A tiny list of frequently-asked-questions below:
- What’s Boneyard Studios? Back in 2012, a few folks got together to build the country’s first tiny house community on an old alley lot in the middle of the District of Columbia. That small project ended up connecting a huge community of architects, builders, tiny house enthusiasts, dreamers, and doers, and Boneyard Studios became a gathering place—physically and topically—to promote sustainable, simple, space-efficient living, demonstrate creative urban infill, and start a conversation about a different way of doing things. Over the years, we’ve hosted dozens of events—tours, book readings, film screenings, concerts—and done our best to share what we know and what we’ve learned. Those houses aren’t next door to each other on that old alley lot anymore, and that community has grown to include hundreds of tiny house advocates in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. We’re all involved in different projects now and don’t actively organize events under the name Boneyard Studios anymore, but we’ll keep this site online for as long as folks keep coming for the information buried in our archives. For more current tiny house content, head here.
- What are tiny houses? Tiny (or small) houses are an affordable, attractive, environmentally-friendly housing option. They’re part of a beautiful, growing, varied movement—some tiny houses are as small as a square meter and others as large as 300, 400, or 700 feet. The key isn’t really size itself, but careful and deliberate attention to space efficiency and simplicity. Some tiny houses are foundation-built while others, like those at Boneyard Studios, are on wheels (this is often done because housing codes are too prohibitive to build a tiny, off-grid home).
- Why build small? Today in America, 1 in 4 homeowners owe more money than what their home is worth, with over 5 million homes being foreclosed upon in 2010 and 2011 alone. At an average of $244,000 for a used home, McMansion living simply isn’t affordable—it’s bankrupting our neighbors financially and taxing them emotionally and mentally. The environment also feels the burden: the average new home constructed consumes three-quarters an acre of forest, produces 7 tons of construction waste, and emits 18 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Small homes are more affordable, more sustainable, (sometimes) more mobile, and always more simple to clean, care for, an enjoy.
- Why build on wheels? Due to their small size, most tiny houses are inherently not up to the minimum size requirements of building code. Building tiny houses on trailers reclassifies them as travel trailers, doing away with such requirements and offering the added advantage of mobility. Of course, tiny homes should be (and typically are) built to code as much as possible. Much more on the legality of tiny houses here.
- How do the systems work—water, electric, septic? The tiny house movement has experimented with a broad range of systems solutions, and most homes provide electric, water, and commonly-expected amenities. At Boneyard Studios, we’ve attempted to rethink and improve upon these solutions, including composting toilets, greywater management, rain catchment, air conditioning, insulation, and overall air quality, along with a more deliberate approach to space and design.
- Are tiny houses really that affordable? A tiny house can be built for between $5,000 and $50,000 in materials, with labor adding another $10,000 or more to the project. So compared to a new SUV, about $40,000 for a new home seems tremendously inexpensive. That said, tiny homes don’t come with the same liberal financing options SUVs do, meaning that most tiny home builders must pay for construction entirely out of pocket.
- Wouldn’t it be more space-efficient to build a multifamily structure? Certainly, microapartments and microcondos make more sense (from a purely space perspective), in most situations. However, tiny homes offer a balance of space efficiency with proximity to the outdoors, and those windows do wonders in making a tight space feel a lot more open. In our case, we were previously sited on an alley lot that couldn’t be developed anyway, so putting the plot of land to use as a place for a few tiny houses and a community garden is great use of the space.