CORPUS Magazine

New Standards

There’s a trend toward micro-housing strategies for living in limited space. And these are urgently needed in cities owing to the shortage of space and high square meter prices. They make possible the dream of living in one’s own four walls, a sense of self-sufficiency or minimalism tailored to the dweller’s personal aspirations – depending on the personal life situation.

How much living space do we need – and how much would we like? From a global point of view, the answers to this question can certainly vary a great deal. In Hong Kong, the world’s most expensive rental market, the question often doesn’t even arise. People live where there’s space. And there isn’t much to go around: Affordable housing is in short supply and the average size of home in the Asian city is falling. In 2017, 30 percent of the more than 17,000 newly built apartments were smaller than 40 square meters in size, and in 2018 the rate is expected to rise to 43 percent. On average, the residents of Hong Kong’s numerous social housing complexes live on not even 13 square meters. A trend that prompts architects to go new ways in creating tiny homes in which every centimeter is exploited, every piece of furniture has a function and, thanks to an ingenious design concept, the home atmosphere is even comparable to that of a large apartment. The architect James Law has developed a totally new type of tiny house – concrete pipes that are actually intended for water. With a diameter of 2.5 meters, the new home idea offers little more than 9 square meters of flexibly adaptable living and sleeping space, a cooking area, and a tiny bathroom. Particularly inventive is the modular stackability of the dwelling units, enabling them to be assembled into entire buildings and inserted, without major site preparation, into vacant plots, beneath bridges or into courtyards. What has been running merely as an experiment nevertheless points the way forward in terms of trends in living space. Fewer and fewer residents of Hong Kong can afford their own apartments, and so-called nano-apartments ranging from 15 to 35 square meters are in big demand. The average value of real estate here is 19.4 times the average annual income and thus more than double the value in London at 8.5.

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An experiment for cost-effective living in a small space: Opod Tube Housing. The stackable concrete pipes offer everything necessary for a life on 9 square metres, from space-saving furnishings to miniature bathrooms. (Credits: James Law Cybertecture)

Space-saving housing strategies are on the advance elsewhere as well. While the per capita living space is rising in Germany as a whole, cities like Munich and Hamburg are having to demonstrate ingenuity in accommodating the growing throng of home hunters. In the Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg district, “Woodie” was recently constructed – a wooden student dormitory quickly built and made ready for occupancy thanks to its modular design. All 371 rooms are made entirely of wood and are based in their shape on shipping containers. A base structure of reinforced concrete provides the necessary stability. The versatile usage strategy of the so-called “Universal Design Quartier” permits simple modification of the building elements – this way it can respond to developments in society as a whole, such as demographic change. Should current demand for individual, practically designed, and ready-furnished student apartment units change, Woodie can be swiftly modified, for example, into a senior citizens’ residence with a variety of apartment sizes.

The Woodie in Wilhelmsburg keeps what the name promises: Not only the facades, but also its 371 rooms are made of a lot of wood. The dormitories have already arrived in Hamburg as prefabricated carcasses in container form - so the construction time could be kept particularly short. (Credits: Jörg Autermann)

However, intelligent micro-housing doesn’t only arise due to lack of space. Often it is the desire for independence and for one’s own four walls or the idea of not wanting to live permanently in a single location that is decisive. Modern tiny homes provide sufficient room to breathe without occupying any more space than necessary. The architect and designer Vina Lustado has made her own personal dream come true. At a site in Ojai, two hours north of Los Angeles, Lustado has built “Vina’s Tiny House” in little more than a year for construction. And here she can truly live the way she wants to: modestly, sustainably, and with everything she wants for living and working. And virtually independently of the location. Anyone who feels inspired by this embodiment of autonomy can even purchase the optimized design plans inclusive of lists of materials and costs from Lustado’s Sol Haus Design business – emulation is encouraged.

Architect and designer Vina Lustado wanted to live by her own standards - and built herself a Tiny House in Ojai, California. Here she can live and work sustainably and modestly - and even offers the design of her mini house for sale. (Credits: Sol House Design/Eileen Descallar Ringwald/Chibi Moku)

If it is a question of home mobility without active involvement in construction, concepts like the Ecocapsule may be the ideal interim solution. As ready-installed tiny homes, they combine comfort and mobility with advanced technology and optional self-sufficiency. Energy-saving design, a dual power supply system combined with several high-performance batteries, and a water collection and filtration system even permit home-living without access to infrastructure for a limited period. What’s more, home relocation couldn’t be easier. The Ecocapsule can not only be transported in a standard shipping container, but can also be converted into a mobile home when mounted on a car trailer. The UFO-like mini-house can even be flown by helicopter into remote areas or planted on load-bearing rooftops. Apart from the finance, this kind of tiny home only needs the necessary residence permit – or one’s own plot of land.

Thanks to smart technology and self-sufficiency concept, the Ecocapsule is completely location-independent - at least for some time. 4.67 metres long and 2.50 metres high, the Micro House does not take up much space: even if the connected wind turbine still rises another two metres into the air. The only thing missing is a suitable "parking space". (Credits: Ecocapsule Holding)


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