Q: What is the BC Tiny House Collective?
The BC Tiny House Collective is a volunteer community-run organization that advocates for the inclusion of tiny houses in new and existing neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver and across British Columbia. It is working towards the legalization and legitimization of tiny homes in our region. It has over 1000 members and a strong network of community partners.
Q: What does the collective do?
Our goal is to include tiny houses in new and existing neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver and across British Columbia. How? We focus our work in three areas: outreach, research and pilot projects. We inform cities and citizens on tiny homes through events, workshops and meetups; we explore challenges to tiny homes through research projects with community partners and university students and faculty; and we engage with cities on tiny house pilots through single units and community developments. We outline what we do and why we do it in our Go Tiny campaign.
Q: Who's in the collective?
The collective is the brain child of Sam Gambling and Anastasia Koutalianos who met by happenstance through Meetup. Sam was having her tiny house built and navigating city bylaws and build codes; Anastasia wanted to explore design and deconstruction practices and means of engagement through the build form. In July 2016 they formed the BC Tiny House Collective and things exploded. Sam's background is in sustainable food systems and works for Farm to School BC; Anastasia is a writer, communications strategist and project manager.
Tiny homes, as defined by the collective, are built on principles of sustainability and affordability.
The BCTHC is a volunteer and community-run group with more than 1000 supporters keen on tiny houses and living. They come from diverse backgrounds, including planning, real estate, communications, food security, research/academia, construction, design and more.
Q: What is a tiny house?
There's no one definition.
The BC Tiny House Collective defines at tiny house as a home on wheels and/or a temporary/permanent foundation that is less than 500 square feet and has the amenities of a dignified permanent home: kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. Tiny homes can be single units or part of a community development; they are built on principles of sustainability, affordability and social inclusion and are customizable.
This is a working definition but helps separate tiny houses from other small but similar dwellings including modular, container units, micro-suites, laneways or garden cottages and RVs.
Q: I want a mobile tiny house, do I have any limitations on size?
Yes. A tiny house must follow transportation regulations and are typically 8.5 feet wide (you can build to 10-feet wide but will need a wide-load tow every time you move it which isn't cheap). You cannot exceed 13.6 feet from the ground to your highest point. In terms of length you have a bit more freedom, but the longer you go the heavier the tiny house will be and may require a special vehicle for moving it around.
Q: How is a tiny house different from an RV?
Recreational vehicles (or RVs) are typically factory-built and use a lot of plastics in their built, which can lead to a lot of off-gassing.
Tiny homes, as defined by the collective, can be built on principles of sustainability. Meaning, they can be custom-made and use deconstructed or reclaimed but new building materials and lumber, thus reducing our carbon footprint. Tiny homes can also be designed to be off-grid or net-zero through the use of green/renewable energies, technologies and building practices (LEED). You can customize a tiny house too, allowing an owner to create a space to their needs and liking.
Lastly, RVs are meant for seasonal or temporary use, whereas a tiny house can be used for full-time living.
Q: Can you live in a tiny house in the City of Vancouver?
The short answer, no. Currently, the City of Vancouver currently does not allow tiny houses in any capacity, be that as secondary suites or entry-level laneways; it also doesn't have an RV park. Tiny houses do not comply with city bylaws and building codes. There is concern about units on wheels and whether they can be placed on a more temporary foundation and fully serviced/on-grid: water, sewage, greywater and energy. The BCTHC is in talks with the city on these issues.
Q: To what standards should a tiny house be build?
Tiny houses do not fit in our currently national and provincial building codes. A group in Alberta has submitted an amendment to the federal one for the inclusion of tiny.
That said, here are CSA standards that apply to tiny homes: CSA Z240 MH Series, CSA Z240 RV Series and CSA Z241 Park Model Trailer. What does this mean? You can build your tiny house or have it built to one of these guidelines to demonstrate that the unit complies to a recognized standard. It doesn't give you any guarantee that you can park it in a municipality or avoid rezoning. Each city has its own bylaws and regulations, and you may also need to pass the deformation-resistance text provided in CSA Z240.2.1.