Solar Thermal Tiny House

This prototypical home is undertaken as a design-build research project on manufactured housing. This project is one of the first to explore digital fabrication and holistic design strategies combined with solar thermal building systems in a small transportable footprint.

The project is a plug-and-play alternative to a similarly sized condominium. It is currently under construction with the intention of deployment to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Thus, the building envelope must meet thermal efficiency and airtight levels to support harsh winters.

Several subcategory goals stem from this premise:

1. Utilizing a solar-thermal off-grid heating solution suitable for a northern Canadian climate.

2. Merging technical and spatial design considerations.

3. Expressing digital fabrication as a new language of art and architecture.

Promotional material is being designed to appeal to three target audiences:

Green Tech: In a northern Canadian climate, heating accounts for over 70% of energy consumption annually.  The solar-thermal system will demonstrate the power of a well executed, holistic building design to generate sustainable and affordable heat.

The home uses photovoltaics and a micro wind turbine for heating of interior space and domestic hot water.  The system delivers electricity directly to a heating element which supplies the hydronic underfloor heating.  A storage tank acts as a thermal battery, retaining hot water to be utilized overnight. This method is more economical and requires less maintenance when compared to hydronic solar-thermal. This unique system requires an efficient building envelope that through material selection also minimizes embodied energy and maximizes longevity.

General Media: The “Tiny House Movement” has achieved widespread media attention. The open plan, plug-and-play design is catered to inspire those who are captivated by minimalist living, while offering full-sized amenities that require little-to-no change in lifestyle.

Apart from the bathroom, the interior is a single open space, using floor height to define individual rooms.  The front entranceway is located at the wheel well, functioning both to hide the trailer as well as providing an expansive experience when stepping into the home. Using a loft free design, a full sized bed descends from the ceiling. This improves space efficiency and increases accessibility of the home.

Architecture and Design: This project utilizes the power of digital fabrication to create unique spatial conditions and propels a new language of art and architecture. The detailing is evolving with an ambition to be worthy of publication in architecture and interior design journals and websites.

The fabrication method heavily uses CNC routing for three primary reasons: precision friction fit joints for a high performing building envelope, complex double curved spatial qualities, and mass production capability.  This also allows for a complex replacement part to be milled in any city and installed with minimal skill level.

Beyond the specific architectural elements of this design, we will investigate the urban planning potential for plug-and-play homes of the future.  Publications will be delivered on deployment strategies to both backyard infill and new semi-permanent micro home communities.