Low Cost Rural Studio Homes Cost Less Than Many Tiny Homes (20K!) With Over Twice the Space

Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Economy, Frugal Living with 10 Comments

© Rural Studio

By Kimberley Mok | Tree Hugger

One major reason why tiny homes are so popular is probably because they are cheaper to build than your average home, usually costing anywhere from a few thousand to many thousands of dollars — still cheaper than average. The only drawback is that tiny homes are, well, tiny, typically measuring under 280 square feet. But what if you could get a home twice the size, for about the same price? That's the aspiration behind Rural Studio of Auburn University's 20K House, a decade-old project that has aimed to design low-cost, efficient homes for the broader public.

Rural Studio

© Rural Studio

First founded by Sam Mockbee back in 1993 as a place to engage in “social justice architecture,” Rural Studio's students have designed and refined more than a dozen prototypes of homes sized at around 550 square feet. This January, the programpartnered with a commercial developer to build two cottages for an artists' residency program located in Serenbe, a “high-end, new-urbanist-pastoral community” south of Atlanta.

Related Article: 5 Impressive, Pre-Fab Tiny Houses You Can Order Right Now

Rural Studio

© Rural Studio

According to Fast Company, thousands of hours have been spent to refine the concept behind the houses — something that is built unconventionally and intelligently, yet doesn't look completely out of place. Says Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio:

Related Article: Artist Couple Builds Beautiful Mountain Cabin Out of Recycled Material for Only $500

The houses are designed to appear to be sort of normative, but they're really high-performance little machines in every way. They're built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements. … We're using material much more efficiently. But the problem is your local code official doesn't understand that. They look at the documents, and the house is immediately denied a permit simply because the code officials didn't understand it.

Related Article: 6 Reasons Why The Tiny House Movement Is Going To Be Big Over Coming Decades

Some instances of these unconventional but efficient methods of building include elevating the structure on piers and wooden joists, instead of using a typical concrete foundation, which saves on material but makes for an even stronger foundation. Airflow underneath the house is promoted in this way, encouraging passive heating and cooling. Windows are kept to a minimum as they are costly, but are placed in strategic areas to maximize light and air. Inside the home, transom openings are built in over the bathroom and bedroom doors to help with cross ventilation.


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  1.' Robin Furlong says:

    Austin Blake Pickle build it and we will come….just a play on a baseball diamond. 🙂

  2.' Robin Furlong says:

    Allan Kimbro, you could build this….go for it!

  3.' Julie DeVita says:

    Richard Chapman

  4.' Ajboy Tumog says:

    This actually looks good.

  5.' Alminta Thomas says:

    Cheap is not always good beware.

  6.' Janet Edminston-Moore says:

    Sure could. I love solitude and nature. My motto is the less I’m wrapped up in “stuff” the more I can enjoy God’s creation. Blessings to all.

  7.' Lisa Patterson says:

    The tiny house movement is based on the idea that we can conserve energy by living in smaller houses while saving and conserving energy and resources. However, this may be a great start for a bigger family 🙂

  8.' Jayme Leylienny Kathleen Kimberly says:

    Jayme Leylienny Kathleen Kimberly

  9.' Gillian Speke says:

    Are missing potential. Mite be trendy calling them ‘tiny’ but are good, very needed affordable starter homes. Not seen pics of interiors. Design getting there but…

  10.' Aurora Rose says:

    I have lived in one, at a beach, it was a very happy time of my life… thé palatial home I left it for brought misery.I take nature, freedom and thé company of like mondes, positive, people ~any day! 🙂

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