Posts

Great Barrington, MA Will Vote On Backyard Tiny Houses May 6

The planning & zoning board of the town of Great Barrington, MA is considering allowing tiny houses on wheels, or movable tiny houses, as Accessory Dwelling Units in the back yards of existing houses.

The tiny house amendment has gone through all the previous stages of approval: registered voters in Great Barrington will vote on whether to allow them at the annual town meeting on May 6.

Background Info:

Katie Jackson of B&B Tiny Houses was asked to do a presentation at a planning board meeting on what tiny houses are, how they work, and how other cities have written them into their zoning code.  Katie is also the Northeast Regional Director of the American Tiny House Association, which is hosting the open house on May 5.

Here’s our previous update on Great Barrington’s consideration of allowing tiny houses on wheels.

Here’s an article on Great Barrington’s Town Meeting from the Berkshire Edge. 

  • Who buys tiny houses?
Most of B&B Tiny Houses’ non-commercial customers have their tiny house in the backyard of a family member or friend, in a campground, or on rural land with permissible zoning.  Some people live in their tiny houses full time, while others use them as guest houses, vacation houses, housing for personal care givers, or as wheelchair-accessible additions so someone can live at home while recovering from a spinal cord injury or in-home hospice care.
  • Why do people want tiny houses?
Although tiny houses are on wheels, very few people travel with them like RVers.  Most people who want tiny houses are drawn to the very low cost of living and the low carbon footprint.  Others want tiny houses on wheels because they might move once every couple of years, like traveling nurses or those with academic professions.  Many who live in tiny houses find themselves spending less time at home and more time in their communities and the outdoors.
  • Why don’t more people have tiny houses?
The biggest barrier to those wanting to own a tiny house is the difficulty of finding a legal spot to live in their house.  Since tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities don’t already have laws allowing tiny houses on wheels as residences.

Backyard tiny houses will add density without having to change the infrastructure of the town; it’s the quickest, easiest solution (and one of many) that will address the housing crisis.


Here’s Great Barrington’s proposed zoning language pertaining to tiny houses: 

Acronym Key:

MTH: Movable Tiny House

THOW: Tiny House on Wheels

ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit


There will be two tiny house events in Great Barrington:

-Tiny House Open House in the backyard of 65 Anderson Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Sunday, May 5, 10am-4pm.

Sunday’s tiny house open house is in advance of Monday’s Great Barrington Annual Meeting, where a proposed zoning amendment allowing Movable Tiny Houses as accessory dwelling units will be voted upon, among other topics. The open house is hosted by Amy Turnbull who is on the leadership team of the American Tiny House Association, with a movable tiny house built by Tony Indino of East Granby, Connecticut (this house is shown in the event flyer). This open house will give a glimpse into what backyard tiny houses might look like in Great Barrington if the Movable Tiny House Amendment passes.

-Great Barrington Annual Meeting & Vote at Monument Mountain High School Auditorium, 600 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Monday, May 6, 6:00pm.

Please attend the Annual Meeting on Monday in support of allowing movable tiny houses in Great Barrington backyards. The proposed amendment language is posted in the comments. All those who are registered to vote in Great Barrington may vote on the amendments.

Under Construction: The Green River Small Home by B&B Quality Construction

The Green River Small Home

  • Built by B&B Quality Construction, a division of B&B Micro Manufacturing, Inc.

  • Built on-site on a foundation (not on wheels)

  • Small footprint at 16′ x 20′ plus a porch

  • Kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs

  • Stairs up to sleeping loft

B&B Quality Construction builds homes and other buildings on-site with traditional construction techniques.  They are available for projects within reasonable distance of North Adams, Massachusetts.

The Green River Small Home is currently under construction.  Click to enlarge the construction photos below.

Green River Small Home Floor Plan Tiny House B&B Quality Construction

 

EDIT: Construction is now finished!  Click here to see the finished photos and a video tour of the Green River Small House. 

Interested in a small, permanently-affixed house like this near North Adams, MA?  Contact us!

Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages.  (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).

After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board.  Here’s his recap:

  • The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover!  The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
  • Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday.  However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
  • Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
  • All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review.  Her report should come back in August or September.  All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).

As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option.  She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.

-K. Jackson

Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.

Please Support Tiny House Zoning in Great Barrington, MA this Thursday, March 7

The town of Great Barrington, MA is considering adding Movable Tiny Houses, or Tiny Houses on Wheels, to their zoning regulations, allowable as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

As proposed, movable tiny houses will only be allowed as an ADU which means there has to be a primary dwelling.  A 2/3 majority at town meeting will allow them.

The Thursday meeting agenda includes a Citizen’s Speak Time, where those who live in Great Barrington can share their thoughts.  Those who don’t live in Great Barrington but would like to show up in support of legal tiny houses may also attend the meeting.

This meeting will address movable tiny houses.  Tiny houses that are on a foundation are already permitted as an ADU under the current bylaw and would need to meet the stretch code adopted by GB.  The planning board is also seeking to increase the allowable number of ADUs to two.

 

 

This is the proposed added language to the Great Barrington Zoning Bylaws:

To Section 11.0 Definitions add:

Movable Tiny Houses (MTH)

A structure intended for the separate, independent living quarters of one household for year-round residence that meets all of the following:

            (a) Is licensed and registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles;

(b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements, and certified by a qualified third party inspector for ANSI compliance;

            (c) Cannot move under its own power;

(d) Has not less than 150 and no more than 430 square feet of habitable living space, excluding lofts;

(e) Is designed and built using conventional residential building materials for windows, roofing and exterior siding.

ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT: a subordinate dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single family or two-family residential use, with provisions for independent cooking, living, sanitation and sleeping. (Add) A Movable Tiny House (MTH) connected to electricity, water, and sewer or septic that has its chassis, wheels and hitch concealed shall be considered an accessory dwelling unit.

(This proposed language may have been updated by the time the meeting takes place).

 

Please attend:

GREAT BARRINGTON PLANNING BOARD MEETING

THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2019 6:00 PM

Great Barrington Fire Station

37 State Road, Great Barrington, MA

Read the Meeting Agenda here.

The 8 Steps To Buying A Tiny House: Everything You’ll Need To Do To Go Tiny

You’ve been dreaming about your very own tiny house for years.  Are you ready to take the leap?

Here are all the steps you’ll take in the tiny house buying process.


Choose a tiny house site.

For some this is easy: a backyard, a piece of property in a town that allows RVs, or an RV park.  For those who don’t yet know where to put their tiny house, finding a location to put their tiny house is a crucial step.  We’ll build your tiny house differently depending on whether you plan to travel often with your house or it’ll stay in one place.  There are many different customization options available for your tiny house, which often depend on what kind of utilities are available at your tiny house site.

Here’s a blog post on where to put your tiny house, and what to know if you’re thinking of buying land for your tiny house.

One way to find a location is through networking.  Here’s a list of tiny house networking sites: most of these groups are through Facebook or Meetup.

If you’re finding it difficult to find a town that already allows tiny houses, you’re not alone.  In fact, most towns’ Planning Boards haven’t even considered whether to allow tiny houses on wheels: all it’ll take to start the wheels turning (pun intended, sorry) is for someone to ask.  The American Tiny House Association (Website, Facebook) is a great resource for those who would like to ask for permission to live in their tiny houses.


Choose a tiny house model.

Know where you’ll put your tiny house?  Great!  Browse our tiny house catalogue online (there are nine models to choose from) and decide which model is the best for you.  Each of our models is customizable: customizations like materials and paint colors are free, while having our designer change the blueprints is an extra fee.

Most of our tiny houses are the road-legal limit of 8 1/2′ wide.  If you’re looking for a tiny house you can tow with you, check our our Lightweight Models for Towing.  We also offer Park Model Tiny Houses at 10′ wide, the Taconic and the Kinderhook.  Park Models are great when you want a little extra elbow room and don’t plan to move your tiny house after it’s put in place.  Don’t want to climb up a ladder to go to bed?  Click here to see our models with a first-floor bed.


