Journal: Building a Tiny House (UK)- Part 5
If you’re wondering what took me so long with this next part, consider the following:
- My family is very old and I have to babysit them often
- I was made redundant at my job (first time getting laid off. Yay me!)
- I’m a terrible person
But for some reason or another, every time I decide to finally abandon this blog, a few of you pop up in my comments or social channels with various nice ways of saying, ‘your blog is absolutely bonkers and I want to see how this train wreck ends. Please continue.’
But, I exist to entertain, so here I am once again. A jest for your pleasure.
I realise I’ve made a̶b̶s̶o̶l̶u̶t̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶g̶r̶e̶s̶s very little progress in the actual building part of my tiny house journey. But as some of you have kindly pointed out, this series is spilling with links and bits of knowledge that are somewhat helpful—or at least make you snort in amusement. So it’s not all a waste. Just about.
Maybe I should change the title of this series to lower people’s expectations from the get-go. I shall mull it over.
That said, I once again come to you—with no tiny house whatsoever—but a load of information from the farthest and most unnecessary corners of the tiny home realm.
Okay this first corner isn’t far at all. It’s actually from my previous blog post, where a lovely commenter, Charlie Moss, asked if I had checked out U-Build yet.
Why no I haven’t, Charlie. Let’s see then.
U-Build is a self-build design company that gives you packs of pre-cut plywood panels that you can assemble using basic tools to build things like garden studios, house extensions, or even entire homes.
Homes, you say?
For homes, they cut out the right wooden shapes and ship them over as building blocks so you can put together a ‘cabin in the woods, a new build house, or even a tiny house on wheels.’
It’s £1200 per m2, and during the design consultancy you can ask them about extra things like insulation and cladding.
It seems you can choose one of their pre-fab designs or create your own and they’ll laser cut it out for you. Since they’re basically building blocks, you can LEGO your way to bigger builds, add or remove bits, and dismantle it all if you choose to move location.
Think of it as the IKEA of houses. You get the parts and piece them together while considering strangling your partner.
Anyway, I dug into their case studies and found just one tiny home on display. It was for a couple who needed somewhere quick to live during the pandemic. There’s even a video to go with it.
This is actually a really neat company! Charlie, you wise and wonderful mongoose.
Today, while browsing and wasting my life as usual, I got an email from a familiar address.
…Okay. Did Steve from HR accidentally include part of the brief in the email? Whatever. Moving on.
…Eco villages, you say? Looks like that idea is back on the table, folks!
I’ll add the Zoom call to my t̶̶o̶̶t̶̶a̶̶l̶̶l̶̶y̶̶ ̶e̶̶m̶̶p̶̶t̶̶y̶̶ busy calendar.
Today’s the day. It’s time for ‘Tiny House Talks’.
I’m sort of imagining a Zoom call with just the hosts and maybe three other muppets—where one can’t figure out how to mute themselves. But hopefully I’m wrong.
At 7pm on the dot, I click on the Zoom link and pray that I’m not the first one on. Surprisingly, I’m met with dozens of little screens of people already online, tweaking their cameras or themselves while they wait. At a glance, they seem to be between 30–65 years old, mostly women, and very English. As in, “has tea at exactly 4pm and will passionately discuss the weather” English.
The hosts (Leanne and Dane) started off with a bit of background on tiny homes and why anyone in their right mind would live in one. Here’s a screenshot of their presentation slide.
Then they dove into the three plans they’ve come up with to help people actually live in a tiny home.
- 40s-60s sites
- First time buyer sites
- Eco villages (for everyone)
Allow me to give you the skinny on each one.
Turns out that many people within this age range are particularly fed up with city life and want to live in a green space with like-minded folks. For retirees, high bills are a considerable concern and having a sustainable home that doesn’t burn through their pension would really butter their parsnips.
So, what Tiny Housing Co has in mind is to create a sort of park home site where each (ground floor) house is carbon neutral and completely self-sustaining—meaning there are no bills involved. The site would also have a communal garden. Sounds nice.
First time buyer sites
This one was new. The idea is to use ‘leftover land’ on the edge of several towns so people can live tiny and stay close to home or work.
The tiny houses here would be 35sqm each, and some would be purchased through council funding, making them social housing. Not a bad idea, really. Problem is, UK councils are about as helpful as one-ply toilet paper, so Leanne predicts this idea could take anywhere from 3–5 years to get off the ground.
Aha, the main course.
These eco villages would have 20–30 tiny homes so people can huddle together and live completely off-grid. Each community would raise money to buy the land and finance groundworks, and any additional income from selling energy or compost would be funnelled into shared gardens and a community cafe or shop. (I suppose my solar-powered wine fountain idea didn’t make the cut.)
At this point in the presentation, one of the few men on the call decided now was the ideal time to crack open a Carlsberg and start chugging.
How much would an eco village cost? They had a slide precisely for that.
Okay, that’s a lot of scary numbers. But those are the total costs. Each tiny houser looking to join an eco village would need a £5,000 deposit, and can expect to pay £12,675 out of pocket for their basic Nomad model. The rest of the money would come from community funding.
