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Compact Home or Tiny House? - Part 2: Advantages and Disadvantage

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

In the last post, we looked at the definitions and distinctions between tiny houses and compact homes. In this post, we will compare their advantages and disadvantages in terms of both livability and efficiency.

Tiny houses

The main advantage of tiny homes is that they’re easy, quick and cheap to build compared to other housing types. Their small size translates into a smaller carbon footprint (i.e. they consume much less energy and are easier to heat than a larger home). Some homeowners might also desire that sort of minimalist, close-at-hand lifestyle. But despite their efficiency, the diminutive size of these dwellings can actually work against their livability. For those who live in seasonal environments, you’re already familiar with the confinement which colder months bring. In a standard house this is fine, cozy even. But when your only space is the size of a living room, it might start to lose its charm. For many people these types of spatial restrictions can be psychologically challenging in general, and for this reason they are not ideal for more than one occupant. For a small family with a child, the frustration with this lack of separate or defined spaces will be even further exacerbated.

One of the challenges with most tiny homes is that they have difficulty conforming to local building code regulations (especially if there is a loft), or local zoning bylaws. As mentioned previously, this leads to tiny houses being built on temporary structural beds or wheels. Although this provides mobility and flexibility in terms of the geographic area you live in, this can come with its own set of challenges. Once on site, there needs to be special consideration for hooking up to utilities and waste/water systems. Where do you get your heating and electricity from? How do you get water, especially in the winter? What type of system do you have for waste water and sewage?

As a small off-the-grid cabin or for people in a transient phase of their life, owning a tiny house could be a great idea, but in suburbs and larger towns there are many challenges to making it a viable permanent residence. This isn’t to say that it can’t be done - for people on a budget who value efficiency and are up for a challenge, it can be a good choice.

Compact homes

Though compact homes are generally more expensive than tiny houses (but still far less expensive than standard houses), they offer more square footage and additional spaces while conforming to building codes. Having several distinct rooms, they are far more suited to couples or small families, or individuals who are looking for a bit more freedom than found in tiny houses - all while providing a more efficient living space than a typical home. Classified as permanent structures, they are directly connected to utilities and often built on a slab-on-grade foundation, eliminating the anxiety of finding access to your water, electrical, and waste disposal systems.

Of course, their permanence means they entirely lack the mobility of tiny houses. They typically consume more energy than tiny houses, but are still more energy efficient than larger homes. They cost more and take longer to build than a tiny house, but are still considerably cheaper and faster to build than a conventional home. Therein lies the most obvious disadvantage of a compact home compared to a tiny home - the cost. A smaller space that doesn’t need fully developed building systems and utilities is just less expensive.

In essence, compact homes provide a compromise between standard and tiny houses: offering the benefits of compact living (albeit less intensely) while retaining the convenience of a full-sized house.If you find the additional space they afford to be appealing and you have a somewhat larger budget, compact houses are the obvious choice for a more permanent residence.

In part 3 we will talk about the ways in which Compact Residential seeks to elevate the benefits of compact living even further.

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