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An Energy-Efficient Tiny House on Wheels by Zack Giffin

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This is a Zack Giffin-designed energy-efficient tiny house on wheels sponsored by Plastics Make It Possible.

Outside, you’ll notice a classic red barn feel with deep cranberry clapboards and white trim. Inside the walls, Giffin used advanced insulation from plastics which improved the home’s energy efficiency and made it more eco-friendly.

When you go inside, you’ll find a covered “mud-room” entryway that gives you loft space for storage. There is beautiful dark hardwood flooring in the house and a crisp, clean kitchen. It includes open shelving, solid grey countertops and more. The living space even has a custom spiral staircase to take you up to the bedroom loft. Watch the video below!

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An Energy-Efficient Tiny House on Wheels by Zack Giffin

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Images © Plastics Make It Possible via YouTube

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Images © Plastics Make It Possible via YouTube

Video: A Tiny House That’s Big On Energy Efficiency

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Michael
    March 3, 2016, 5:12 pm

    I like the philosophy behind it and it would be interesting to learn about weight savings. Although its a traditional design it doesn’t look old fashioned.
    The roof dormer windows are great idea to avoid the extreme height width ratio appearance of most tiny houses with loft yet provide perfect cross ventilation, interior brightness and headroom. The added skylights underlining this.
    Plenty of great features like solar shingles, the way of applying insulation, usage of light materials makes it more suitable for moving it more often.
    Zack, what is price tag of this one?
    Well done.

  • Anne
    March 3, 2016, 6:32 pm

    I totally understand the push for wanting good quality light weight materials but plastic is what is killing us and this planet. I for one would not want to live in a house that is causing even future damage to our endocrine system. There are other items that can be used, although more expensive. Which should not be the case. He did a beautiful job on the build.

  • Theo
    March 3, 2016, 7:33 pm

    Those ‘steps’ are an accident just waiting to happen.

    • Jamie
      March 4, 2016, 1:16 am

      well…statistically it would be your home bathroom that is the biggest accident, then the ladder; The trick is to be young and agile, then its fun waiting to happen

      • Theo
        March 4, 2016, 6:33 pm

        Dunno where you get your statistics, but the worst I have been hurt in any bathroom is from shaving nicks. I ‘have’ been hurt on ladders and steps numerous times throughout the years, including my ‘young and agile’ years, and none of it was fun.

    • Roxann
      March 6, 2016, 11:22 am

      I thought the same thing, Theo. Scary.

      • Lisa Hartford
        March 6, 2016, 9:25 pm

        I’m with Theo and Roxann. It was the first thing I thought when I looked at these stairs. Then I thought, “If I ever owned this place, those stairs would be the first thing to go.” I’d replace them with three steps to the wall, followed by a right turn and on up the wall to the loft; all encased in a squared off staircase with sides (for those nocturnal trips to the loo.) Then you don’t have to worry about being young or agile; a safe staircase is a safe staircase.

  • Peter Piper
    March 3, 2016, 7:50 pm

    A plastic house! This is a great idea… as long as we can be guaranteed that there is very little to no off-gassing. I’d hate to find out that after living in a plastic house (carpet is bad enough!), my doctor told me I have lung cancer or worse. Other than this, I think this is a great idea!

  • kristina nadreau
    March 4, 2016, 6:50 am

    not all plastics are formulated from petroleum products. there are soy based plastics. I avoid things that out gas. some plastics are toxic to living creatures and some just to the physical environment. Some plastics are not toxic to anyone or anything, including during their processing. My point is: be informed and use intelligent design. BTW I love the idea of the solar shingles.

