Micro-Mini Hawaiian Style House

Guest Post by Douglas Burch

Attached are pics of my micro-mini Hawaiian style house. I built it and incurred only $6,600 debt on top of the $3,600 income I received over a ten week period. That included my cutting paths through the jungle for survey, getting a D9 bulldozer to do the site preparation ($2,100) materials and $400 outside labor by the invaluable Robbie Villanueva who basically tore up my plans and became the architectural consultant that defined the house.

The post and pier construction keeps the house up off the ground (300 inches of rain per year) and doubles the floor space by making a utility space underneath (5 feet 2 inches but we should have made it 6 feed or more!) and allows the house to “walk” during the frequent quakes. In Hawaii posts for awnings and porches are never attached to the slab so the whole thing doesn’t tear itself to pieces when the wave passes through the ground. The overhand is 2 feet to keep rain off the walls and provides 288 square foot of rain collection for a catchment water system.

The most interesting aspect to me was the roof. Instead of joists that go the length joined by stringers it has a style I believe is imported from Japanese construction. The 2 x 4 x 12s are run 2 feet apart and nailed flat! Then another run is done perpendicular to that in 2 foot spacings. The roof is incredibly strong and gives you a liberal 3.5 inch wide target for your roofing nails. The tin roof is my favorite thing and it is only slightly pitched because as Robbie said “How the hell are you gonna get up there and work if it is sloped 45 degrees?” Access to the roof is important due to rain gutter issues, solar gear, and painting to protect the tin from the very, very acid rain from the volcano.

The floor is 2 x 8s on sixteen inch centers with 3/4 ply, the walls 1/2 plywood with 2 x 4s on 24 inch centers. Basically, Robbie got me twice the floor space I had planned on with a purchase of the porch roof and some more flooring. I was going to build an 8 by 8 foot room and stop there.

The building is like many other in the neighborhood that have survived all the rain, earthquakes and hurricanes thrown at them. It is a freehold building licensed as an “agricultural outbuilding.” It is a green house, man, see, it is green! After camping in a large tarp tent with 40 inches of rain falling each week, the sound of rain on that tin roof was the most wondrous and soothing thing ever. I plan to be a self sufficient hippie farmer and have a pirate ship in Hilo bay and now I am on my way.

P.S. I want to found the Adult Tree House Builders of the World Society. Our goal is to make it legal to build ANY structure you wish on any piece of land, say an acre or more, without any interference, inspections, fees or government bullshit and live in it as you will. The deed restriction would be that when you sell the property you have a big keg party and burn it down so the government doesn’t have to worry that you are endangering some unsuspecting buyer. Feel free spread the idea, but cite Vitus The Mad ™ Vitus S. Douglas Burch as the founder.

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Marcia Curran - September 6, 2011 Reply

fantastic house, I love it!

Aloha - September 6, 2011 Reply

I used to live in Hawaii for quite sometime.
Im now back on the Mainland, this style of house to me just reminds me of the down trodden and extreme poverty that exists in Hawaii.

Im not sure what it is, it could be the roof materials that just seem cold or the lack of siding.
This was always something that vexed me while living on the Island… the extremely depressing bungalows.

With a little of landscaping and hanging flower pots this house will look like a home!

    Dee - September 10, 2011 Reply

    Poverty exists EVERYWHERE, not just in Hawaii. Thus the NEED for not only the Tiny House movement, but the Less is MORE mentality.BTW, don’t confuse a house and a home. Home is where the heart is, whether there are plants or not

    Still In Hawaii - September 11, 2011 Reply

    Interesting that this simple and humble abode reminds you of “extreme poverty” in Hawaii. It’s the traditional single wall, tin roof style house that is workable here because of the wonderfully mild climate! Many homes are older kama’aina homes and these days many folks haven’t the money to play keep-up-with-the-Jonses (nor do they want to) like mainland folks tend to do, even when they have to go into debt to do it!

Leslie Gault - September 6, 2011 Reply

I LOVE the idea!! Where do I join the Adult Tree House Builders of the World Society??? It’s about time we are able to take responsibility for ourselves and living space without having so many restrictions put on it’s nearly impossible to pass the codes set by the government.

