Tiny Houses

28 July 2014


The second half of Minim’s architect, Chad Chalmers…

cL: What about materials?

CC: I’d love to explore different materials. There’s a lot of new technology out there including composite materials which are very durable. One good example is the interior wood finish that is specified in Minim. There’s a shortage of walnut right now so we may need to reconsider that wood. Perhaps we will consider indigenous materials such as Pennsylvania cherry so that we can reduce shipping costs. Or bamboo, a sustainable option, with one of the shortest harvesting times.

cL: How will you put Minim on  foundation?

CC: Since the City of Pittsburgh does not permit trailer homes on wheels, we’ll need to explore foundation options. One possibility is to use caissons, where a hole, 12-18 inches in diameter is dug in the ground and concrete poured into it. We could potentially reduce foundation costs by pouring  caissons where they are needed to support the building, so that we don’t have to do a lot excavation.

cL: What about the streetscape?

CC: Fitting Minim into the streetscape is going to be a little tricky. It’s smaller than its neighbors. Landscaping is going to be key and so is setting the height of Minim’s floor. How many steps should we have up to the front door? Should there be a front porch? How do resolve the proportions of Minim to the existing streetscape and make sure everything fits? We’ll be doing some three-dimensional studies so that we understand what the streetscape will look like.

cL: What are the key challenges you see?

CC:  I believe most of the challenges will be underground – water, sewer and site conditions.  There will be challenges with existing utilities and the cost of getting them to connect to the house. We may be challenged by sub-surface site conditions. Infrastructure is going to be key. The city requires that all the final connections to the house have to be completed by a professional – a registered plumber, register electrician, etc. Only then can you receive an occupancy permit. This, of course, will add cost, but is a necessary part of the process.

cL: What comes first?

CC: Every project has a process. The first step is to start with site plan review and to understand the orientation, zoning codes and how these relate to the adjacent neighbors. Next we’ll create a couple of different site plans, showing different sized houses and select the one we like the best. We’ll need to look at this from 10,000 feet and then, step by step, zoom in until we’re dealing with the nitty gritty details such as countertops, finishes, doors and windows.

cL: What’s the most exciting part for you?

CC: I’m most excited by the idea of being able to produce a product that everyone could own for potentially less than the cost of renting in the City of Pittsburgh. This could be a starter home or a home for an empty nester. It has lots of potential. Just looking at all the “missing teeth” throughout the neighborhood and imagine being able to fill them with Tiny Houses. That’s exciting!

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