The GrowCalgary Tiny House competition has come and gone. GeoStudios is proud to announce the ‘tiny dome house’ got People’s Choice Award. It was an honour to be chosen by the people!
To my competitors; excellent work in stepping forward and pushing the envelope. We need more pioneers in this area. More innovators. More people willing to raise awareness about the importance of affordable and sustainable housing.
While full marks go to the Hempshire team for putting out a really cool and progressive tiny house featuring cutting edge technologies such as hemp insulation and hemp exterior, pv power, rubber roof shingles, passive solar design and thermal mass not to mention excellent craftsmanship and Van Gogh inspired artwork - it missed out on a few key features that prevented a clean sweep in the competition on Sept 15th.
Turns out, people felt the GeoStudio hit it out of the park so to speak. Here’s the reasons I think that happened.
First off, spaciousness. People regularly said the dome looks bigger on the inside than it does on the outside. There were times when 10 people stood or sat inside without discomfort. Fact is, on shape alone any round structure has ‘the stuff’ around the perimeter walls while the open centre allows for more free-standing space. And if some of the stuff is fold down seats or benches then yeah it feels like there’s plenty of room. Throw in an high arched ceiling and that feeling of claustrophobia is eliminated. It suddenly becomes a space that people could envision living in.
Next blog: two more reasons why the GeoStudio earned high marks.
Naively, I thought this meeting would be an opportunity to share ideas on how tiny houses could be built and how new technologies could make this a practical and viable housing option. Instead, this meeting was about what we CAN'T do.
First, in Calgary tiny houses in a backyard will be under the same provisions as ‘secondary suites’ which are under the regular rules of the Alberta Building Code part 9. Which also apply to regular housing. Which then means our tiny houses must follow the same rules as that of a 5000 sq ft 'McMansion'.
This is unrealistic and unworkable in so many cases. From ceiling height to door size to window egress - the rules completely alter the whole reason for building tiny - to make life more affordable. What we need is a separate category in the ABC for tiny houses just as there are separate guidelines for RV’s and for mobiles and for condominiums.
So after listening to a litany of restrictions and conditions with regards to windows, egress, engineering, etc, I finally chimed in, "You know this will cut the tiny house movement at the knees right? The cost of a tiny house will go from $10-15 thousand to over $40,000 dollars. For those who are driving this engine, people who want to live sustainably, simply and affordably such as millennials and seniors, they are prevented from buying a tiny house."
Fact is folks, real change does not come from those who follow the rules. Innovation comes about by people who are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers and go against the grain. The tiny house movement will not go away just because some want them to be more like houses. But the movement will grow because people want affordability, do not want to be locked into a lifetime of debt, want to live simply and want a more sustainable solution to housing ourselves. There is a purpose and a reason for why this is happening today.
Last year when I was looking for a workable exterior dome covering (paint or what?) I received a referral from a friend in the painting biz. See said, ‘ask Chandra she can help’. Well I found Chandra and her answer to my dilemma was to use elastomeric paint. That did the job since there hasn’t been any water seepage through the paint and no loss of integrity from uv radiation in over a year - and it still looks good. Of course, it comes in whatever colour you choose.
Not only was her advice right on but I had noticed the folks at Cloverdale to be service oriented and to know what they’re talking about. The steady flow of DIY’ers as well as painting subcontractors through the store is another sign that they offer not just the paint but the assistance to meet a diversity of needs.
So I was pleasantly surprised when they accepted my request for, yes more elastomeric paint to help in building the tiny house for the GrowCalgary microhome competition.
Having started in BC (I’ll hazard a guess here and say Cloverdale), Cloverdale Paint is Canada’s largest Canadian family owned and operated coatings manufacturer and has reached a milestone by celebrating 85 years in business. Something to remember when you’re looking for a more local, Canadian supplier. A huge thanks to Cloverdale Paint!
Today I'd like to salute Benchmark Glass.
I discovered one of the founding owners’ of Benchmark Glass, Ron LeClair, not only had the same last name as mine (with a tiny variation of the capital C) but his first name matched that of my older sibling who helped make GeoStudios possible. Serendipitous one might say. And when I read the websites ‘about’ page did not fail to notice Ron’s thoughts mesh with my own in terms of local control and autonomy. It reads “...His goal was to build a glass service that was free of the corporate bureaucracy…” Gotta like that.
I’ve dealt with Benchmark on several occasions in the last couple of years. From getting my lexan glass for previous domes to a new windshield on my vehicle. Each time it was service without a hitch. From the moment you walk into the store on 2nd Ave North you get that “these guys have it together” kind of feel. Excellent service and helpful advice.
Special thanks to David Proctor for his time to explain the details of the future ‘StarGazer’ pentagon. Look forward to working with you guys some more. :)
I was looking for a simple (yet almost impossible to find), piece of metal with a 36 degree bend. It had to be strong enough to support the weight of a dome pentagon yet light enough to not hamper interior decor pieces. I kept getting from people “ask Charlton & Hill to make it”. So I finally went over with my simple plan and to my surprise got a positive response. They were willing to support my entry to the MicroHome Competition!
Well it appears as though everyone in Lethbridge has dealt with Charlton & Hill at one time or another. To my surprise their reputation in this city was, and remains, stellar after over 75 years. Maintaining a very high level of customer satisfaction over so many years is not just an average achievement! And it didn’t escape me that they’ve participated in numerous local causes from Big Brothers Big Sisters to the college, the university, food banks and more. A vision that includes a better community. My kind of people!
Special thanks to Val for her encouraging interest and Trevor for his knowledge and skill.
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.