Tagged tiny house

Trying to building your dream natural home? Make your Guest House your Best House

The idea of living in a high-performance, natural home has been calling to you but you…

cozy straw bale artist's studio
An adorable strawbale studio

… haven’t found build-able land where you want to live.

… can’t cover the cost of buying land and building a house.

… don’t want the hassle and expense of selling and moving.

… can’t afford to live in one house while you build another.

… have concerns about the sustainability of developing land.

So what can you do?

If you own a conventional home but have been dreaming of a beautiful, non-toxic, super-insulated natural home, here’s a strategy we’d like you to consider: make your Guest House Your Best House!

Stay right where you are, have us design and build you an amazing natural guest house in your backyard while you live comfortably in your current home, then move into it! You can then legally rent out the old house for extra income or keep it as a guest space or future caregiver’s quarters.

Floor plan for a 1200 sq ft strawbale home, © Simple Construct 2018

You may have looked into building a guest house before and were discouraged by the limitations. But many of those regulations (and fees that went with them) were recently revised. The new state-wide Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations that went into effect here in California in 2017 override local ordinances and allow most homeowners to build a detached “granny flat” ADU of up to 1,200 sq feet no matter how small the main house is. ADUs used to be limited to 50% of the size of the main house, so if you had an 800 sq ft house, the largest ADU you could have built was 400 sq ft. Not anymore! As long as you can meet the setbacks and other requirements, you can build an ADU as large as 1,200 sq ft in most jurisdictions. That’s not tiny,* that’s a 2 bedroom house with closets and enough room for a separate kitchen, dining table, and living room.

So if you own a home and like where you live but not what you live in, contact us to explore whether a high-performance natural ADU is right for your situation.

~ Rebecca & Mike, owners, Simple Construct Naturally Healthy Homes

* If you are interested in Tiny Houses, one aspect of this legislation that hasn’t gotten as much attention is the new minimum size allowed. Previous regulations governing the minimum size of rooms meant that the smallest you could legally build a house was between 400-600 sq ft, depending on interpretation. This new legislation drops that to a minimum of 150 sq ft for an ADU. That’s a Tiny House! A legal, rentable Tiny House.







Why are houses in San Diego so unaffordable?

On average in San Diego, it will cost about $500k for an existing house with land or about $200k for land plus $300k for a new house to be built on it: either way it’s a pretty steep climb for many of us.

Wondering why you can’t find an affordable home to buy in San Diego? This article explains many of the forces at play. There aren’t a lot of easy answers. I’m glad they touch on ADUs / Granny Flats as one part of the solution.

Exciting new rules about “guest houses” in San Diego!

Whether you call them guest houses, granny flats, or second dwelling units, there’s some exciting news about them! New legislation passed in CA lifts some of the restrictions around these units, which are now all called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

Two of the most exciting features of the new rules, which went into effect on Jan 1st, are that detached ADUs can be as large as 1200 sq ft no matter what size the main house is, attached ADUs are now allowed to be as big as 50% of the square footage of the main house, and, if the project is located close to public transportation, the requirement to provide extra onsite parking has been waived. The new rules also make permitting an ADU faster and less expensive. A permitted ADU can legally be rented out, generating steady income for the owner.

This could be huge for San Diego’s affordable housing crisis! Now combine that with natural, non-toxic, carbon-positive building and we can do something real to address our housing crisis in a more sustainable way.

If you would like to explore the possibility of building a high-performance, non-toxic ADU on your property, we’d be happy to help you evaluate your options.




Dreaming Small

SBshedworkshop260In elementary school, I was obsessed with building my own house. As an introvert in a family of extroverts, I really wanted my own separate space, snug within its own four walls and roof. It didn’t need to be large, just big enough for a bed and a desk. Having no idea how to build a house, I cut out pictures of ready-made sheds from hardware store mailers and tried to save my allowance to buy one to turn into a house in a corner of my parent’s backyard. I never could manage to save that kind of money and eventually the idea faded into the background, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for little, bitty houses.

CASHP106_low_cropI got some first-hand experience living tiny, since a 600 sq ft apartment in Boston was all I could afford as a recent art school graduate. Sharing walls with other apartment-dwellers just made it feel small, not separate. Later, a move across the country led me to inhabit a 400 sq ft freestanding home, a version of my childhood dream. It became clear that there are advantages and restrictions that come with living in a small space. As someone who likes to make things (and usually makes a mess in the process), having space for tools and projects was an issue. I updated my goal: needed a tiny house to live in and a workshop to make in.

library-built-by-ex-slaves-allensworth-ca-copy2The growth of the Tiny House movement of the last ten years has delighted me. I have doubts about how realistic tiny houses on wheels are for everyone, but the movement has given a name to the desire for simplicity, for less, for just enough. Naming is powerful and can help people come together to change large, seemingly-unchangeable things like building regulations, as some jurisdictions have now done.

As I shifted my career and began to help build houses and then, later, to design and build houses, the first of the Four R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) was always on my mind. To me, one of the highest goals of design is to do more with less; to achieve the goal without wasted space or materials or resources or money.

A few years ago, I was traveling with my husband to attend a conference in Northern California and needed a place to camp. We ended up finding Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, which turned out to be a restored tiny house ghost town: a village of small buildings in the middle of what was once somewhere but had become nowhere when the train stopped going there. It has a fascinating history and was a delightful experience that reinforced my love of the tiny.

workshopdoneIMG_0615During the Great Recession that heralded some very slow times in construction, we decided to help a friend build a tiny straw bale building in his backyard. We designed it, poured the slab, framed the walls and roof, and held two workshops to teach people about stacking straw bales and applying clay plaster. It was a deeply satisfying experience to finally build something tiny.

More recently, I discovered and fell in love with the Pocket Neighborhood idea. I spend time dreaming of building a collection of exquisitely designed tiny straw bale homes with excellent privacy and shared amenities, like a community room for hosting the occasional big party that doesn’t fit in a cozy home.

I am surprised how far back I can trace some of my current obsessions like natural materials and tiny buildings. I recently found out that when I started kindergarten, my teacher worried as she watched me choose to play with clay every day for months. When I finally started playing with other things as well as clay, she wrote to my parents that I seemed to have “gotten over my obsession” with clay: she turned out to be quite wrong. Her pronouncement seems now to foreshadow a life-long affair with clay. And my early fascination with buying a little shed of my own has endured and continues to inform my work today.