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A Flying Wedge – Extreme 9 Square Foot House

As I imagined towing Nine Tiny Feet down the road it occurred to me that a triangle wedge would be much more aerodynamic. It also seemed like a three-walled house would use less lumber and would be a more efficient shape to provide sleeping space, after all our bodies aren’t square. I also wanted to be more true to the square footage requirement of nine square feet that I placed on myself in the beginning. I think this design is actually pretty successful in meeting those additional requirements, but I can already see room for improvement.

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The floor itself is still nine square feet, except it’s now trapezoidal instead of rectangular. The main difference is the overall shape which looks much more like a a piece of pie than a house. Instead of a sleeping loft I’ve imagined two flip down plywood shelves that cover the kitchen counter and chair to form a flat surface long enough for a six foot person to sleep. The main room isn’t long enough to lay down so I’ve borrowed a little space in the form of a tiny cubby hole from the nose of the house for the occupant’s feet. Sleeping in this design would be like sleeping in a backpacker’s mummy bag.

Like in past designs the toilet is below the chair. Since this design is about exploring extremes I still imagine using a sawdust composting toilet. This bucket toilet would be well sealed from the main living area to avoid odor build-up inside the house. The space it occupies would also be vented to the exterior. You can learn more about sawdust toilets at Jenkins Publishing.

The roof would be metal with a down-spout at the low end to allow water to be funneled off for future use. A storage tank would need to be place in the sharp nose of the house. Due to the triangular shape of the roof a lip would need to be added along the two long sides to prevent the water from simply running off onto the ground. You can learn more about collecting rain water at The Good Human.

Below the window is a planter box designed to reclaim waste water from the shower drain in the main floor and sink. The planter box, or soil box, would have several layers of material and screens to facilitate filtering and processing of the water. You can learn more about grey water soil boxes at Grey Water Central.

There are a lot of good ideas in this design but I don’t think I’d ever build it this way. I really liked theĀ  traditional look of the original design. But I also like how this house is more aerodynamic, uses building materials more efficiently, includes more self-sufficient features, and crams most of the living space into the nine square foot floor plan.

So I’m going to let this cook in my brain a little more and see if I can come up with a hybrid that has more traditional aesthetics, a shed roof for easy rain water collection, and that’s still more aerodynamic than a brick. Stay tuned.

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16 Responses to “A Flying Wedge – Extreme 9 Square Foot House”

  1. [...] put a more detailed description of the design on the Nine Tiny Feet project blog for those curious about learning more about this variation. My [...]

  2. Greg says:

    Hi Michael,
    This is a great site. I think you are really on to something with this design. It not only looks cool, but its aerodynamic to boot!

    I am happy to see I am not the only one who gets these tiny house designs stuck in their heads… While I may not have the drawing skills that you do (which really are fantastic by the way), I do have a pocket full of chicken scratch sketches that seem to multiply in my shirt pockets and wind up on the counter in the laundry room, with my wife shaking her head… “What’s he up to now??!!”

    Every time I mention us moving into a tiny house, the entire family tells me “sure” build one in the back yard, and “you can live there, while the rest of us stay in here”

    Oh, and here’s the other catch… it cant be too big to mess up the back yard… Thus started my search for the truly tiny, one man, all in one, self contained backyard escape pod.

    This one takes my design one step further by placing it on wheels so I could even “leave” the backyard at some point ;)

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful designs with all of us… and feeding the inner “tiny house” junkie in all of us.

  3. Superdog says:

    Hi Michael,

    What about making it fold down so the towing height would be lower and therefor make it more towable?

    I’m struggling to come up with something I can tow with my Camry hybrid as it has a “zero” towing capacity so I don’t want to tow anything heavy. I like my Camry and I don’t want to give it up for a guzzler.

    I’ve looked at teardrops but I can’t stand up in those. Need at least a 6’5″ ceiling.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      Let me noodle over the folding idea. I’m not sure how air tight a folding roof/walls would be, but then again… I’m not sure if that really matters.

      I hear you on the lightweight issue though. I’m beginning to think that maybe the water handling stuff is better on a bigger house… or maybe I can find a way to lighten that up too.

      • Claudia says:

        I agree with Superdog — I’d love to see something that can be towed with a regular car!

