Architecture students think small in Saanich

160 square-foot home being constructed in Gordon Head

Ryerson architecture students Douglas Peterson-Hui (left)

Ryerson architecture students Douglas Peterson-Hui (left)

If you’re looking to downsize from your current home – I mean, really downsize – some architecture students in Gordon Head may have just the right house for you.

Douglas Peterson-Hui, Daniel Sobieraj and Gregorio Jimenez have spent the last three months constructing a 160-square-foot home on a 20-foot-long trailer, rethinking the traditional concept of bigger is better when it comes to home ownership. The idea came from Peterson-Hui’s grandmother as a summer project that would use the skills they’ve developed thus far in university.

“This was her idea since we were close to finishing our studies at Ryerson University in architectural science,” said Peterson-Hui, 20. “It’s something that’s manageable but it’s quite a large project, even though it’s so small.”

While still a work in progress, the team has been innovative in their ambitious design of the tiny house, working out the most efficient ways to hook up heating and plumbing systems to provide the comforts of a larger home. The tiny house features a kitchen, bathroom, fireplace, a small loft and a lounge, making the most of every square inch.

“We’re always trying to find multiple uses for everything we can,” said Jimenez, 36. “Our first design was maybe in March, and we just kept designing, keeping in mind the structure. We’re still tweaking things.”

“It’s harder to design a small space and cram everything in rather than have a 4,000-square-foot home where you can have an entire room for one thing,” said Sobieraj, 21.

The house is designed to run both on and off the grid, with options for solar panels or to connect to a generator. The stove, fireplace and on-demand water heater run off propane to save electricity for other parts of the house.

Sobieraj said B.C.’s red-hot real estate market, which has outpriced many residents from owning detached homes, also factored into the inspiration for the tiny house.

“You want to challenge the stigma of having a tiny house,” he said. “People think it’s like a mobile home or an RV, they think of trailer parks, but we’re really saying, ‘You can have a house smaller than an RV, and you can live in it.’”

Peterson-Hui said tiny homes are currently classified as recreational vehicles or “Ubilt” trailers, meaning they can only be lived in part time. The team hopes to lobby local governments to redesignate them as a full-time solution to the province’s shortage of affordable housing.

“It’s complaint-based, so if you were to be living in a tiny home on a piece of property, the only time the city would interfere is if someone complained,” he said.

With the fall semester starting up in a few weeks, the team is aiming to finish the project over their Christmas break. Peterson-Hui said they’d like to document its completion before selling it.

“This is kind of a portfolio piece for us, too,” he said. “We want this project to stand out and we want to display it to other people. We’re thinking of taking it somewhere scenic and take some pictures there and document it.”