DomeGaia: durable, lightweight AirCrete for DIY domes

Longtime readers may remember Steve Areen’s gorgeous $9,000 dome home, which he built in 2011 while visiting his friend Hajjar Gibran’s Gibran Center retreat in northeast Thailand. The brick and cinder-block construction undoubtedly produced some very nice results, but Hajjar and Steve were interested in improving the design by using more sustainable, ecofriendly materials. They initially considered compressed earth blocks, but finally settled on AirCrete, basically a low-density concrete made by mixing cement with foam (which can be produced from ordinary dish detergent).

Hajjar had never heard of AirCrete, but he was fascinated by what he learned. Compared to regular concrete, it uses much less cement (and no aggregate), so it’s less expensive and has a smaller environmental footprint. It’s easier to work with – 80% lighter, can be cut with a handsaw, and accepts screws and nails. It’s also a superior insulator.

There was only one problem: While the materials for AirCrete are cheap and widely available, commercial equipment for generating foam of the right consistency and properly mixing it with the cement runs to the tens of thousands of dollars.

Hajjar decided it was worth looking for a way to make AirCrete accessible to DIY dome builders, so he enlisted the help of his son, Joel, CEO of Infinite Automation Systems. Together, they developed the Little Dragon, a small foam generator that mates to a 5-gallon bucket, as well as a compact lightweight continuous mixer powered by an electric drill.

They’ve now formed a company called DomeGaia and are selling the Little Dragon for $499 ($359 as a kit / plans available at $39 for die-hard DIYers); the mixer goes for $159. DomeGaia also offers dome building workshops – the next few are in the Philippines and Mexico – and detailed plans for Steve’s original dome home.

h/t treehugger

Oct 17, 2017 / by / in
Kasita’s modern, modular smart home

Remember Professor Dumpster, AKA Jeff Wilson? He’s the guy who moved into a 36-square-foot dumpster on the campus of his Texas college as part of a project on sustainability (and, some would say, self-promotion). He stuck it out for a year, but has now moved on to bigger and better things, leaving academic life and the dumpster behind to become CEO of Kasita, an Austin-based company that will produce modular prefabs like the prototype you see here.

At 30×12, the units are about ten times the size of the dumpster and much more functional. The split level homes have modern bathroom and kitchen facilities and plenty of space for working, relaxing and sleeping, and they’re equipped with smart home technology featuring integrated sound, lights, climate control and security.

Kasita’s Courtney Lowell informs us that the first units are already in production and scheduled for delivery in late June. They cost $139,000 apiece – but don’t worry, there’s a volume discount if you buy more than one! You can contact the company for more info.

The glass end keeps things bright and open – and provides a very pleasant sitting area – while high, narrow clerestories keep the rest of the house more private. The white bench below contains both storage space…

…and a flat screen TV. The queen bed can also be packed up…

…to become a couch for daytime and evening use. Up the stairs is the kitchenette…

…which is pretty minimal, with just a convection oven/microwave combination and a two-burner induction range for cooking. However, the space is doing double duty: the opposite counter is designed to serve as the desk for a home office (it also contains the fridge/freezer).

The entry hallway contains a washer/dryer and the door to this sleek 52-square-foot bathroom.

Here’s what the layout looks like from above:

h/t contemporist

Mar 14, 2017 / by / in
Mobile 3D printer creates 400sf house onsite in 24 hours

Apis Cor, a company with offices in San Francisco, Moscow and Irkutsk, has developed a mobile construction 3D printer and used it to create the world’s first house printed onsite. The 400-square-foot building was completed within 24 hours and cost just over $10,000. Nikita Chen-yun-tai, Apis Cor’s founder and the inventor of the printing device, hopes that his printer will help bring high-quality affordable housing to people worldwide. It’s also an ecofriendly technique that uses just 8 kW of power, produces zero construction waste, and greatly reduces transportation-related carbon emissions versus factory-built prefabs.

The house was made outside of Moscow in December, and while the printer will work just fine in subzero temperatures, concrete won’t – hence the tent you see overhead.

Now that it’s finished, though, the structure is projected to last for 175 years in any weather.

The unusual shape is actually a demonstration of possibilities rather than limitations – Apis Cor’s machine can print a standard rectangular house just as easily.

Samsung Electronics provided the appliances, including one of their curved screen TVs – which just happened to have the same radius of curvature as the house!

h/t inhabitat

Mar 13, 2017 / by / in ,
84 Lumber’s lineup after a year in the tiny house business

Seeing the beautiful Creative Animal Foundation Tiny House recently reminded us that it’s been nearly a year since 84 Lumber started building tiny houses. We profiled their first build, the Roving, when it came out; now let’s take a look at what they’ve come up with since then. We’ll start with the Countryside, which is what the Creative Animal Foundation house was based on.