    Kent Griswold - September 6, 2011 Reply

    Hi Leslie, I emailed Douglas and hope to have an answer for you and others soon. -Kent

Dayle Ann Stratton - September 6, 2011 Reply

There might already be a similar organization, at least there was back in the back-to-the land days in the 70s-80s. Some of those tree houses are still occupied (I grew up in the PacNW.)

matt banning - September 6, 2011 Reply

nice little home! are the walls waterproof?

Josh - September 6, 2011 Reply

I’m curious about what it’s like inside, but it doesn’t look like it could be more than 100 square feet.

alice - September 6, 2011 Reply

That roof system is intriguing as is the structural flexibility. In the Pacific NW some screening might be handy on the porch but the covered outdoor area is just what you need. I’d like something similar but with lots more windows and some nice French doors. In good weather you live outside most of the time, just need a small snug retreat when it’s chilly or blustery and a decent covered space for ordinary rainy day life.

william carlisle - September 6, 2011 Reply

Adult Tree House Builders of the World Society
Sign Me up!!!!! I’ve been a licensed homebuilder for over 30 years .People should have the freedom to build their own home with as little regulation as possible

Micheel Wassouf - September 6, 2011 Reply

Dear Kent,
I liked a lot the project. I’m an architect working in Spain. I have to write a book about passive houses, and I would like to publish a foto of the project in the book, as a very good example of üassive architecture in tropical (or is it subtropical ?) climate. Please tell me if that would be OK for you, and what source I should put.
Micheel Wassouf

    Kent Griswold - September 6, 2011 Reply

    You should credit Douglas Burch for the photography. You may also want to get his permission before doing it. Contact me a tinyhouseblog (at) gmail.com and I will send you his contact information.

vitus douglas burch - September 6, 2011 Reply

Hi everyone.
Let me see if I can answer your questions. The walls are painted 1/2 ply and are water resistant but not water proof. The porch will be screened eventually. Yes Michael , you may use my pictures. please credit me. the room is 64 square feet the porch is 160. I guess I should get about founding the ATBOTW but I think we will not get far in the US but many places in the world are not as heavily regulated. I have found that people who build thier own houses meet or exceed code and are more careful with dangerous utilities like gas and electric than some greedy developer. With the economy of governments collapsing and poverty rampant I do not see how it is legitimate for government to disallow a person to shelter themselves. And…if the government doesnt want someone to pass off bad houseing…like I said..you burn it if you sell the land.
Thank you all for your interest and thanks to Tinyhouseblog for their site and letting me share.
Vitus the Mad

    Josh - September 6, 2011 Reply

    …the room is 64 square feet the porch is 160…

    I see the words “house” and “housing” being used in reference to this… I don’t know why. 64 square feet? That’s smaller than a child’s bedroom. I like the porch area and the fact that it’s propped up off the ground to avoid water, but nothing about this seems like housing, unless you’re used to living in a cardboard box – it would be an improvement in living conditions in that case.

      Dave - September 6, 2011 Reply

      The term “Tiny house meets different things to all of us, to Douglas, it is an 8×8 room for the days he wont be on his porch, for others its 150 square feet on a trailer, for me it is about 4-500 square feet stickbuilt…. For my ex it is about 2000 square feet with a small yard. Look up some of the tiny apartment videos they have featured here…. Some people are happy in 72 square feet total space!!!!

        Josh - September 6, 2011 Reply

        Look up some of the tiny apartment videos they have featured here… Some people are happy in 72 square feet total space!!!!

        I don’t know about every jurisdiction, but I think in most (if not all), to be rented as an apartment, a place needs to have a bathroom and a kitchen. This is obviously too small to have either, and these are, I think, basic requirements of housing (in any modern country). I think it should be more appropriately called shelter, as opposed to housing. It seems like it’s basically an upgrade from a tent. In a third-world country this might qualify as housing, but we’re not talking third-world countries here…

          molly - September 6, 2011 Reply

          One thing I love about the tiny house movement is the diversity. Even when I see someplace that wouldn’t work for me I still get ideas or something to think about, along with great inspiration knowing other people are making it happen!

