Designed as a tool to reset preconceptions about houses, the Reset House is an example of compact living space to serve a teenager in the back yard, occasional guests, or even a family of four at extreme cost savings. I spent a great deal of my childhood in tents, Volkswagen bus campers, and backpacking, so it was natural to extend the same logic of small, flexible space to architecture. There are many interesting aspects of both this design and the qualities which it illustrates. You can follow this narrative in an on-going series of articles on Better Than Bigger, introduced in The Reset House.
There are many, MANY micro-house, tiny house, small house, shipping container house, modular house, prefabricated (prefab) house, etc., all over social media. They all share the same critical flaw: they aren't houses as defined by the building code.
- Micro-houses don't meet basic residential code dimensional requirements. Residential Code R304 requires a minimum area of habitable rooms (bedrooms) of 70 SF and no dimension less than 7 feet. 7' x 10' is the smallest bedroom.
- All homes under the building code require substantial foundations to resist seismic and wind uplift forces (90 mph hurricane). Many tiny houses are barely anchored, much less to a proper stem wall footing or steel-reinforced concrete pier.
- Micro-homes have all the same expensive systems of a normal house: kitchen appliances, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. The only feature they omit are those big open spaces you get in a large living room that are practically free—so they are far more expensive per square foot than a normal house.
- You can't get a loan for a micro-house. Lenders want the construction result to be something they can re-sell quickly if you default on the loan. They don't like unusual homes, with 2-3 bedrooms and a distinct kitchen minimum. And since 99% of the tiny and shipping container homes you see on social media aren't permitted or work under the RV code, they don't qualify as either buildings or real estate that the bank can use as collateral.