Home sweet (tiny) home project takes shape in Saanich

A 22-foot-long tiny house on wheels is taking shape in Saanich, as two Ryerson University architecture students put their education to work.

Since May 11, Gregorio Jimenez, 36, and Douglas Peterson-Hui, 20, have been working on their project, scheduled to be finished next month.

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“This was actually my grandmother’s idea,” Peterson-Hui said.

White Rock resident Judy Peterson suggested to her grandson that he design and build a tiny house. She is providing the up-front money and will be paid back when it sells.

Capital costs are anticipated to be about $30,000. The selling price has not been determined, because the house is not completed and some materials still need to be purchased.

It will sell for well under $100,000, the duo said.

Tiny houses are growing in popularity, as the proliferation of television programs such as HGTV’s Tiny House Builders and Tiny House, Big Living indicates. Enthusiasts delight in the idea of simple, pared-down living in a small house that’s easy to relocate.

Interest in tiny homes “reflects our current housing situation,” Peterson-Hui said. House prices have been skyrocketing in markets such as Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto. The difference is, of course, that tiny houses don’t come with land — that’s up to the owners to line up.

The benchmark price (representing a typical house in a neighbourhood) in the core area of Greater Victoria was $724,000 in June, the Victoria Real Estate Board said.

This tiny house is being constructed on the Saanich property of Aaron Peterson, Peterson-Hui’s uncle. Peterson is also a licensed plumber and will be doing the house’s plumbing.

In return, Peterson-Hui and Jimenez will design a new interior for Peterson’s house.

This project appealed to the students because they could put their education to use in a hands-on way. They are entering their fourth-year in architectural science at Toronto’s Ryerson University this fall and plan to pursue master’s degrees.

Jimenez already runs a carpentry company (honourcarpentry.com) and has worked in residential construction. Peterson-Hui has a landscape design firm with a fellow student, who is assisting in the house plans.

The house’s footprint is 160 square feet, with an interior loft that will likely be about 60 square feet. The peaked ceiling reaches 10.5 feet from the floor. “Since it is such a small space, we wanted it to feel large,” Peterson-Hui said.

Natural light comes through six windows, two skylights and French doors.

In tiny houses, space is at a premium, calling for custom design and custom solutions. Stairs to the loft will hold storage underneath.

The living area will have a couch that will fold out as a bed, with storage underneath. The kitchen will include a three-burner stove and oven, and will be well lit, because it has its own custom-made window.

There’s six feet, four inches of head space under the loft, where the bathroom with a tiled shower will be installed. An outdoor shower might be added as well, with the idea that it would be useful if the house were located near a beach.

A queen-size bed will be able to fit in the loft.

The roof and exterior walls are clad in durable charcoal-grey standing-seam metal siding. Peterson-Hui and Jimenez milled the cedar that has been mounted horizontally on the exterior as well.

“We are pretty happy with how it is turning out,” Peterson-Hui said.

Construction methods, such as fastening 26 lag bolts into the frame of the trailer, were used to make the house structurally sound, the pair said.

“Every time you move it, it is basically like a seismic event, if you think about it,” Jimenez said.

Most materials have been bought locally. The trailer was purchased at Harbour City Equipment in Duncan.

This project has illustrated how materials work and interact, Peterson-Hui said. It also “gives you some appreciation for the people who have to put together the things you design.”

The venture prompted the two to reflect on how much living space they need. They have been living in tight conditions while in Victoria, using a trailer and a small camper truck. Jimenez looks at the tiny house, saying: “I consider this a luxury space now. ... This is a really viable living space.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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