And how exactly is Tiny Housing Co planning to get all this money together?
I wrote that down, too. And you’ll never guess how they plan on doing it. Honestly, you won’t.
I’ll give you two seconds to try. Go on.
Never mind, I’ll just tell you.
They’re speaking to two TV production companies to document their eco village adventure.
Yep, we could all end up on Netflix some day. I pray that nobody on the crew Googles far enough to find this blog.
As for the rest of the funding, they’d chuck in £20,000 of their own money to help buy the land. Right now, their priority is nabbing the TV deal and finding enough land (in England) for 20–30 tiny houses. Once they have that, the projected timeline to get the first eco village up is 6–9 months.
Take a peek at the timeline.
Here’s where somebody piped up about financing options, and the hosts gave the example of a couple who got a £35,000 loan to be paid back over 5 years. (Their yearly income was £17,000, just so you know.) Leanne said they’re working with financing companies to score longer payment terms (5–10 years), but this is a 2023 plan, when they have some kind of eco village prototype and the financing companies can actually see what they’re loaning out money for.
Then the presentation ended and people began turning their cameras back on to ask more questions. I won’t get into all of them, mostly because many were stupid, but here’s a summary of the answers.
- The Tiny Housing Co Slack channel is dead. Finished. Kaput.
- Their tiny homes will now be built according to passive house principles (remember we learnt about that in part 4?)
- Wood burners are apparently now bad, so they’re replacing those with underfloor heating instead
- You can email email@example.com if you want to be included in an eco village. Just say what area you want to be near
By now they had started with repetitive questions from people who obviously hadn’t been listening, so I decided to eject myself from the Zoom call—but not before hearing Dane say,
‘And now a question from Liz Truss. Well that’s an unfortunate name.’
Oh my, what do we have here? I’ve stumbled upon yet another Facebook group where UK folks fling out posts and prices to sell (or rent) their plots of land. It’s called ‘land for sale, wanted or rented all over the UK’ and you just have to ask to join.
It seems to be much more active than the others I’ve seen, so worth checking out if you’re one of the optimistic souls looking for land.
I have to wonder, with energy prices spiking and house prices even more mental than ever, is 2023 going to be the year tiny homes finally boom in England?
Planning laws don’t seem to be budging, but public demand has a way of forcing change. Although with the pace England is known for, we’ll have tiny home laws sometime between 2024 and the next Ice Age.
Speaking of public demand, an interesting petition just popped up on my Twitter timeline.
It needs 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate in Parliament. But, if you want to one of the wonderfully annoying people nudging the government to do something decent, you can sign the petition here. Worth a try, eh?
Guess what? There’s an eco village already in the UK. In South East London, no less.
Yes, seriously. It’s called BedZED, and it’s the UK’s first major sustainable community.
Apparently it’s in Hackbridge, and was completed in 2002. It has 100 homes, along with office spaces, a college, and community facilities (like for recycling and workshops).
Although it’s not the leafy green village you’d normally think of. One journalist described it as ‘industrial’, but she said the ‘weekly vegan lunches’ were rather nice.
After seeing how neighbourly and sustainable BedZED seemed, with its wind-powered heating, solar panels, and frequent community workshops—she questioned whether this sort of freewheeling lifestyle would be possible to replicate across the UK.
Chris Rogers, a Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, told her that it depends entirely on the ‘individual and community attitudes and behaviours’ of the people living in them.
Essentially, if we want eco villages to become mainstream, we have to stop avoiding our neighbours. That’s going to be a tough one.
As I was scrolling through Twitter eyeing the trail of destruction that was my timeline, one tweet (that miraculously wasn’t about Elon Musk) caught my eye.
The Sanctum website goes on a bit of a long-winded pitch to basically say they’re planning on building eco villages across several countries, with fully furnished homes that you can pay to live in. It says these eco villages will be ‘fully managed’ and sustainable—I think that means community gardens and at least one sober doctor.
Well that certainly looks lovely and above my tax bracket.
Their first village is set to be built in Yucatán, Mexico. It also seems you need to pay to become a member so you can live in a Sanctum eco village and connect with members in other eco villages.
Now, this all sounds pretty nice and dreamy, but also as though those eco villages will be filled with upper-class folks saying namaste to each other. I headed over to their Community page and found that it’s $99 to join now, and you get an invite to Telegram where the Sanctum community members huddle together for updates. You also get a ‘limited edition Sanctum NFT as a gift’.
I think we’ve all seen how NFTs have been working out so far. Seems like Sanctum might be another tech bro pipe dream, but who knows. The comments under the thread were mostly from his pals saying how excited they were to see it up and running, then there was the odd stranger with canny observations, such as:
Either way, you can always subscribe to their mailing list just to keep an eye.
Since a lot of you have been asking how I’m doing on the Humans app, (narrator: nobody asked), here’s a rundown.
I’ve gotten a few more messages from people asking about tiny homes or saying they’d love to have one, but no other leads there. In other messages, I added a prompt to my profile saying I have a list of deeply terrible cat names and anyone who wants to ruin their own day is free to ask me about it.
