

BigGoofyGuy - May 18, 2011 Reply

I think it would be a great guest house or student housing where each student gets their own space (surrounding a ‘core’ dwelling where they can interact with other students). Being single, I would not mind living there.

Penny - May 19, 2011 Reply

Are they called ‘monk stairs’? I think they are very clever – much better than a ladder where you have to turn around in order to go down – a precariously manouvre. The use of vertical space is something I have incorporated into my plans for a version of Jay’s ‘Lusby’ where I have lifted the downstairs bed to bench height, allowing a washing machine/dryer in the bathroom, and drawers under the foot of the bed in the great room – there will also be space for batteries etc in that compartment.

The design is fabulous, innovative – I agree about more windows though particularly the bedroom. A foldup deck with fold down awning would be a good addition.

Great, but not aesthetically pleasing.

19 | Mai | 2011 | Architekturlinks - May 19, 2011 Reply

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BenBrown - May 19, 2011 Reply

I notice a lot of people concerned about being too hot in the Cube. Most heat pumps are capable of cooling. I find no literature about the Ecodan’s cooling ability in the Cube, but I would guess it is capable of cooling. Anyone know anything to the contrary?

alice - May 19, 2011 Reply

I like the mechanical functionality, love the sliding table, would probably tweak the aesthetics, definitely add more windows, but ultimately there are too many chopped up spaces at different levels. As well as being hard on old knees this makes too many short sight lines and adds to feeling somewhat cramped compared to a single open space. That could an asset if two people shared the space though, since they could each have a bit of privacy in different areas. The other problem I have with this design is there is a lot of material used to make a sloped upper roof area for the solar panels but the enclosed space seems to be wasted, unless it holds some kind of mechanical stuff. Maybe that space could have been used to enlarge the interior somehow, though I can see where that would complicate moving the structure.

Benjamin - May 19, 2011 Reply

I have a couple of vertical questions…

Why is it called a cube when the vertical dimension is obviously significantly larger than the horizontal dimensions. (Painting the extra bit black is cheating.)

What is done with all that space under all those elevated floors?

Good luck negotiating those steps in the middle of the night when you want to go to the bathroom or have a snack. The trick to that kind of stairs is that you need to remember which foot to start with. (Otherwise, they are a cool way to save space.)

    Anton - May 23, 2011 Reply

    I actually find it very annoying that most “tiny house” designers and manufacturers advertise the square footage as just the foot print. Although technically lofts wouldn’t be included in the area of larger homes, in cases like this, where the main point is energy efficiency, the volume is what matters.

    It would be more fair to advertise the volume of these tiny homes since that is what will be cooled and heated.

Sheryll - May 19, 2011 Reply

So creative! I love the ingenious use of different levels, it really maximizes space on a small footprint. Super cozy!I can see where it may not be the best plan for some people due to health and physical abilities, but for someone who is physically able it is awesome, like a fort!The modern style,(while I can appreciate it) is not my cuppa tea, but it could easily be designed to reflect the owners’ taste, be it traditional, cottage etc… Good Job!

Crystal Baba - May 24, 2011 Reply

Could it be made so the floor could lift up in spots for storage?

Mary - May 24, 2011 Reply

Knowing me, I’d fall off the raised floor into the living room. I don’t care for the various floor levels (wasted space under these levels bothers me, too-though I suppose a person could experiment with panels that raise to store things there), the bed so near the cooking area (odors, temptations, heat), or the large window between the stool and the shower. I liked the stairs but think I would prefer the ladder or add hand holds of some sort.

Regarding a handrail that would disappear when you don’t need it: what about regressing a J shaped dip into the wall and just making that a part of the contour of the home?

@ Nora Mae Ball Smith (and others who want to do this but keep hobbies): consider either a second small area, separate from the heated/cooled space for your hobby, consider designing a bit larger, or …? I looked around my current home, saw how much space in each room I actually live in versus how much I store things in or just look at, and made note of how much I could minimize if the space was personalized to my needs. I could reduce my house size by at least 75% just by cutting wasted space and storage for things I never use! Be creative, and personalize the space to suit your needs. There’s no rule that says you need to use just 81 sq ft or 96 sq ft. The idea is to minimize as much as you are comfortable and enjoy your freedom.

jasbir singh - May 25, 2011 Reply

Exited to see well done cube ..skylight or vault will add to bed

jacqueline - May 26, 2011 Reply

very nice. my only thought was that the kitchen was placed too high in the unit — perhaps that and the bathroom could be switched in position. people are used to bathrooms being close to the bed — and primarily, the smells from the kitchen will not be in the bedroom area (didn’t notice if there was a window for ventilation in the bedroom).

SKetch - March 27, 2012 Reply

No one else has said it, but we are all thinking it…
If someone can call this a cell, they might want to look at the other “cube” in their life. The office spaces with NO light, NO air, NO space that keep us paying on homes that “aren’t cells”.
I would rather have a utilitarian place to cook, sleep, and wash than spend 8-12 hours a day working in a cell.

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