84 has definitely taken tiny to heart; while it’s their largest model, at 203 square feet the Countryside is still a relatively compact THOW. Nevertheless, a high cathedral ceiling and the placement of all the functional areas – kitchen, storage couch, dining table, bathroom – along the walls has left the main room feeling pleasantly roomy.

While the first floor manages to look it, the loft actually is bigger than many, with room for a queen bed and clothes storage. Like 84’s other models, the Countryside can be had as a trailer + plans combo, a shell, or a finished house; prices are from $7,000 / $32,000 / $80,000 respectively.

 The Degsy is smaller at 160 square feet and features modern styling and oversized windows. It costs $7,000 / $25,000 / $70,000.

Since this is a single-level house that has to fit everything onto one floor, you don’t get a large amount of open space; you do get some very nice walnut flooring and high ceilings in every room. There’s a kitchenette on one end, a bedroom on the other, and a bathroom off the hallway in the middle.

Lastly (so far) is the Shonsie, a brightly colored cottage-style THOW that can be had in red or blue. Prices are $7,000 / $23,000 / $60,000.

The color choice goes for the shiny epoxy flooring as well as the metal roof. Like the Degsy, the Shonsie is a densely packed place, with the living room doubling as a dining area.

Beyond that is the kitchen, with the bathroom on the other side of the sliding barn door. Here’s how it looks in blue.

The Shonsie does have a loft, and it’s a big one, with 52 square feet of floor space and a comfortable amount of headroom.

Feb 14, 2017 / by / in
16-foot Birchwood shows off Upper Valley’s cheap/fast/tiny trifecta

Upper Valley Tiny Homes is a Utah builder specializing in tinier THOWs like this 128-square-foot Birchwood. The Birchwood is their midsize standard model, between the 90-square-foot Teeny Tiny and the 160-square-foot Crosswinds, although they have done larger custom builds. Besides occupying the smaller end of the tiny house size range, Upper Valley is emphasizing build speed (as little as two weeks) and low cost (the Birchwood starts at just $28,000 fully finished).

If you’re buying an 8×16 house you can’t expect unlimited elbow room, but Upper Valley has fit a reasonable bathroom in front, a decent kitchen in back, and a couple of small lofts up top. The middle of the Birchwood, though, is mostly taken up by a closet and a set of spiral storage stairs, which doesn’t seem to leave much space for dining or relaxing inside the house. And the storage stairs, while interesting to look at, also seem like they’d be “interesting” to navigate – probably not as practical as the ladder that leads to the other loft. Sacrificing the storage space provided by the stairs in favor of another ladder and a place to put a dining table and a couple of chairs might make this more livable. Alternatively, Upper Valley also offers a 20-foot version of the Birchwood that does away with the closet to result in considerably more free space in the midsection.

Upper Valley Birchwood 1

Upper Valley Birchwood 2

Upper Valley Birchwood 3

Upper Valley Birchwood 4

Upper Valley Birchwood 5

h/t Tiny House Talk

Aug 8, 2016 / by / in ,
Montaineer makes it easy: prefab shipping container homes

“The tiny house movement is really about doing it yourself and being off-grid—trying to do things as cheaply as possible. Our customer[s]… they basically don’t have to do anything.”

— Patrick Collins, CEO of Montainer

Patrick’s got a point, to be sure: the prefab shipping container homes his Missoula, Montana, company builds are anything but DIY, they’re connected to utilities upon installation, and a larger model can cost you more than a regular house in many areas. But the tiny house community is a pretty big tent, and there are surely a lot of people inside it who’d be interested in a ready-made (and well-made) small home that’s absolutely hassle-free.

Montainer 1

And you can take that “absolutely” literally, because when you make a reservation for a Montainer house they don’t just start building it. No, the first step they take is to acquire the necessary permits to ensure that you’ll actually be able to put your new home where you want it. When you think of the trouble many tiny homeowners have with zoning and building codes, you’ll realize that this is a very important and often overlooked consideration – but if you’re buying from Montaineer you can overlook it to your heart’s content. If they can’t get permission for your house on your site, they’ll refund your deposit, all of it.

If Montaineer does get the green light from your local authorities, they’ll work with you on finalizing a custom design before they begin the build. They make everything from 200-square-foot single-container units to 960-square-foot three-container models, and can build in one or two stories. Standard amenities include electric baseboard heat, closed-cell spray foam insulation, kitchen sink and cabinets, mini-fridge, stove with hood, bathroom sink, shower and flush toilet. Air conditioning, washer/dryer, dishwasher, full-size refrigerator, oven and kitchen/bathroom tiles are available as options.

