I have been following the tiny house movement since first reading about Jay Shafer over 10 years ago. Of course, I loved the idea of saving on money and time and, thus, having more freedom. In addition, I wanted to combine the benefits of a tiny house with the health benefits of building out of non-toxic materials. Also, I felt it was important that it be beautiful and acceptable in (almost) any neighborhood. I decided to build an 8 X 12 design, but without porch or loft and with more windows and light. This mobile house-room is meant to be an extra space or living area but without utilities except electricity. In other words, toilet, kitchen, and shower are meant to be in a nearby building.
The final result looks like a small cabin or shed reminiscent of a red barn. Drawings and extensive, invaluable consulting on non-toxic building came from George Swanson (geoswan.com) in Texas. Additional consulting came from Katharina Gustavs–especially, on EMF issues–from Canada (buildingbiology.ca); Leslie Lawrence fromsafespotcottages.com; and even once with Jay Shafer. I hired the expert team from the Center for Green Building/Measure for Measure in Connecticut (centerforgreenbuilding.com) and asked them to build with the following non-toxic elements:
- The trailer is a customized aluminum trailer by Featherlite–thanks to Scott Boyner for engineering exactly what I wanted. The frame is aluminum–won’t magnetize or corrode–but the bed of the trailer was constructed using Timbersil–wood that is infused with sodium silicate (glass) and won’t burn, rot, mold, or be eaten by insects. The underside of the trailer also was covered over with a layer of Tyvek with chicken wire over that.
- Conventional wood frame is all treated with three coats of potassium silicate by Romabio.
- All interior and exterior floors and walls are made of Magnesium Oxide panels–also won’t burn, rot, mold and gives off no harmful gasses (but do wear protection when cutting, there is fiberglass mesh inside). These were purchased from Holdfast Technologies in Ohio. All exterior trim that could not be sized in Magnesium Oxide is Hardieboard, another cement board.
- All walls, ceiling, and floor are insulated with Ultra Touch recycled cotton insulation.
- All interior and exterior paint is supplied by Romabio (romabio.com)–truly non-toxic mineral paint that allows water vapor to escape and, thus, avoids conditions for mold. (It turns out that many popular no-VOC paints still contain harmful irritants).
- The roof is covered with two layers of Vaproshield–a polypropylene membrane that is also vapor permeable. Over that we used Davinci synethetic roof slates–they are made of recycled plastic and really do look like real slates.
- Windows are Jeld-wen, unfinished pine with aluminum cladding. We painted the interior pine with the same paint we used on the walls.
- Electricity enters at only one point and there are four sockets on the interior side there. This is intended to minimize EMF issues.
- The finished floor is Ecotimber bamboo.