Get your finances ready.

B&B Tiny Houses are inspected by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, or the RVIA. Your tiny house will come with an individual seal showing it’s been certified.  Because they’re certified to RVIA standards, our tiny houses are legally considered RVs, and can get financing, insurance, and access to RV parks.  Having this certification also helps when explaining to your town’s Planning and Zoning Board exactly what a tiny house is!

Our tiny houses start at $39,000.  If you’ll use financing, down payments differ based on the financial institution, but they’re generally between 20 and 25%.  If you’ll pay cash, we generally charge 60% up front and 40% when the house is complete.  You’ll need to have this amount saved before you buy a tiny house.

To find out about how much the tiny house you want would cost, try our Instant Estimate Generator.  This will give you a ballpark estimate so you’ll know how much to save.  If you’re not comfortable with your first estimate, you can go back through the Estimator as many times as you’d like, choosing different options.  Here are some suggested financial institutions for getting RV financing for your tiny house.


Schedule a tiny house design session.

Whether you’d like to make changes to the design of the tiny house or not, a design session is the next step. If the only design changes are your selections for colors, materials and fixtures, these choices are free to make; the cost of the materials you choose will be reflected in your final quote.  If you’ll make changes to the blueprints, we charge a Design Alteration fee before our design session (scroll down past the customization options to see the fee).

Contact us to set up a time for a design session, whether via Skype, phone, or in-person.  If your session is in person, we’ll walk you through any tiny house that we may have at our shop so you can get a feel for the space.  During our design session, we’ll go through, in detail, which options you’d like, and the pros and cons of each depending on your location and how you’ll be using your tiny house.  You’ll have a chance to get your tiny house questions answered as well as learn more about which options are realistic for your living situation.


We’ll create a quote for you and send you a contract.

After your design session, our team will create a quote for your tiny house.  If you need changes to the existing plans, we’ll create a new drawing: this can take a few weeks depending on our design pipeline.

We’ll review your quote and final customization plan (your choices for colors, materials, fixtures, etc.) with you.

When you’re ready to finalize your choices and move forward, we’ll send you a build contract.

When we receive your signed contract and first payment (if you’re paying with cash, 60%; if you’re financing, we’ll need the payment from your financial institution) we’ll start ordering materials for your tiny house.


We’ll build your tiny house.

shou sugi banOur build schedule varies throughout the year: sometimes we can start building a tiny house right away, and other times there will be other projects in the pipeline.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our build schedule.

Trailers take about five weeks to build; your tiny house, depending on its size and level of complexity, should take 6-12 weeks depending on our build schedule.  We’ll keep in touch with you during the build process.


Get your site ready.

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterThe needs of tiny house sites vary greatly.  If you’ll be traveling with your tiny house and parking it at RV Parks, there’s not much you’ll need to do other than reserve your spot.  If you’ll be keeping your tiny house in one place, you’ll need to make sure you can get water and power to your tiny house and waste water away from it.  Depending on the permanency of your tiny house, you may want to have a gravel or concrete pad poured, and lay water and electric lines.  If you’re going solar, you’ll need to contract with a solar company to have your panels installed on your site.


Pick up your tiny house at our shop or have it delivered to your site.

If you’ll be towing your tiny house, here’s a primer on what size vehicle you’ll need.

Those who do not plan to tow their own tiny house may have it professionally delivered to their site.  Contact us for a delivery estimate.  We’ll schedule a time with you to ensure you’re on-site when your house is delivered, and we’ll answer any questions you might have about setting it in place.


Ready to choose a tiny house model?  Check out our Tiny House Designs and then get an Instant Estimate.

Have Questions?  Contact us.

Appendix Q “Tiny House Appendix” Advances in Massachusetts, August 2018

Tiny House Appendix Advances in MA!