          In many places apartments are not required to have kitchens or bathrooms. SROs in New York City are a good example. I have rented apartments in mid sized midwest cities without kitchens (I created a kitchenette).

          There have been examples on this blog and other sites of homes many times bigger than this without baths or kitchens. Many people use outhouses and cook outside.

          To me a home is where a person lives. However he lives. Period.

          Josh - September 7, 2011 Reply

          In many places apartments are not required to have kitchens or bathrooms. SROs in New York City are a good example.

          Why is it called a single room occupancy and not an apartment? Because it’s not an apartment, and to rent it as an “apartment” without having a kitchen and bathroom would be illegal.

          To me a home is where a person lives. However he lives. Period.

          I don’t disagree with that. Your home could be a car, or a tent, or a tipi. However, none of those are a house. I distinguish between the two. I have a home; it’s an apartment; it’s not a house. The subject of this article could be someone’s home, but at 64 square feet, no bathroom, no kitchen, it’s not a house.

          Dave - September 7, 2011 Reply

          Well, you’ve obviously got your mind made up. People live in different ways, and some people consider their “home” to be their “house” no matter what it is. The OP seems to have struck a nerve….

          My parent summer “house” has a very basic kitchen and an outhouse, and they’ve all but retired there… They scoff whenever omeone recomends indoor plumbing.

          Connie - September 11, 2011 Reply

          Think of it this way, Josh: “home is where the heart is,” ya know? Also, who’s to say what makes a house? Like others on this post, I’ve lived in houses with no kitchen, and just made my own with a toaster oven, microwave and fridge. There are composting toilets, portable heater and a/c units, solar showers. etc. It’s all about creativity and what the resident can afford and needs/wants for basic comfort. We all have different levels of requirements. The perfect size for me is 250-400 sf, for example, but I’m fascinated by others, like Vitus, who can get by with 64 sf plus a big porch. Pretty impressive, I think.

      vitus douglas burch - September 7, 2011 Reply

      If you read my letter…yes I did start in a tent and it rained 40 inches the first week I was there.I am an expert tent builder and was dry and this is a marked improvement over the best tent.

vitus douglas burch - September 6, 2011 Reply

Anyone who wants to converse with me can contact
me at Vitusthemad@hotmail.com or friend Vitus themad on facebook.

vitus douglas burch - September 6, 2011 Reply

I am at vitusthemad@hotmail.com if anyone wants to converse with me. I am also vitus themad on facebook. The stairs are made of slices of pallets
i recycled.
Thanks for your interest and thanks to Kent for giving me a place to share.

molly - September 6, 2011 Reply

Thanks for sharing info on your home with us. While I need a little more space, I too plan to have a space that is more a large screened porch with an attached small cabin as opposed to a house with an attached porch. Even in winter I prefer to be outside.

Publius - September 6, 2011 Reply

I hope I don’t hurt your feelings, but….

That is the most ugly POS structure I have seen all week. I’d be embarrassed if I constructed anything looking like that, anywhere.

Why do people so quickly forget that aesthetics counts?

Who wants to live in an outhouse?

    vitus douglas burch - September 7, 2011 Reply

    I own five acres in Sonoita Arizona with a 700 sq ft house and a well. Seven and half acres in the Sieritta mountains with a 650 sq ft house and a well and this house in Hawaii on three acres. I do not have a mortgage on any of the properties.
    Try and beat that.

cj - September 7, 2011 Reply

That is amazingly dirt cheap for where you are located. I lived on Maui back in 82 and I had to pay 475.00/mo rent for a tiny place. Of course, it never felt tiny..not with that lanai going all the way around. But when it comes to zoning…SE Alaska is the place to be. Its a mecca of people who are self sufficient. You’ll find a total mixed bag of log cabins, yurts, floating shacks, etc. and all kinds of shelter. You would no doubt, find members. 🙂

    vitus douglas burch - September 7, 2011 Reply

    The secret is sweat equity. I built this without power tools by myself with the exception of four days with Robbie helping. I use a revolving line of credit and pay it down between phases or projects. I have helped build adobes, straw bales, block and frame houses. This is the third house I have built for myself. Keeps me strong.

