Crowds at Tiny House Expo reveal big interest in small-space living

The sign said “Sold Out.” The dusty field south of Loveland, inundated by raging flood waters three years ago, was now strewn with straw so that visitors to the Tiny House Expo could stroll comfortably. And there was plenty for more than 500 visitors with financial, environmental and “more time and freedom” housing issues, to see.

Olivia James, a residence life counselor at Regis University, who is currently paying off student loans, came from Denver to learn about tiny homes. “I’m really interested,” she said. “It seems like a perfect alternative for me but I would need to find the right piece of land.”

She is typical of the young, professional crowd that is attracted to the tiny-house movement.

The Sept. 11 expo drew capacity crowds to its informative workshops throughout the day. Discussions included making use of hemp products in the building of tiny homes and issues around finding appropriate space for people to install tiny homes. Many municipalities have ordinances that require a home to be at least 600 square feet, and sometimes at least 1,200 square feet. However, the popularity of the tiny-house movement is causing government officials to consider adjusting some of those requirements. Tiny houses are typically between 100 and 400 square feet.

A 18-by-8 foot house built in Fort Collins by Tiny By Design USA, Inc. drew the longest line of people curious for a peek inside. Visitors wee asked to place covers on their shoes as they climbed up a few steps to the 48-square-foot deck. Adorned with flower boxes containing chrysanthemums and an attractive rope railing, the deck is built to fold up when it’s time to move the house.

Inside, steps lead to a loft at either end of the space, one for sleeping and the other for storage. There’s a comfortable custom-made couch that converts into a bed in the living area, across from a wall-mounted television set.

A sink, four-burner stove and under-the-counter refrigerator share space with a composting toilet and ingenuously hidden shower in the kitchen/bathroom area at the back end of the house.

Builder Art Laubach’s business card reads “Einstyne Tiny Homes: Space is Relative.” His company in Brighton offers basic road-worthy shells between 16 and 28 feet long and 8 feet wide with prices ranging from $10,799 to $19,499. The shell price includes custom design and layout, wheeled trailer, insulated floor, an 8-foot sleeping loft and zip system wall and roof sheathing. Extra is charged for underlayment and fascia board, siding, skylights, windows, doors and a variety of roof choices. Laubach explained that many items are not part of the standard packages because there are so many choices available. He has been in business for a year and can complete a shell in a week. A mid-level Einstyne tiny house can be built for $25,000.

Do-it-yourselfers with talent and imagination might have been drawn to a couple of well-used construction-site mobile units on display at the expo. Each was being offered to interested bidders starting at $200. By early afternoon there had not been any takers. They had plenty of living space, but were sadly in need of renovation.

A big yellow school dubbed “Rebel Ant” was open for inspection. A sign on its side declared: “Schoolie Bus Renovation. Excuse us but we’ve only been at work for three days. To be completed by July 2017.” A tour revealed evidence that the bus was already being lived in. Sleeping hammocks were suspended from the ceiling and a knowledgeable young girl was happy to share information about the features of the bus.

Carpenter John Patterson’s workshop on the uses of hemp drew a crowd and inspired lots of questions about this once controversial agricultural product. He mixed up some hempcrete and explained the benefits of thermal wall system construction using the material It can replace drywall, insulation, the need for paint, is breathable and helps to maintain a constant temperature.

Patterson had advice for potential tiny-home owners, suggesting that they have specific plans drawn up before approaching city or county licensing offices. He suggests not overemphasizing the use of hemp. “After all, we’re not just building houses out of pot,” he said. There is enough interest in tiny homes in Northern Colorado that plans are underway to establish Kestral Commons as a tiny house community.

Tiny Home Expo was presented by Northern Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Uncle Benny’s, a Loveland lumber company that specializes in buying, selling and trading new and used building materials, and Sauce Promotions and Productions that specializes in orchestrating environmental events. Jessica Rawley, board chair for NCRES and Sauce owner Hunter Buffington worked long and hard to bring the event together in a three-month period. “It has been so successful that we plan a second expo, Sept. 9 and 10, 2017,” Buffington said. “We don’t have a location yet.”

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