by: Angela Danovi,
Ozarks Water Watch, Arkansas Regional Projects Manager
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the White House Green Building Exhibit on Sustainability in Little Rock at the Clinton Presidential Library. I was excited to visit because the exhibit features a tiny house. Tiny houses are part of an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes. This tiny house was built with some of the latest applications of sustainability and green technology. While many people may not desire to reduce their living space down below 500 square feet, adopting some sustainable approaches to building and living can protect our land, air, and water where we live, work, and play.
All About the Tiny House!
Lower Energy and Sustainable Resources in the House
House size: This tiny house is 240 square feet. Currently there is not a standard size to define a “tiny house,” but it is generally considered to be a house that is 500 square feet of smaller. The larger your home, the more land that it occupies, increasing runoff of rainwater, increasing building resources, and increasing heating and cooling resources. Living in a smaller home results in an overall lower environmental footprint and can save you money on energy costs, furnishing costs, and possibly on property taxes!
Bamboo Flooring: Bamboo Flooring is one of the most sustainable flooring options available. While technically a grass, the 5-7 year growth cycle means it can be produced faster than hardwoods.
Engineered Wood: Known as composite wood or manufactured board, engineered wood is manufactured by binding the strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of wood together. This is a sustainable option because it can be produced from small trees, and makes use of the entire tree. The panels also eliminate the need of using any other standard underlayment material.
Recycled Denim Insulation: Recycled denim is a natural cotton fiber and is made from scraps of blue jeans. Recycled denim diverts this textile from the landfill, is energy efficient, and meets the criteria for lower level formaldehyde emission and contains no volatile organic compounds, keeping the air in your home clean.
Radiant Barrier: Consisting of highly reflective material, radiant barriers reduce your home’s heat gain and cooling costs. Oriented strand board (OSB) roof decking was used on this home. OSB reflects up to 97% of the sun’s radiant heat from entering the building.
Metal Roof: Metal roofs are an excellent sustainable roofing option. They are great insulators and allow for a cleaner and safer collection of rainwater from the roof.
Solar Panels: Much of the electrical needs of the house are provided by the sun. Solar panels can reduce your energy costs and even allow you to have surplus energy for your home.
Lower Water Usage and Cleaner Water
Tankless Water Heater: This tiny house features a Rinnia tankless hot water heater, which supplies an unlimited amount of hot water on demand rather than holding hundreds of gallons of water in a tank and heating the same water continuously. A tankless water heater also takes up less space, freeing space in your home or reducing areas that require heating and cooling.
Low flow shower heads: A shower head manufactured before 1993 uses as much as 8 gallons of water per minute. A modern low-flow shower head can use as little as 1.4 gallons per minute, with the most common using 2 gallons per minute. Modern technology of low flow shower heads produce enough pressure to feel like a higher volume of water.
Low water use toilet: Before 1994, toilets used at least 3.5 gallons of water per flush. In 1994, new legislation was enacted reducing toilet flushes to 1.6 gallons. Today, some water efficient toilets found through the WaterSense program can use 1 gallon of water or less per flush. Some toilets are also adaptable to flushing more or less water as needed.
Rain Barrel: A rain barrel captures water for use at a later time. Capturing water reduces runoff and provides a short-term supply of water for needs such as gardening or other uses which do not require potable water. The metal roof on this tiny house will deliver cleaner water than traditional petroleum-based roofing shingles. It is highly encouraged to use food-grade barrels, especially if you are using the water for edible gardens.
Actions you can take to improve sustainability:
- Check your faucets and pipes under your sink. A small drip can result in a lot of wasted water. One drip per second from a leaky faucet can waste up to 5 gallons of water per day!
- Install ceiling fans and turn them on in the summer and raise your air conditioning up a few degrees. The ceiling fan will move air and help to cool you.
- When you replace your appliances, select new ones that are Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances must meet or exceed specific energy efficiency requirements.
- Choose WaterSense household appliances. Similar to Energy Star appliances, WaterSense appliances meet specifications for water efficiency and performance. You will save water and money will making a positive contribution towards sustainability in your home.
- Perform an energy audit of your home. The Arkansas Energy Office can help you weatherize your home to improve energy efficiency.