Tiny Expectations?

Tiny House CH-03 Shipping Container Entr

Due to the huge sum of money required to get a foothold in the housing market in today’s economy clients see first houses as less as of a home and more as a stepping stone to something better. This means most first houses are built more in line with the estate agents’ valuation than a rational affordable home. I have had many clients with one child want a 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom, butler’s pantry, walk in robe house as their real estate agent friend insisted that anything else was “overcapitalisation”. The reality is that they will struggle to get a quality building when the main objective is volume and speed with the effect of suburbs now filled with low quality large footprint houses that are good for renting.

As a designer it is my professional responsibility to fulfill the client brief as much as practically possible – and every attempt is made to realise a home without overcapitalising, and this can be difficult where the priorities of the home are round the wrong way. And I often think had we reduced the scope of the house, could this be a home worth putting down roots and staying in?


The cost of land is a major factor in the building industry – this compounds on the available funds/ borrowing power when building as the land is consuming a larger percentage. As a result, many young people who are unable to afford the first step in their area are turning to the idea of the tiny house, often on a relative’s property to give them independence and not to be locked into a vast debt.

We are continually surprised at the public interest in the subject.  We have attended the various shows where by hundreds of people, all eager to gain information and costings to decide if this option will meet their needs in the modern market. These events have attached plenty of builders with their own take on a Tiny Home, and a lot of the designs attempting to fit too much into the space rather than living more simply

Tesla Tiny House
TESLA Tiny House

For council certification there are 2 types of tiny houses –

1. Tiny Houses on Trailer Base. These are essentially caravans and therefore forgo council approval and services connections.

They are low cost and are great to put on a property that is owned by another family member. The structure of these homes can be that need to be transported has to be better [more expensive] engineered to service the lifting and transport. The restrictions of trailer width [2.5m] also play a role in the design of the floor plan and the result is a more efficient

However, the main drawback is that the toilet situation may grow to be tiresome with many requiring a cassette system that has to be emptied from the inside.

The advantage is that this house can be moved to another location and is not tied to the property.

New Frontier Cornelia House

2. Permanent Tiny House: A granny flat placed or built on site.


This build is permanent to the property and requires the engineering and council approval as per a standard residential granny flat builds. This process means that the building adds to the value of the property it is sharing with and as an additional upside the first home buyers grant applies in QLD if the land belongs to a relative.

Sunshine Coast Council allows for granny flats can be up to 90m² and anywhere on the property dependent on size.


Noosa Council allows 45m² [65m² with a few aged care tweaks] and must be within 25m of the original house


One such design is the Air BnB shipping container module a client wanted to experiment with

The house is designed to prioritise the kitchens position physically above the other space and marking it as the focal point and destination. Views to the rural fields beyond have been carefully selected to ensure the homes of neighbours are not included or intruded on. The clients were after a modern rural architecture that fit within the Sunshine Coast Hinterland: honest materials and a layout that made use of the northern light and connection to the environment.

The use of a shipping container is nothing new – but we decided to break the roof off as it allowed for greater internal spaces and ventilation and we could still retain the shape of the shipping container.


Build Quality [Shoddy]:

The tiny house movement seems to attract people looking to make a quick buck by slapping some homely elements to a demountable and describing it as a modern home.


Many presentations we have seen have an emphasis on the uniqueness of the home – as if the novelty of the tiny house needs to be made obvious and therefore not taken seriously.  The tiny home should be a practice in well considered design and its ability to function as a home – unfortunately people seem to think having a caravan that looks like a bloated castle or spaceship is good design.


The life of the tiny house is fairly contained and the lack of internal spaces means that a domestic pressure cooker can ensue. Growing up alongside families who lived in sheds and caravans while waiting for their house it be owner built, seemed happy and functioned well. But I wonder if without the discernible goal of a bigger house would living in a space this small and involved would this be the same?

Restricted plans and elevations.

The plans and attributes of any house must be thoroughly considered against the client’s requirements and the sites conditions. No Architect has yet successfully produced a house plan that can be used in any situation in the history of design – should we expect tiny houses to achieve this or as they are small are they seemingly not complicated?


There are many fine examples of architectural tiny houses and more and more are being realised by people who are looking for an alternative to the housing issues we are having. Walk Studio has a number of people in their late 20’s and 30’s toying with the idea as the Sunshine Coast area has a lot of options. We are currently developing the designs to meet the market.








WALK Contained
WALK Contained Doonan




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