Sunday, November 30, 2008

Building a Small House

A house under 2000 square feet is considered small; it is the typical minimum house size in a subdivision development. But a small, energy efficient house is easy to heat, cool, clean and maintain.

It is not easy to squeeze a spare bedroom, over-sized master bedroom, extra bathrooms, washing machine, dishwasher, an HVAC system, a water heater and storage into a home under 2000 square feet. Consider what is really a necessity and how many well defined spaces you need to create. An open floor-plan helps a small space feel large but it can be difficult because it doesn't always offer the inhabitants enough privacy.

There are many energy and space efficient materials available like instant water heaters and boilers that take up a third of the space and a tenth of the energy of their predecessors. As with budgeting the cost of a home; budgeting the use of square footage requires planning. And it requires an understanding of the spaces you need. Identifying how many people occupy a home at various times of year, how the spaces in the home are used, and what is done at home will help in this planning process.

Featured here is a 24x36 timber frame with about 1700 square feet of space with two bedrooms, two office nooks and an open plan kitchen dining and living room and lots of storage. It takes approximately two months to gather and prepare all of the materials for the shell of a home this size. Our crew raises a 24x36 timber frame in one day, the panels are installed in another two days. Windows, doors and a metal roof are installed in one more day. We are typically on a house site for four or five days (depending on the weather), building a weather tight shell. A homeowner than has a comfortable, protected, and lock-able environment in which to finish his or her home.

In this uncertain economy with high heating costs a small energy efficient home is a joy to own, heat and maintain.

small often makes sense. We will be posting a series of articles and photos of small house building projects that we have designed, built or perhaps simply inspired. If you have a project that you would like us to share with the Shelter Institute Community, please email a description and any photos to

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