  • Maria
    March 4, 2016, 7:39 am

    Zack would like more pictures. Would like better stairs to loft. I don’t know why builders are not using mini split systems. I know they cost more,but I like comfort. If I planned a tiny house I would put a mini split unit in bathroom so I don’t sweat in summer and don’t freeze in winter when I take a shower. I would up mini split in loft, heat raises and I don’t want to sweat in summer and like to be warm in winter. Also one mini split unit in main area. These would keep home cool in summer and warm in winter. I would also make the home longer to put in stackable washer and dryer. They sell small ones at Lowes. The all in one units take too long to do clothes and use a lot energy. Plus if they brake down it costs a lot to fix them. I don’t like composting toilets,love RV low flush toilets. In kitchen I would have single kitchen sink,apartment size oven freestanding,under counter refrigerator /freezer combo. which means freezer on top ,refrigerator on bottom. I would also put small sink in bathroom and small window and vent in bathroom. You have to think taking a big house and shrinking it. Just my thoughts.

    • Bigfoot
      March 4, 2016, 7:55 pm

      Maria, there are quite a few builders using mini-split systems. The absolute smallest unit will easily heat & cool a THOW. What exactly are you referring to when you say you’d put 3 mini-splits in? Not getting it.

      While I love building with lumber, I believe there is a place for plastics in residential construction regardless of the size of the structure. Take TPO for instance. It is 100% recyclable as are many other plastic products & there are quite a few plastic items made from our huge mountains of waste. IMO, people just need to research the individual products & weigh the pros & cons.

      • Maria
        March 5, 2016, 7:25 am

        I live in Florida and it gets real hot here. I don’t know if 1 mini split would keep bathroom,loft,kitcken and living room cool enough. That is why I stated 3 units. One in loft one in bathroom one in living area. Love the work you do. I want to build a tiny house to retire in. Hoping to have at least 75,000.00 in the next two years to build one. I have had this dream for 12 years now.

        • Bigfoot
          March 5, 2016, 2:04 pm

          Hi Maria,
          There are 2 kinds of mini-splits on the market. The most common is the ductless which I think you are referring to. Manufacturers are starting to build ducted systems & you may want to consider these for your build. A 9,000 btu system will easily handle 350 sq ft. What size home are you planning to build? The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER rating numbers are what is used to delineate the efficiency of a said unit. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit will be regarding power consumption. Here’s a link so you can explore some options on duct/ductless units.
          I have lived in FL all my life (currently in north central area) so quite familiar with the heat & high humidity. I had a small construction related biz for 2 decades (till the 2008 debacle) & I’m well versed on construction related topics. I currently do service work of all kinds (plumbing/electrical/carpentry/HVAC-R22 & 410a systems/appliances) so I have a great deal of knowledge on how things work & how/why they fail. I try to continuously add to my knowledge/skillset as well. I’m nearing retirement age & plan on building small housing as a means of making a living not too far down the road. I will be starting this year part time & will be building a small, single axle unit that is probably closer to a travel trailer than a typical THOW’s. It will be heavier/constructed stronger/insulated much better than a TT, yet still light enough to realistically travel with.
          I’ve been an artist & musician most of my life so there seems to be an incessant urge/need to create that rumbles from the inside all the time. Here’s an example of a guitar I rebuilt for my granddaughter when she was 10. There’s a long story behind the artwork. I did everything myself & had several hundred hours in the project. The guitar playing in the vid is me playing to a bass/keys/drum soundtrack.


          Are you going to be building on the ground or will you go the trailer route? If it’s the trailer route, I think you can build a most fantastic unit for well under your aforementioned budget and incorporate a substantial amount of off-grid capabilities to boot. Feel free to holler at me if you need someone to bounce some ideas of off & keep pursuing your dreams, you’ll get there 🙂

  • Mike
    March 4, 2016, 10:18 am

    Zack did a great job. But I think I’ll build my Tiny House with material that didn’t need to be extracted from the earth and refined through energy-intense methods with waste chain issues. I’d still make it tight and dry and use solar panels, but the materials would be warm and sustainably wooden and reinforce my connection with the environment. And when it’s not repairable, or repaintable, then it goes back to the earth.

    Honestly, how much maintenance could there be on a tiny house that you’d want plastic siding? The look far better with a little patina of time applied…

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