Terry Miller is building a smaller, greener house in Rossland.
The idea of building smaller has been catching on lately, as people think about not only how much space they really need, but also as they consider their footprint.
The bigger a house’s footprint, the more material it takes to build it, and the more energy it will take to maintain the temperature inside the house once its built. So building smaller is often a step in building greener.
As for what smaller really means, it depends on who you ask. Tiny housers usually shoot for something under 200 square feet, but generally the aim of the smaller living movement is to live simply and efficiently, with no more room that you need.
“In Vancouver there’s lot of complaints about monster houses … that there’s these couples living in 4000 square foot houses. Do you really need all that? That’s a lot of money and expense, and impact on the environment to heat it, to build it in the first place,” says Miller. “On the other end of the scale, can you really live … for the rest of your life in a tiny house? … So somewhere in between is a house that’s just big enough for what people actually need.”
The house he’s building, which is an auxiliary building next to his home, will be 800 square feet. He plans to use it as a home office and guest house for visiting friends and family.
Greener is likewise a relative term. Green homes range from completely off-grid to passive to anything more energy efficient than a standard home.
Miller is aiming for a home that can run on the amount of energy required to operate a hand-held blowdryer, but doesn’t think he’ll quite achieve that.
With every decision he makes about the house—from the insulation to the windows—Miller is trying to keep the house as airtight as possible. The more airtight the house, the fewer changes in internal temperature, the less energy required to heat or cool the house. He also plans to add solar collectors.
Miller has done renovations on a house before and done general contracting on a house, but he isn’t any kind of building expert and so far its been a learning experience, which is why he came up with the idea to offer a workshop on building a smaller, greener house.
He’ll share his own experiences at the workshop, but he’s also rounded up experts on a number of topics, including sustainable homes, eco heating, environmental technology, architecture, eco timber framing, and building contracting.
“[I] would love to have taken this course that I’m organizing before I did this house,” says Miller. “I’m sort of running just in front of this course, so I’m going to have lots of war stories about what not to do.”