Throughout the Future of Condo series we have looked outside the box to advances in technology. This edition may be the most pertinent to readers everywhere.
Currently 82% of the total population of North America is living in urban areas with 6.33 billion people predicted to be dwelling in cities Worldwide by 2050.1 Lack of land and space has created housing issues. An innovative solution to this problem has taken hold with the trend of small, tiny and micro-unit housing.
Little condos, large hopes
Have you ever dreamed of living in a treehouse, on a boat, in a trailer, or an RV? The current move towards transformative micro apartments can meet all your essential living needs in a compact way. You can literally fit an entire residence on the surface area of a rug or parking spot.
Although there is no set definition of a micro-unit’s dimensions, because building codes and zoning laws change from place-to-place, some micro-housing can be as small as one-tenth the size of the average home.
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Case study examples
New York City
A dense metropolis with limited space. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg championed micro-units as a way of the future, launching the adAPT NYC design competition in 2012 and waving certain zoning regulations that had required a minimum of 400 sq-ft per housing unit. The winner of the competition was nARCHITECTS’ Carmel Place, creating a modular design of 55 micro-units ranging from 260 to 360 square feet.3
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An example in Manhattan’s Upper West Side is a tiny 90-sq-ft micro-studio, measuring just 12 ft. x 7 ft. The resident, who is a professional organizer and artist, embraced the challenge of organizing the space. Examples of her creative expression through functionality were putting up curtains in place of doors, using an empty toaster oven for storing fruit, as well as an empty stove for storing laundry. A small fridge may lead to several trips out for groceries per week, but in downtown New York everything is close by with parks, libraries, gyms, and subways all in walking distance. The city is your backyard. A look out the window provides visual escape whenever you need some.The quarters are cozy and intimate but getting around may be daunting. Remember to be careful and move slowly at first. 5
Even people living in rural areas are embracing tiny living. One micro-homesteader parked her $10,000 mobile trailer in a friends backyard. The 84-sq-ft trailer was self-built and customized with various windows to lead the eyes out. The ‘loft area’, where the bed is, requires a ladder for accessibility, and was built to fit the actual height from the top of the residents head to their knees. The home is energy efficient, with two solar panels outside connected to a Xantrex power inverter, letting you plug in a laptop or other household appliances.6
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Tokyo is one of the World’s most dense cities, with the greater Tokyo area populated by 38 million people packed into about 5,200 sq miles of space.8 With tight quarters throughout the city, couples are living in 250-sq-ft units. The onus on space has lead to innovative design and creative solutions. For instance, a door in the floor can lead to hidden storage space, counter tops can fold out, and steps can double as a sofa. Things tucked away can require kneeling, crawling and ducking. Large windows and glass offer the illusion of open space. Functional designers are going to creative extremes making micro-units completely liveable.9
Another very dense urban area with about 7 million people mostly residing in tiny box-like apartments. Micro units can help combat the ongoing housing shortage. A local architect Gary Chang renovated his 344 sq-ft childhood apartment into 24 rooms. The apartment converts space with sliding walls, like the bathroom that can turn into a guest bedroom.10
The transformative apartment concept has been refined by LAAB Architects in Hong Kong, with the units meticulously designed keeping transformation in mind. Depending on your use, a bath tub can turn into a sofa, home theatre, or guest bedroom, utilizing sliding cabinets and trapdoors. Wall space is freed up, with the lights and locks being controlled by apps. The Insider took a look at the Smart Apartment, the future of city living11. These exciting ideas are becoming increasingly popular, with Gary Chang showcasing his skills and abilities in the following video.
Living a tiny life can lead to a greater sense of purpose and belonging, which is interesting to consider. Many choose to go smaller based on a desire to live alone. The spaces can be made pet-friendly if required.
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The Benefits of going small and tiny
- Customizable size makes everything fit just right. Customizing furniture to your physical body size feels amazing
- Modular move things around with ease, constantly shifting the look and feel of your surroundings
- D.I.Y. build it yourself, use salvage materials, reuse scrap and recycle, embrace the Do-It-Yourself culture
- Off The Grid solar panel hook ups and other alternative energy sources are possible
- Downsize your stuff with the impetuous to get rid of anything you do not use, learning to let stuff go
- Economic lower cost, less stress over rent or overhead payments- no mortgage or utility bills
- Freedom you are more free to travel with less space to worry about looking after
- Creative design can transform shoe boxes into works of art or stacked shipping containers into smart housing
- Immediacy life is simply easier when everything you need is within reach
- Community the greater number of units, or new sustainable developments, can offer more shared amenities
Hesitations? Don’t Worry!
For all the amazing benefits of the micro unit lifestyle, it’s only fair to consider some hesitations. Attention to weather is required especially for tiny homes in rural settings and the rugged outdoors. Some micro units might not have running water but most of the World gets by without it. A bucket with sawdust could be used in place of a toilet, collecting the waste for compost or disposing it in the garbage. If you don’t have room for a refrigerator use a cooler instead. During your daily yoga stretches you may occasionally bump into things…for many people this will be the extent of any hardship.
For a small percentage of dwellers the worst reactions include panic attacks, from the fear of being in confined spaces. According to research, 5-7% of the world population is severely affected by claustrophobia.13 For those suffering with anxiety, a tiny lifestyle might not be suitable. That said, future dwellers will benefit greatly from a little yoga and a lot of meditation, which helps overcome such anxieties.
For many residents a micro-unit provides the most cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient, creative potential for sustainable living on the planet. Remember, the smaller you go the more room you have to think big.
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Stay tuned for more of The Future of Condo’s series…