From the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) August 14, 2018 Regular Meeting Division of Professional Licensure (DPL):

Proposal Number 5-2-2018 – Consider adopting Appendix Q of the International Residential Code pertaining to Tiny Houses.

“On a MOTION by Rich Crowley seconded by Kevin Gallagher it was voted in the majority to advance Appendix Q forward as an amendment to the ninth edition of the code, independent of the tenth edition effort.

On discussion, Rob Anderson indicated that Board members should refrain from making changes to the ninth edition if the effort is to advance to a tenth edition based on the 2018 I-Codes. Jen Hoyt and Kerry Dietz agreed that it becomes awkward and confusing and, by their estimation, there still may be some issues to be resolved with other agencies relating to tiny houses and it makes more sense to review further as part of the tenth edition revision.

Following discussion, the motion was approved via a majority of Board members with Rob Anderson, Jen Hoyt, and Kerry Dietz voting in opposition.”

Next Steps:

According to Rich Crowley, board member of the MA BBRS, the next steps are for a public hearing in November and then a final vote.

“We’ve voted it in now it’s on to public hearing and final vote. After Tuesday’s vote I don’t anticipate any objection… In fact at one of our previous meetings there was one member, the architect, that voiced some opposition to micro units and this time she offered some positive feedback. The Proposal will return with a document that will more than likely get a unanimous approval as well. That should make it to the hearing and  to promulgation along with tiny houses.
…Once the hearing is over the following month we decide on all the items came in front of us at the hearing and vote up or down or move them somewhere but some form of action is taken at that following meeting. tiny houses are more than likely move forward. At that point it’s just two steps away from [promulgation].
Next it goes to Administration and finance. Once they sign off then it goes to the governor’s desk for signature. It takes maybe a day or two after that for the Secretary of State too publish it as a part of our first amendment to the 9th Edition of the mass building code. The date that gets published is the date of becomes Law so to speak.
I think we can get it all done by the first of the year pretty close. I have talked to lieutenant governor who’s very excited and wants to see it move forward. In fact when one of  governor Baker’s main themes is for affordable housing and that’s what this does. Give people a chance to get on that first rung of the ladder.”

Background Info:

What is The Tiny House Appendix?

Appendix Q addresses building code standards for small houses on foundations that have already been adopted into the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), including standards for lofts, stairs, egresses, and ceiling heights.  To be clear, the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix won’t completely legalize tiny houses in Massachusetts– that’s up to each city– but if it is adopted, it will provide a set of building standards for under 400 sq ft homes where they are legalized, and where they aren’t yet legalized, help legitimize tiny homes in the eyes of local building departments.  Appendix Q does not address tiny houses on wheels, as they are currently considered vehicles.

Read the Tiny House Appendix here.

Appendix Q in Massachusetts

Andrew and Gabriella Morrison have been instrumental in writing and getting the Tiny House Appendix adopted into the national 2018 IRC: now it’s up to each state, and then each city/town in each state, to adopt it into their specific building code.  Andrew presented at a Massachusetts BBRS meeting, introducing Appendix Q last fall.

Grid-Tied vs. Off-Grid Solar Power in Tiny Homes

Picking the Best Solar Power Option

Many tiny home owners chose to adopt the minimalist lifestyle in order to live more sustainably. Solar panels offer a great form of renewable energy, but there are many considerations that you will need to keep in mind before you decide if solar power is the right option for you. In this post, we will talk about the differences between grid-tied and off-grid solar power.

