tiny moments & a tiny appendix
Tiny moments & a tiny appendix
By Brett Marlo DeSantis November/December 2018
We were huddled up on the turquoise and grey checkered linoleum floor leaning our bodies toward the wood burning stove in an attempt to warm ourselves. I look up at the exposed turquoise-washed wood ceiling and over at the heavily troweled orange-sherbet tinted kitchen wall; it’s strikingly adorable and also uninsulated.
The small mid-century cabin, three times the size of my tiny house, felt larger than life at that moment. As we inched closer and closer to our only heat source, my dear friend turns her gaze away from the fire just long enough to ask me what my most memorable moment was this year.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the sudden introspection however I was unprepared. It’s mid-November and we were saying goodbye to her cabin for the year.
As I attempt to marinate on her thoughtful question, I am stuck in that present moment. My girls are playing cards from their sleeping bags on couches that still look as they did half a century ago. I listen to the wood crackle, the girls giggle, and I realize it is these tiny moments in these small spaces that I have grown to truly treasure.
This year we said goodbye to the typical American home and we opened ourselves to a new lifestyle, fully and completely. We challenged ourselves to follow our hearts; giving up lots and lots of stuff, learning an abundance about ourselves and others, and gaining experiences and insights along the way. Suddenly I realize just how important and life altering this year has been.
Luckily we aren’t the only ones being open minded about new ways of living and being.
In an effort to bring life- and fire-safety to tiny building practices, exactly one year ago in December of 2017, the International Code Council (ICC) approved the new Appendix Q for Tiny Houses for the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC). Co-Authors Martin Hammer, Andrew and Gabriella Morrison, along with advisor David Eisenberg, crafted this code change proposal to respond to an urgent need to address common safety concerns such as safe access, egress and loft ceiling heights.
Tiny House Appendix Q creates codes for those wanting to live in tiny houses (400 square feet or less excluding lofts) as fulltime residences, also known as single dwelling units. To establish occupancy, a residential dwelling must provide permanent provisions for sleeping, cooking, eating, living and sanitation. A dwelling by definition, no matter the size, is a primary use and a permanent, habitable occupancy.
To be clear, this appendix is for tiny houses on foundations, not tiny houses on wheels AND this assumes that local zoning laws don’t have minimum square footage requirements that would make living tiny impossible at that location.
Appendices are not automatically adopted as part of the main codes; they are optional and must be specifically adopted. Adopting jurisdictions can modify the appendix by local amendment if they think something problematic enough that it needs to be changed. Once adopted, the appendix will become part of a state’s IRC building code.
This means that where the appendix is adopted, builders can go to their local building department with plans that meet the code and once the project is completed successfully, a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued.
Idaho was the first state to adopt the Tiny House Appendix statewide. Then the states of Maine, Oregon and multiple counties in Colorado.
In jurisdictions where the appendix has not been adopted, it may still be employed on a project-basis by using the IRC entitled Alternative Materials, Design and Methods of construction and equipment.
For years, building officials have been receiving tiny house questions unable to respond without written codes in place. Now thoughtful reasonable codes exist, and with adoption, compliance will follow and safety risks will lessen. In addition, building codes allow for meaningful conversations within our cities and counties regarding local zoning changes.
It’s difficult not to become enamored with the romantic notion of a cozy space with less stuff, less cleaning, maintenance, bills and lower energy-use. And while it’s not for everyone, there are a growing number of people who are embracing this way of living.
When we open our minds and our hearts to other ways of living and being; we give each other the best gift of all. Happy Holidays!