FROM LITTLE THINGS
In recent years, tiny living has gained in popularity for those seeking alternative living solutions. With a range of economic and environmental benefits, these homes offer a flexible and affordable solution for both lovers of the simple life and free-spirited adventurers. At the forefront of this innovation, SWALE Modular is constantly improving its design for sustainable and affordable modular accommodation units. Katie Livingston chats with company director, Chris Clarke, about the rising prevalence of tiny homes and their place in the modern market.
Written by Katie Livingston.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT SWALE MODULAR?
CC: SWALE Modular is a visionary modular business that creates solutions to securely package off-grid, luxury, green, art-style accommodation units. These units have a minimal impact and carbon footprint, allowing secure, liquid assets for those who are in the market for tiny home land-sharing, sustainable, transient or minimalist living, Airbnb, or ecotourism income.
SWALE Modular’s philosophy is to reclaim underutilised property by working with existing landholders of both land sites and waterways with agreements and relocatable products – making these developments more affordable and better places for residents to live.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON REASONS PEOPLE OPT TO CONSTRUCT A TINY HOME?
Life is moving and changing so quickly but the homes we live in are not. With less security in employment, cashflow, health, and a growing elderly population, people need more flexible, affordable and adaptable homes. Tiny homes are a push for that change… towards a more free and transient lifestyle.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TINY HOMES?
Tiny homes aren’t just glorified caravans on wheels… they can be modular and adaptable homes without wheels and still fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, where you use a truck to relocate them rather than their own wheels. These homes can still be relocated within a 24-hour period, but you have the ability to grow or subtract your home depending on where your life takes you. [You can easily install] a yoga module or a corporate office to work from home, but when it’s no longer needed it’s gone within 24 hours and being used by someone who needs it.
ARE ALL TINY HOMES DESIGNED TO BE RELOCATABLE? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DESIGNING THIS WAY?
Not all tiny homes are designed to be adaptable. Granny flats can be conventionally built and do not fit the parameters of being relocatable. The benefits are being able to take your house wherever life takes you without even packing your clothes. Having flexibility to adapt, grow, change or sell a part of your home allows sell part of your home is complete freedom.
WE’VE SEEN A HUGE INCREASE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF TINY HOMES IN THE LAST DECADE, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
People are looking for alternative solutions to living. The demand is there with single parents, job insecurity and a volume of people who are understandably not in a position to secure a traditional home … [this has] pushed people towards transient styles of living.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS OF TINY LIVING?
Tiny Homes are sustainable and efficient, you don’t need to make huge commitments, and you have more time, freedom and flexibility to live a more connected, stress-free life. The list goes on, but I find the biggest advantage for me is to live a minimalist lifestyle with fewer liabilities in easy, efficient spaces that are connected to nature. I’m lucky as I’ve had a chance to trial so many, especially after losing my dream home in the Black Saturday fires. I cherish a minimalist, sustainable and simple place to live outside of the mainstream traditional structures.
The biggest limitation is that we have a different system in every state, council, building classification, orientation, and climate zone. Tiny homes fall under The Residential Tenancies Act and therefore may not be compliant with the Building Codes of Australia (BCA) and National Construction Codes (NCC) as working with tiny spaces make these regulations harder to achieve.
WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS TO LIVING IN A TINY HOME VERSUS A STANDARD HOUSE?
Everything is small, compact and manageable; therefore, they can be sustainable. Smaller areas and appliances lead to small solar and storage
systems. We believe in low-impact developments that don’t require excavation or permanent structures put in place that quickly become liabilities. Building with raw and recycled products within good design parameters and low embodied energy solutions are all environmental benefits.
HOW CAN CLIENTS MAKE EFFECTIVE USE OF SPACE WHEN DESIGNING A TINY HOME?
Creating comfortable shared spaces in efficient ways is the key. Take a meal outside in the sun – have fun with how you and your family can dine in these shared spaces. Work out what’s important to you and how you want to feel in that space, then work out how these spaces can be shared. You will be amazed at how gorgeous this can be. Try not to divide small spaces into smaller spaces. Where we need to, we follow the Japanese wabi sabi minimalist principals of rice-paper shoji doors, organic CNC routed screens and glass or curtain doors.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON PITFALLS THAT COME WITH CONSTRUCTING AND INSTALLING A TINY HOME YOURSELF, AND HOW CAN THEY BE AVOIDED?
There is nothing more rewarding than building your own home and nothing more challenging if it doesn’t go to plan. Keep in mind, less is more. An asset becomes a liability very quickly and this is the most common pitfall. Tiny homes do not fit current financial systems and usually it’s money up front, so take care not to go over budget. Being wary of bushfires and cyclones, or constructing a home that can be easily moved and connected to services, are all things that need to be considered. Our belief is that a relocatable home must be built from strong raw materials to remain an
asset. Products made from steel that are intermodal are designed and crush-tested, transport and lifting certified, and cyclone- and fire-proof. Lastly, focus on completing the home prior to purchasing non-essential extras and know your home has a limited value until it’s finished, installed and lived in.
HOW ARE TINY HOMES COST-EFFECTIVE IN THE SHORT AND LONG-TERM?
The biggest discussion point is the cost-effectiveness of tiny homes in comparison to normal or conventional homes. Looking at it seriously, if you reduce the size, [you are saving] on materials and labour. Most appliances are smaller and more affordable. Tiny homes have minimal contract risk and much smaller budgets, so overcapitalising is reduced.
Value for money, quality and research on all products is critical, not designing yourself into a corner – which consultants will charge you half the price of your module to get out of – and avoid spending money on extras that do not offer value to your lifestyle or safety. [Stay true to] the tiny home philosophy.
DO YOU THINK THAT TINY HOMES WILL CONTINUE TO RISE IN POPULARITY?
Tiny homes aren’t a new concept, we imported small homes to establish this country, we just got lost along the way and now tiny homes on wheels are a new way to try and get around the load of legislation that prohibits transient or flexible homes. If councils can believe in this sustainable concept and make the most of underutilised property, tiny homes and community living will be amazing again. More connection and less stress.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR READERS LOOKING TO CONSTRUCT A TINY HOME?
Dream it. Plan it. Do it. Live your life in a cute, connected tiny home and see the benefits for yourself. Cutting things back, making life less complicated, and more connected to the environment and those you love is the tiny home vision.