Montainer 2

Montaineer continues to handle everything once your house is ready (usually in 6–12 months). They’ll prepare the site and put in a foundation, deliver the house on a flatbed truck and put it in place with a crane, hook it up to utilities and hand you the keys. It’s hard to imagine an easier way to get a brand-new, 100% legal tiny house in your yard.

But what about the price? Well, yes, Montaineer’s bigger models cost a minimum of $160,000. On the other hand, single-container houses start at $60,000, which is in the same range as many of the quality THOWs on the market today.

Montainer 4

Montainer 5 Montainer 6

Montainer 3

h/t Tech Insider

Aug 3, 2016 / by / in ,
Farm cottages for the 21st century, with a touch of Zen

Ben Rawson self-identifies as an organic farmer, not a tiny house builder. Never mind that he’s made a tiny house for his own family, sold tiny houses to friends and strangers, and founded an RVIA-certified tiny house company, The Zen Cottages, that offers three prebuilt models as well as custom designs. For Ben, it’s all in support of his passion for permafarming, because he sees tiny houses as a great way to enable it. He came to that realization when he was farming a friend’s land and needed somewhere to live while doing it. A tiny house, he decided, wouldn’t be too expensive to build and would have minimal impact on the property. Other people saw his house, liked it, and asked for their own… and that was the beginning of The Zen Cottages. But hardly the end of Ben’s career in agriculture: he’s currently busy organizing a permafarming community in San Diego county. The plan is that residents will jointly own the land, farm it themselves, and live on it in their own tiny houses.

So what about The Zen Cottages? The three models come in three sizes – the 20-foot Alpine, the 26-foot Shasta, and the 32-foot Mammoth – but are all very similar aesthetically.  It’s an aesthetic you might not immediately associate with Zen design since it has some color to it, some seemingly ad hoc furniture placements and a bit of countertop clutter. But remember that Zen is supposed to be subtle and unpretentious, not just stark, and you’ll see that Ben’s buildings fit into the definition quite well. They’re clean and simple, attractive and functional – without hitting you over the head with high-concept Design. Base prices range from $29,000 to $59,000, and upgrades such as solar, air conditioning, bathtub and washer/dryer unit are available.

The Zen Cottages 1

The Zen Cottages 2

The Zen Cottages 3

The Zen Cottages 4

The Zen Cottages 5

The Zen Cottages 6

The Zen Cottages 7

h/t Tiny House Talk

Jul 15, 2016 / by / in
Timbercraft Tiny Homes Arrives On The Scene With A Gorgeous Build

This new Alabama-based builder just hit the scene and I think you’ll agree, they have some solid skills in the building department. Below you can see one of their first builds, showing off a bold yet sophisticated design that looks like it came straight out of a home design magazine. The typical cost for one of their 8′ x 20′ homes comes it at a reasonable $35,000 but of course that depends on the options you choose, and that price can quickly rise to $55k or higher if you want a larger 24′ model with double lofts and fancier features.












Images by Naturally Vics Photography | h/t Tiny House Swoon

To learn more about their building process, or to get in touch visit their website at

Aug 17, 2015 / by / in
10 Favorite Tiny House Builders You Should Know About

Up until recently the tiny house movement was still in its fledgling stages, at least from a mainstream perspective. But over the past couple of years the rising tide of interest has brought newfound appreciation for tiny living; last we checked there were at least three TV shows, and publications large and small have covered the trend, showcasing stories from people who decided to trade in their cookie-cutter home for a life free from the chains of debt. Along the way, a whole bunch of new builders have sprouted up. From tried and true ones like Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and Four Lights, to up-and-comers like Brevard and Zyl Vardos, people looking to downsize and build a tiny house have more options than ever. Today we take a look at some of our favorites.

1. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Tumbleweed is the granddaddy of tiny house companies, in business since the early 2000s and still going strong since the 2012 departure of founder Jay Shafer. As such, they’ve had a major influence on the entire tiny house movement, and their iconic Fencl/Cypress model has to be the first thing that pops into a lot of people’s minds when they think of a tiny house. Despite their wide presence in the tiny house movement, Tumbleweed can only build so many houses; as a result, most of the Tumbleweeds you see around are owner built from blueprints or made by other companies like The Shed Yard in Colorado.

Tumbleweed CypressTumbleweed’s Cypress (Fencl)

2. Brevard Tiny House Company

Brevard is a young company from the Asheville, NC, area that already has half a dozen houses under its belt. They’ve all been custom jobs – the last one had a baseball theme – but a definite Brevard style is already starting to emerge, characterized by a focus on affordability and functionality. You don’t get a Brevard to impress the neighbors; you get one because $50,000 is a great deal on a tiny house with a well-thought-out, highly livable interior that’s built to see you through years of use and miles of travel.