MJ - September 7, 2011 Reply

Wow. I’m sort of amazed at the negativity and actual rudeness of some of the posters here. It’s like walking up to a stranger and saying, Pardon me, really, but that is the ugliest outfit I’ve ever seen and I can’t believe you’re walking around wearing it. Especially if the speaker is naked, so to speak. I live in a tropical climate, in a one room casita (yes, there is a spanish word for tiny home, because so many people have them, live in them, raise their families in them) and can appreciate this home a lot, for many reasons, the biggest ones being that he conceived it, built it in accordance with his location (elevation for rain, his needs, etc) and it works for him. Respect!
Thanks for sharing your home with us, Vitus, and thank you Kent for having a forum for all sorts of examples of ‘tiny homes’ for us to enjoy.
To the naysayers…if you’ve built your home, share it, since apparently you’ve got something excellent going on?

    vitus douglas burch - September 7, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for your support. As you can imagine I am used to thinking outside the box and hearing the railings of those inside! 🙂

    Connie - September 11, 2011 Reply

    I agree with you, MJ. I can’t figure out why some of these posters think their down-putting comments are necessary. Vitus’s post here wasn’t to seek advice, he just wanted to show us his new place. Some of the negative comments here sound like the posters are feeling threatened by this — maybe they should ask themselves why. The tiny house movement is just a gentle minimal-footprint way to live that allows all of us in this to have meaningful lives that aren’t wrapped around excess. How is that a problem for anyone?

      James Wald - March 14, 2014 Reply

      You’re an inspiration for others who have realized that there are many more interesting aspects to life than maintaining “stuff.” To be honest, I’m surprised there isn’t more negativity. You tell people you built a home and paid for it with an amount of money that they earn in 2 weeks, yet they’re drowning just to make interest payments on their debt with that income. Although I do hope these people wake up some day, I have to admit that their lack of vision and understanding relative to our own is quite an ego boost.

GregoryTart - September 8, 2011 Reply

What a superb structure supporting it- I’d say you were a “hippie” with some engineer genes floating around. I love tin roofs too.

Rianh - September 9, 2011 Reply

I love it, and may I say to the negative posters out there, that you are criticizing a house that is essentially raw. you can see it has just been finished, with the scaffolding still in the background. now imagine it in a few years time in a garden setting, with hanging baskets of flowers, tree ferns underneath and climbing plants up the sides of the stairway. It is an awesome house. Love it. Love the sound of tropical rain on a tin roof. Love the potentiality for garden around it. Love the open porch, would love to sit there and have a lovely cool drink, in the shade!

Rodeo Bill - September 10, 2011 Reply

The concept [if enhanced to meet urban code] would work well in New Orleans. Up high, it avoids flood water, a large roofed open area. If you find photos of old Cajun shacks where people lived over the water on piers you will see similarities.

Lorraine - September 10, 2011 Reply

I love it and think it is richer than living under massive debt for a big home that you will only sleep in since you are working all the time to support it. It looks like a playhouse to me… meaning the owner gets to play more. Who is to say that small scale farming isn’t the best possible lifestyle? I bought 14 acres in Texas and purchased an old school portable building that is 22×30 and finished out, total price was $5000 including moving and setting up. I am in the process of paying the land off and adding a kitchen and bathroom. 660 sq ft is very small in Texas, but after “camping” there, I realize it is quite large for a single person. I have a couple solar panels and also use battery operated things. I charge batteries in the car when driving. The bathroom is the only private room. Also, I have it well off the ground due to snakes on the prairie and have planted oak trees and gardens all around. I keep reading the Tiny House Blog for ideas and am considering taking the south wall and turning it into a winter greenhouse and summer shadehouse through more efficient use of space.

