Tiny Living

How tiny homes can help deal with forest fires and floods

tiny house exterior

More Canadian communities are facing the unfortunate reality of forest fires and flash floods, a result of climate change. Can tiny houses on wheels provide the mobility necessary to save your home?

Tiny homes, or mini homes, are typically between 100 and 400 sqft and contain a kitchen, bathroom, and living/sleeping area. Often, they are built on a trailer within the size and weight dimensions to allow them to be towable by the owner. While tiny house living is not for everyone, it is becoming a popular option for couples and people who live alone, especially for lower-income households such as retirees, students, and new grads. 

In the case of weather emergencies, local authorities are usually able to issue warnings and evacuation notices well in advance. However, the heartbreaking moment of having to evacuate and leave your home to the elements, grabbing only a minimum of belongings, can have a deep impact on the residents of a community. Indeed, coming back to your home to see it destroyed or irreparably damaged is just the beginning of a very long recovery process. 

With the most recent UN report indicating that extreme weather events are going to be a yearly occurrence in our near future, perhaps it’s wise to consider mobile living as an alternative to fixed foundation homes. 

Tiny houses may be practical for short term and long term emergency response

Tiny houses on wheels can be hitched to a common pickup truck and moved out of an area under threat of weather events. With tiny house dwellers able to bring their own homes with them when they evacuate, surrounding communities will be asked to provide parking only – not fully equipped overnight shelter for the evacuees. The recovery process of the evacuated community will also be simpler. 

Tiny houses, a sustainable solution in Canada

What about the cause of more frequent, more severe weather events? Tiny houses are actually more sustainable and climate-friendly than bigger homes. Tiny homes are equivalent to larger homes when it comes to function as they are built with the same materials. Insulation, water-proofing, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical can all be built to local building codes to ensure a healthy and safe living environment. 

However, with their tiny footprint, tiny houses require significantly less materials to build and significantly less energy to heat and cool. With almost 30% of global carbon emissions coming from the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings, smaller homes can make a big difference. 

Additionally, many tiny home owners are opting for solar panels and composting toilets, different solutions to make their homes fully or partially off-grid and less wasteful with water. Seeing how little energy and plumbing they actually need for their tiny home, the owners can be more willing to experiment with different eco-friendly systems. 

Tiny houses are coming but wheels still an issue

tiny house exterior

Photo: Harmony Resorts

Across Canada, the provincial response to the current shortage of affordable housing has included changes to building codes and municipal by-laws to allow, even encourage, tiny houses. For example, Sudbury, Ontario is promoting tiny home development in the city and they are one of many municipalities doing the same. 

However, tiny homes on wheels are still defined in most places in Canada to be a “travel trailer”, “mobile home”, or “RV”, and not appropriate for year-round living. Traditionally, these types of homes were confined to mobile home parks or simply banned from being used for human habitation in Canadian municipalities. Perhaps, with the climate changing, this will change too.

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