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The Small House
That Jay Shafer Built

Natural Home Magazine
November / December 2000


The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in Natural Home Magazine in the November / December 2000 issue.

Natural Home of the Year Winner: Special Award for Philosophy and Innovation, House on Wheels. By putting his tiny home, Tumbleweed, on a flatbed utility trailer, artist Jay Shafer circumvented an Iowa town’s minimum-size standards and created a moving masterpiece Photography by Povy Kendal Atchison (not available at this time).

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Why I Built My House This Way
by Jay Shafer

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Since 1950, the average home in the United States has more than doubled in size, even while the number of people per household has shrunk. Subsequently, the typical American home now emits twice as much carbon dioxide per day as the typical American car, sends more than a ton of construction waste to the local landfill, and requires more than fifteen times as much land per inhabitant as a home in China.

In light of these facts, and the resulting sprawl, I wanted a home that would meet my spatial needs without exceeding them. I figured the smaller the structure, the more I could save on land, energy, emissions, and building materials. My house (also known as Tumbleweed) was built with only about 4,800 pounds of building materials--less than 100 pounds of which went to the local landfill. It converts less than thirty dollars worth of propane into heat during a typical Midwestern winter, and at 8 ż-by-17-by-13-ż feet, it fits snugly into a single parking space. In addition, Tumbleweed cost only about one-fifth the average home. With $42,000, I was able to put five times more money per square foot into quality materials and construction than is generally allowed a standard-size home.

A house built of similar materials but measuring a more typical 2,500 square feet would weigh about 64,000 pounds and could be expected to dump at least an additional ton at the landfill. It would fill nine or eighteen parking spots (depending on whether it was one or two stories), and propane heating bills for the same Midwestern winter would probably run about $550, even if a passive solar design like that of Tumbleweed were used.

For more on this unique, artfully created home-for-one, check out the November/December issue of Natural Home. [click here]

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