Lorraine - September 10, 2011 Reply

Another thing I did while waiting for my trees to provide shade in Texas… I grew 12 foot annual sunflowers against the east and west walls to provide shade. It worked great and brought birds right up to my windows. Plus, no shade on the solar panels.

    Connie - September 11, 2011 Reply

    Great idea about the sunflowers! Thanks for the idea, Lorraine!

Stephen A. - September 12, 2011 Reply

Well, as a fan of tiny places, the size of the home does NOT matter and if someone can feel comfortable here, that’s great.

My problem is with the design. I’m confused by the LONG walkway into the place. Why is this necessary, exactly? It seems like a waste of materials, unless it has to do with the climate.

As for the loose base, and the need for it to “walk” during “frequent quakes,” I would think it would only need to bounce right off one of those cement blocks, and the entire structure would collapse. Am I missing something that wasn’t explained that would give it more solidity?

    Kasey - September 30, 2011 Reply

    The “long walkway” I would assume is an extention of his space like a lanai. I am also assuming that the post and pier construction has cement poured to stabilize. Love it.

R. Bogart - October 19, 2011 Reply

Poverty is in the mind. At least in my mind it is. I have been well off to the point of retiring at age 48. But I continue to re-evaluate my needs vs my wants. If I go with my needs then I need very little. If I go with my wants then I live like a fool and his toys.
Why would I need so much room when life can be made easier by less. Less to clean, less to organize, less to violate my serenity. I’ll take the small house in a heartbeat….

Linh - November 8, 2011 Reply

I love your place and I think its very unique, especially the way you want to live your life. Id rather live in a small comfortable home than a large home any day. Once your place is screened and decorated, could you post up pictures to share? I would also love to see the inside. I hope to own a tiny/small home in the near future, probably in Lanai if possible. You are very talented for building your own home, that’s just amazing! How many of us can actually say we built our own home?? If one cannot see the beauty of your home, its their problem.

Michael Moran - December 3, 2011 Reply

Thank you for sharing your home. I am figuring out what to build on my plot on the Big Island and this is a great inspiration. Very creative! And screw all the negative commenters, some have no respect for others.

Larry Henry - February 18, 2012 Reply

Vitus…you rock man and I love your house in Hawaii. Ignore those who call it a POS. They have never lived in the 3rd world, I have. I was raised on St. Vincent island in the West Indies. Back in my yuth in the 1950s and 1960s I still knew folks who lived in mud walled grass roofed “hutches”. some of them very nice and creative. American are self-satisfied and ignorant for better word. They have never known true poverty and do not have a clue. I would love to find a piece of land back in the county off the main roads and build a place just like yours.
I have copied the pictures to my hard drive for future reference if I get the chance. The world population grows daily and we will all be forced to downsize soon because of “expenses”. The “tar paper shack” will make a comeback due to necessity, and rebellion of folks who just want a place of their own…zoning laws be damned…move to the country and build it on the back side of the hill where no one sees…
Larry Henry, Austin Indiana in Scott County.

Hunter - January 29, 2013 Reply

A house is a home when you’re heart is there. I lived in florida we spent most of our time outside on the enclosed porch. just cooking (when not BBQ’g) and sleeping, and the bathroom. we were happy. Vitus’s house suites him not you maybe. My house might not suite you either but it is Mine. There is no need to get upset over what other people think. thats this country. You are allowed to speak out about issues wheather you like something or not. neg speaking is just you’re opinion, not good or bad just a different idea from a different person. that’s all just words. don’t take words to heart if they are not importent to you. I like the little house/home.building. I thought it was a play house.it isn’t—so what? that is why there are wars—over words. Calm down people. Life is waaayyy to short, trust me here. Relax, enjoy the people in you’re lives, that’s what life should be about–in the end that’s all you’ve got.

casas pasivas - August 11, 2015 Reply

Great idea licensed as an “agricultural outbuilding”. Little green house, green house too!

Certificado Energetico - December 13, 2016 Reply

Wow, what an excelent way of compressing a house! It would be great to see how it looks like inside; anyway, congrats, it is an excellent job with a small amount of money.

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