        BTW, about the water weight — you can just empty the tank when you’re ready to move, if your car can’t handle the extra pounds. Personally, I think it’s great that it’s totally off the grid because that’s the ultimate freedom.

  4. Mike Green says:

    I’m relatively new to Sketchup (free personal edition), but could you post both your wedge and “final” designs as unlocked component level Sketchup files? I’d like to try to combine some of the features from both with a few of the suggestions that have been posted (such as folding, etc.). I think it would be more meaningful if I could work on them with the correct dimensions and using similar software tools. Thanks so much. (I’ll post my drawings here if you’d like.)

    • Michael Janzen says:

      Mike I’ll dig them up. I also have a new design which is drawn with much better quality. My SketchUp Skills have come a long way since my first drawings.

  5. Mike Green says:

    Thanks MJ. Newer quality Sketches would be great too. I’m looking forward to them being posted.

    P.S. I’ve been referring your blogs to friends in the US and Japan. Thanks so much for all your wonderful work.

  6. Mr. Wind Turbines For The Home says:

    If only there was a good set of instructions to build a small wind turbine, I am certain that it would lessen our electricity monthly bill. Everyone knows that wind turbines and other forms of energy is the way of the future.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Michael this is great. My family also rolls their eyes at me, but I want to build a hybrid so they’ll enjoy it too.. how would you mount this thing on a trailer? What would you use?

    Thanks again!
    Elizabeth

    • Michael Janzen says:

      Thanks Elizabeth. I think I’ll use a utility trailer because it’s small. So I’ll probably have lots of metal to bolt the wood directly too. Metal strapping in the walls wouldn’t hurt either.

  8. Diederik says:

    Seriously, you have triggered something in me. I’ve been exploring tiny homes a lot lately because I’m looking for a tiny trailer that’s towable with a bicycle. Would you share your Sketchup file with me? I’m thinking of really building this thing..

    Belgian greetings,
    Diederik

  9. Big Matty Gee says:

    As a mechanical engineer, I can tell you this design is, in fact, not much more aerodynamic than a brick. Most folks think aerodynamics is about pushing air out of the way (i.e. happens at the front of the trailer). But in fact, aerodynamics is about disturbing as little air as possible (i.e. happens at the back).

    For a brief intro, I’d browse the Aerodynamics forum at EcoModder.com. Failing that, just put the trailer coupler at the other end, round the whole thing out, and use the cross-section of a fish or a Prius as a guideline. If it’s a teardrop shape in plan AND profile, that’s great for aero, but second best is a teardrop just in plan view.

    But if you’re towing this thing all the time, why not just sleep in the car?

    Impractical or not, nine square feet is an interesting idea.

  10. Robert Daniel says:

    My first thought in looking at the wedge is that in windy weather there would be a lot of torque action from wind forces.

  11. Neat. More practical as a thought experiment than a shelter, but neat.
    (1.) It would more aerodynamic with the tongue on the blunt end, not the sharp end.
    (2.) If aero matters, fat curves are the way to go. Velomobile blogs a great source of information on very light, very aerodynmic structures.
    (3.) Unless it’s using very thick or rigid insulation, there is no reason to use wood paneling. Cover the frame with canvas or muslin and paint it (if you want be fancy) or with tyvek house wrap. Canoe builind blogs are a great source for that.
    (4.) Simple foam batting, or even a few layers of bubble wrap would be totally adequate insulation for such a small space.
    (5.) There is no need to use real glass. Glass will out last most castles, let alone an experiment house. Carefully cut 2 liter bottles, will yeild about a 9×11 sheet of transparent plastic. It will last for about a year, but when you need to replace it, the replacement is free.

  12. di says:

    Leave the interior completely open – to convert the space as needed.

    Sleep on the floor with a cushioned mat and sleeping bag.
    During the day, fold the mat or sleeping bag into a seat.
    Use a camping porta potti as a seat.

    For a kitchen, try a folding shelf and portable stovetop.
    Try a collection of one-pot recipes.
    Store kitchen items in a backpack or tote bag on a hook.
    Store daily food perishables in a collapsible cooler bag.
    To wash dishes or bathe, use a camping shower bag and basin.

    Hang a towel, coat or mirror on a hook.
    Store wardrobe in a backpack or tote bag on a hook.
    3 tops x 3 bottoms = 9 outfits

    Replace office supplies, books, entertainment centers, art, alarm clock, etc with a handheld computer.

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