Grid-Tied Solar Systems

As the name suggests, grid-tied solar systems connect to a utility power grid.
Pros
– Net metering: Net metering is when excess energy created by your solar panels is sent to the utility power grid for others to use. This allows solar panel owners to be paid for the excess electricity that their panels create.
On-grid Connectivity: If the solar panels do not create enough power for your tiny home, then the electrical grid will give electricity to your home as needed. This can allow a tiny home owner to buy solar panels in phases and increase the amount of panels their home relies on whenever the owner pleases.
– Affordability: Grid-tied solar power is the cheapest option for solar energy.
Cons
Lack of Transportability: Many tiny home owners like to frequently move around with their tiny house. Because of this, a grid-tied system would not be the ideal choice because they might not have access to an electrical meter while on the move.

grid-tied solar system tiny home

Off-grid Solar Systems

Off-grid systems are able to move with tiny home owners as they travel. Off-grid systems work by converting sunlight to power during the day and then storing this power in batteries for future use.
Pros
Transportability: With this option, you are able to travel with your tiny home and have a source of power.
On-grid connect-ability: There are off-grid options that can also connect to the grid, which enables tiny home owners to not have to worry about not having electricity and allows owners to sell back surplus electricity.
Cons
 Price: Compared to grid-tied systems, off-grid systems cost more money. In order to prevent a lack of power, most off-grid systems are oversized to make sure that there are no outages; this usually takes into consideration 1-2 days without solar panel generation.

Lack of Electricity: Solar panels may not produce enough electricity due to weather or because your tiny home is using more power than predicted. As discussed above, this is why most off-grid systems are oversized. Tiny home owners do have the option of charging the batteries via a generator if there is not enough solar power produced.

off-grid solar system tiny home

Depending on how you are wanting to use your tiny home and budget will probably be most tiny home owners’ biggest considerations when deciding which solar system to opt for.

 

How Do I Get Power & Water To My Tiny House? All About Tiny House Hookups

Hooking up a tiny house to power, fresh water, and waste water is easy– just plug and play!

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterFrom left: the tiny house power source, an extension cord with an adapter to fit into any three-pronged outlet; the water hose inlet; and covered outdoor outlets for all your chili-pepper-string-light needs.  Not pictured: grey and black water outlets, under the house. 

Fresh Water

First, you’ll need a source for fresh water in your tiny house.  You can source water from a town water line, a well, or any other potable water source.

Tiny houses that stay in one location can hook up to water through an RV hookup, which includes an underground water source with a pedestal that feeds water into the sinks and other faucets as they are used.

If there are water tanks in your tiny house, they can be filled with potable water via a hose, whether the hose is permanently attached to a stationary house (in freezing temperatures, wrap heat tape along the hose), or, if you’re traveling with your house, intermittently.  You can also have a water truck come and fill up your water tank, although that’s a more expensive solution.

Waste Water

How will you get rid of your waste water?

Depending on what your town allows, you may separate your grey water from your black water if you can use your grey water, or you may put all waste water into black water.  Grey water may be used in irrigating gardens (again, as long as your town allows it) and you use eco-friendly soap products.  More on greywater use is here.

Either way, your waste water will need to go somewhere!  B&B Micro Manufacturing can build in grey and black water tanks to your tiny house, or you can permanently tie-in your tiny house to a septic or sewer system.

Power

The simplest, cheapest power source for your tiny house is running an extension cord a building that already has power.  Many people who live in their tiny houses full-time park their houses beside or behind the house of a friend, relative or landlord.  Others may lease or purchase a property that already has a power source.  If you need to have new power lines run to your property, check in with your town. Learn more about connecting undeveloped land to power and water sources here.

Solar powering tiny houses is another option, albeit the most expensive one.  Off-grid solar power systems for tiny houses, including solar panels and batteries, cost anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on your power needs.  If you’re choosing solar power for your tiny house, we will help you choose the most energy-efficient appliances for your power system.  You can read more about your solar options and our tiny house solar energy partner, AltEStore, here.

The TL;DR* for tiny house water and power is that tiny houses work just like RVs, and they can be quite simple and easy to plug in.

Have questions about your tiny house power and water?  Ready to buy your tiny house?  Contact us!

  • Where will your tiny house be located? Will it be used for travel or set in one location?
  • Will your tiny house be used as a year-round residence or as a vacation home? How many people will use it? Anything else we should know?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

*For all you newcomers to the internet (where have you been?), TL;DR means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, or “In Summary” if you’re being polite.