“I built this house myself”, Eva Pomeroy proudly tells us outside her house in Nelson, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. We follow her inside and look around. Kitchen, living room, bathroom, and a sleeping area. There is even room for overnight guests: they can sleep in a loft that is reached by ladder. Everything is close together. We don’t know what impresses us more; the fact that she built all of this herself or that she managed to fit an entire house on a trailer. For Eva and her partner live in a tiny house measuring a mere 6.2m by 2.4m. It makes for a peculiar appearance and particular lifestyle, that’s for sure. Yet we wonder: are tiny houses sustainable, too?
Recycling Saves Resources
From the outside, Eva’s home looks fairly new, so her admission that she used only recycled materials comes as a surprise. Eva explains: “Nothing is new, everything has been given a second life. The sky light in my bedroom, for example, was an escape hatch in an old bus. Printing plates from a newspaper now serve as kitchen tiles. The wood-burning stove has been refurbished, my solar panels are second-hand, and so on. I saved a lot of money that way” Eva grins. Ivar is quick to add: “And you saved raw materials and energy!” It’s a fair point to make, as constructing a new, regular-sized house would have required a lot of new building materials and energy to source those materials and put the house together. A tiny house by its very nature needs fewer materials and energy and those savings can be amplified when recycled materials are used, as Eva did.
Less Space Means Less Stuff
Despite the limited size of her house, Eva has everything she needs. “I didn’t want a house in which you spend all day converting everything. So no bed that you have to pull up in the morning to have breakfast.” Still, her house is full of space-saving features. She has made storage compartments under the staircase, with the space under the top step serving as a wardrobe. The ladder leads to a loft with the bed. The design not only increases floor space but also creates a homely atmosphere.
“I think people always fill the space they have with stuff, no matter how big it is. I don’t have a lot of space, so I don’t have a lot of stuff either,” Eva says. “I have carefully chosen the things I own and therefore cherish them.” Her choice of living in a tiny house has made her a minimalist of sorts; she only buys what she really needs. Again, she is saving resources and energy.
Fewer Burdens Mean More Pleasure
“What about the costs?” we ask. “The construction took a lot of time. I worked really hard for three years. By using only recycled materials and doing a lot myself, I have been able to keep costs very low. All in all, the house cost me NZ$25,000 (almost €15,000). Almost half of it was for the trailer. I also spent a lot of money on food and drinks to thank people for their help. One of the advantages of keeping costs low is that I now live debt-free. As a result, I can afford to work part-time and spend more time on things that make me really happy”, Eva beams.
She explains that her tiny house has another advantage. “As my house is on a trailer and can be moved, I could build it and live in it without having to comply with all kinds of building regulations. All I had to do was look for a place to build and later park my tiny house.” A benevolent resident in Nelson permitted Eva to set up camp on his property. In a country where many people have a large plot of land around their house that may not be all that unusual.