…I underestimated how many people wanted to see my groan-worthy list. I’ve sent the same list to 25+ people and counting. Here’s an example:
Mind you, that’s the shortlist. The full list is about three times as long, and I can promise you, the names only get progressively worse.
Some of the best replies I’ve gotten include: ‘I love and hate them all’, and, ‘These are the best cat names to ever grace my eyes’, and, ‘I need 11 cats right now.’
So now every new message I get is someone asking for my cat names. I think this app might not be my ticket to meeting magical tiny home enthusiasts—but to a hoard of cat fans instead.
Y’know what I haven’t done in a while? Check what new properties might match my budget.
Let’s have a look.
Okay, let’s try that again. I’m using RightMove and they actually have a filter for ‘park homes’, which I suppose classifies as a tiny home.
This one isn’t too shabby.
Bit of a hodge-podge inside, but cosy.
I’ve noticed the grand majority of these park homes are in the southeast, many around Brighton and Hastings. Ideal spots if you want to be flooded within a decade—if we’re trusting the climate-crisis forecasts.
I have seen some proper brick 2-bedroom houses in the £250,000 range, which is still a lot. But, it’s an entire house with a garden, rather than a 1-bedroom box in London for £450,000. Problem is, those houses are also old as shit. The maintenance would likely leave your bank account sobbing.
Then you find some…rather questionable properties. Like this one:
If anyone decides to pursue that last one, for the love of god, please update me.
Considering I’m still jobless, my current apartment is pricing me out. So I’ve begun scouting new areas.
I looked at Croydon first, since it’s closer to London and a whole lot cheaper rent-wise, but was met with a few reviews like this one:
Let’s ignore that for now.
So I went back to RightMove and looked at a few apartments in the general south east area, and saw more than a few decently priced apartments in Crawley. The only thing I know about Crawley is that it’s also the name of a Neil Gaiman character.
Off to Reddit for local opinions!
Now, locals describe Crawley as either “a lovely place to live” or “an absolute shithole where you will die alone”.
So, as is my curious nature, I went down for a day and explored it myself. And, I can safely say, both opinions are correct.
Although, for anyone looking for a park home in that general area, I did see a bunch of them in Redhill, marked by the red pin here:
Other than that, I’d say the trip was an expensive headache and I still have no clue where to move next.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. If I had just stuck to my own tiny house plan and rented a patch of land in someone’s garden, I’d be living in my own home by now.
I AM AWARE.
The Twitter algorithm must be in a good mood today, because for the first time ever, I saw a tiny house ad instead of the same three sportswear ones over and over.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Yeah okay, not really. The folks in the comments aren’t particularly impressed by the idea of living in a tiny metal box. You don’t have to scroll far to read opinions like, “terrible idea”, and “no mobile signal in that”, and a very eager, “Gosh, I’m so excited to live in a shipping container and eat bugs”.
Even so, I’ve never heard of BASF in my little life. Let’s do some digging.
BASF is a German multinational chemical company and the largest chemical producer in the world. The name stands for ‘Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik’, which we could all probably say after a concussion.
Anyway, one of their projects is creating sustainable materials for energy-efficient buildings. For a 2022 fair, they created a container home to showcase their wares, and there’s even a 3-minute video about it with lighthearted background music.
Aside from that, they have a whole page that talks about their work with a container house company called Containerwerk. Basically, Containerwerk provides upcycled shipping containers, and BASF provides a thin layer of insulation (called Elastopor) to keep people cosy.
To stay humble, BASF points to a research station in the Antarctic that uses their insulation.
Safe to say, it probably works.
If you decide to dig deeper into BASF and what they’re all about, you might eventually find their Wikipedia page and a whole lot of information about Nazis. So maybe don’t dig too deep.
Thou hast been warned.
Well, isn’t this curious timing.
Do you remember that container home park I mentioned my cousin was living in? Somewhere in part 4 of this wretched series? No?
Well, me neither. But it’s River Dane Park in Cheshire, and the matter only bubbled back up because word had travelled that the cold storm hitting the UK lately froze his water pipes and sabotaged his electricity—so no heating. Now, most container homes are insulated, but not that insulated. He’s quite literally stuck in an icebox with a measly portable heater that keeps his big toe warm.
So uh…considering how unpredictable the weather is getting each year, maybe make sure good insulation is in your tiny home plans.
Probably handy that we know about BASF now, eh?
Well, the end of the year has come around and I have a terrible cold. On the bright side, after many endless rounds of interviewing, I finally have a new job lined up in January.
In the meantime, my mind is on airplane mode and I think there’s nothing more I can add to this blog post. Maybe one day I’ll use all this information to actually build one for myself.
If you want to shove your own tiny home progress in my face, do so in the comments. Or if any of this info has helped you in any way, tell me that too.
In the meantime, I apologise for the woefully short post, and I hope you all have a wonderful 2023 filled with tiny homes, warm socks, and lots of good nonsense.
Until next time!