Would you live in a tiny house?

The Dutch are known for making the most of their limited living spaces, but two students at the Faculty of Architecture and the Build Environment are taking tiny homes to the extreme.

Siblings Lena and Laurens van der Wal recently established their own architecture firm entirely dedicated to designing small, self-contained structures. Inspired by the popular Tiny House Movement in the United States, the firm aims to make housing in the Netherlands more sustainable through minimalism and the efficient use of space.

“Due to the financial crisis and the limited space we have in the Netherlands, going tiny is a great idea,” said Lena van der Wal. “If you live tiny, it saves you money, gives you mental and financial freedom and drastically reduces your ecological footprint. We believe less house brings more happiness.”

Over the summer, the firm designed its first house in Alkmaar, which measures 6.5 meters long and 2.5 meters wide. Despite its compact size, the house contains a separate bedroom and bathroom. The student architects are hoping that the customizability and self-sufficiency of their designs will attract open-minded homeowners who are looking to downsize their living arrangements while minimizing their impact on the environment.

“Being sustainable and self-sufficient is one of our key values,” Van der Wal claimed. “We plan to make all of our designs off-grid and as sustainable as possible.” Offering three types of designs (micro, tiny and small), the firm intends to integrate sustainable elements such as solar panels, rainwater filtration and storage systems and composting toilets into each of their houses. Given the limited amount of space to work with, this is easier said than done.

“Designing tiny houses is architecture but it also involves thinking like a furniture maker, Van der Wal explained. “The little space you have should be optimized. So instead of a generic design, a tiny house should have a smart design. That’s the challenge.”

Besides the issue of scale, current building regulations in the Netherlands prohibit these tiny homes to be used as permanent residences. Nevertheless, the firm is working together with municipalities and policy makers to make these houses a reality. Almere, for example, is examining the possibility of designating an area within the municipality where small houses can be built.

For more information on the firm and its efforts to advance the Tiny House Movement in the Netherlands visit www.tinyhuis.nl.

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