Brevard Sunny Side

Brevard’s Sunny Side

3. Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses

Architect Greg Parham founded Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses as soon as he finished building his own tiny house. A little over two years later he’s completed some ten projects, hired several full-time employees, and has work lined up into 2016. Visually striking exteriors are one of Greg’s trademarks; he used wood-and-metal siding combos and undulating roof curves to good effect on a couple we profiled.

Austin Real Estate Photographer

The 12-foot Funky East Austin Rental

4. Zyl Vardos

The “Zyl” in Zyl Vardos is Abel Zimmerman Zyl, company founder and carpenter extraordinaire, and the vardos are like nothing else you’ve seen. With a style all his own, they’re gypsy wagons crossed with steampunk starships, sprinkled with a touch of Tolkien and a dash of madness. The price is just as surprising: you can own one of these for less than $40,000, with the top-of-the-line Ark model going for just twice that much. We can’t wait to see what else he unveils in the future!

ark IMG_0516

The Ark


Inside the Pinafore

5. Four Lights Tiny House Company

Four Lights is the company Jay Shafer founded when he left Tumbleweed, and he says he’s now offering his best designs ever. He’s concentrating on sub-120-square-foot houses that can be built on a trailer or a foundation – and even moved between the two. The new models have eight times more insulation, a seamless waterproof wrap, and a lot more interior space thanks to the elimination of collar beams.


The Beavan


The Zinn

6. Molecule Tiny Homes

Molecule is a custom builder based in Santa Cruz, and they’ve built everything from tiny houses on wheels to treehouses to a teahouse-style artist’s studio. It’s a little hard to characterize their output other than to say that it all has an identifiable tiny house aesthetic. If you know what you want, though, it’s a fair bet they’ll be able to build it for you – and do it within your budget; past projects have ranged in value from $20,000 to the $100,000 Craftsman model we showed you a while back.

Dormer Loft Cottage_0025

The Dormer Loft Cottage from Molecule

7. Nomad Micro Homes

An assemble-it-yourself home that ships from Vancouver to your doorstep in a flat-pack for $28,000. That’s NOMAD founder Ian Kent’s value proposition, and it’s an even more attractive one once you see inside one of his 10×10 modular units and notice the quality of the materials and very user-friendly layout. If you want more living space, a finished module without the kitchen/bathroom fittings is $23,000; a no-frills unit intended for storage can be had for just $15,000.


8. Tennessee Tiny Homes

Yes, the company is based in Tennessee, but owners Joe and Kristen Everson will be happy to build you something no matter where you’re from (they also do business as Tiny Happy Homes). Their wood-sided, metal-roofed tiny houses on wheels can be delivered nationwide, they’re RVIA-certified, and they’re fully loaded with sink, shower, toilet, air and water heaters, stove and mini-fridge. They’re reasonably priced, too – the Reed, for example, is just $25,000.


The Wedgie

9. Nelson Tiny Houses

British Columbia builder Nelson Tiny Houses offers only two models, the shed-roofed, loftless V and the more traditional gable-roofed Acorn. But they also offer extensive customization options, including the ability to pick the square footage you want (as we noted in our post on the V, it can be anything from 100 to 250 square feet). You also get to select all the furniture and the kitchen/bathroom fixtures. Base models are $35,000 (V) and $40,000 (Acorn).


The V


The Acorn

10. Leaf House

Leaf House builds their homes in Whitehorse, Yukon, so you know they build them to take the cold. As we explained in our profile of their version.3, high-tech elements such as vacuum insulated panels, quad pane windows, electric radiant heaters and a heat recovery ventilator make this probably the warmest tiny house on earth. Leaf House’s innovations didn’t stop with cold-proofing, though. Cross-braced metal framing, concrete mesh/open joint siding, and foam sheathing combined with ultralight interior fixtures got the weight down to less than 5,000 pounds, and a custom murphy bed let them eliminate the loft and reduce overall height.


Did we miss your favorite builder? Please comment below and let us know! Also, remember we have a growing number of builders you can search in our tiny house builder directory.

Jul 14, 2015 / by / in
Brevard’s Inspired New Build – The Abundance

You remember Brevard tiny house company, right? They made waves when the released a few different models last year, like the Robin’s Nest, the Home Run, and the Sunny Side. Today we’re sharing a new model, aptly named the “Abundance”. If it looks familiar that’s because the design inspiration came from the popular Minim home, although they are quick to point out the Minim plans were not used, and the build includes an original framing plan unique to the customer. The total cost? Around $55,000.
























Visit the Brevard Tiny House Co. website or follow them on Facebook to learn more about their building process, pricing, and options.

Jun 29, 2015 / by / in