What is a home?
It seems like a simple question, until you really think about it. Is a home just four walls and a roof, or do aesthetics and affordability play a role? How about environmental sustainability, or a space that nurtures our health? Twenty-one-year-old student Aaron Feicht is hoping to find his own answers by building a 7.5 x 14-foot micro-home on a vacant, wooded lot at Squamish’s Quest University Campus.
Words and photos: Feet Banks
“That is my thesis question,” Aaron explains. “What is a home? I began by looking at what it takes to build a home, but what I really want to know is what differentiates a house from a home? When does the space you inhabit become something more? My tiny home is a vehicle for me to explore these larger questions.”
Purposefully designed to be slightly under local building permit size limits, Aaron’s tiny home took about four months to build. “It’s been perfect for exploring the design and construction side of things,” he says. “And now I can look at how I interact with it while living here.”
Originally from Calgary, Aaron learned the basics of construction while helping his dad with various projects. He was always interested in alternative buildings like earthships and treehouses, but when it came time to build this tiny home, Aaron discovered a lot of the best alternative ideas and materials are just not available.
“I’m much more cognizant of what I am buying and what kind of packaging it comes in,” he says. “Extra ‘Stuff’ is stressful now and I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Do I really need that?’ Usually I don’t.”
“I used fibreglass insulation,” Aaron says. “I’d have paid more for denim insulation, but I just couldn’t find any within a reasonable driving distance. So much of how we build homes depends on what’s available.”
After a couple of months living in the solar-powered, two-level, tiny home, Aaron is already noticing changes in his lifestyle. “I’m much more cognizant of what I am buying and what kind of packaging it comes in,” he says. “Extra ‘Stuff’ is stressful now and I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Do I really need that?’ Usually I don’t.”
Aaron’s home contains a queen-size bed in the loft, a sink, a propane heater/stove, a closet and a small table for eating and studying. There is no toilet or shower. “I originally planned for a bathroom under my bed and beside my kitchen, but I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Right now I shower at school and not having a bathroom is a hassle, but I think I’d like to make a separate building for a bathroom, and maybe an outdoor shower when I move to a more permanent location. I use that space by the kitchen for storage. You only use a bathroom a couple times a day and with just 105 square-feet to work with, that storage is key.”
And finally the big question— does it feel like home?
“It does so far. We are so used to having everything within arm’s reach, but I’ve learned that you can live simply and still have everything you really need, For ten grand you can build a palatial, tiny home and for certain areas and demographics this might be one of our only options without a crippling mortgage. I’d love to see the legality of tiny homes change— they offer healthy, affordable place to live with sustainability in mind. My next question is where can put this permanently?”
TINY HOME STATS
Size: 7.5’ x 14’ (105 sq. feet)
Aaron says, “Legally, this is an ‘auxiliary building’ — a shed.”
Construction: 2 x 6 framing, metal roof, fibreglass insulation, EcoFoil membrane.
“You can watch a million YouTube videos, but until you actually build it, you never really know.”
Plumbing: 1 sink
Power: 2 x 150-watt solar panels, 2 x 6-volt deep cell batteries run in series into an in inverter to change to standard 110-volt.
“It’s really impressed me. I’ve had some rainy weeks and only touched the “low” once.”
“I get a lot of heat from good southern exposure and black siding. The siding is just charred wood. It’s more fire and insect resistant and the black traps thermal heat in the walls.”
“I use the facilities at the school for now, but yeah, in the long run that needs to be dealt with.”
“A home inspector told me it was really well built but I couldn’t live here because according to the codes, it’s too small for inhabitants. If I put it on a trailer there would be no problem, but I don’t like the nomadic feel of that. Eventually I’d like to make a presentation to Squamish Council to get them to take another look at the rules. More and more people are going to choose this route for the future.”