Build a small cabin for a eco friendly getaway. Image: phototouring/flickr

Building your own small cabin or micro-house is easy. Using space-saving techniques taking advantage of shelves, lofts, niches and other space-saving techniques will allow you to reduce total floor space and will provide your living with space with functional character. Also, with the addition of outbuildings, such as a cob bath-house, you can not only keep the size of your cabin down, but appoint a specific building for a private, cozy purpose.

Numerous plans are all over the internet for tiny cabins. You’ll have to pick one that’s right for you. “Tiny” to one person may be bloated to you. Consider your needs. Is the cabin just for you, or are you living in it with your family? Is the cabin going to be your primary home, or a special getaway place? Do you need office space there, a kitchen that would go beyond a hot-plate range and a mini-fridge? Is there a site for a garden, if you’re going self-sufficient about it?

A basic design would be nothing more than a box with a small foundation and one room, which would require framed-out walls, insulation, siding, a roof of some kind, such as a classic a-frame, or a sloped roof you could make from reused sheet metal. If your utmost consideration is cost, you may end up living in a bit of a shack, which definitely covers the basic needs of a shelter: a roof and walls, but it might not be too home-like.

Tumbleweed is a company that specializes in small house design. The company’s founder, Jay Shafer, wrote The Small House Book. They specialize in approachable, easy-to-build and affordable small house designs. Some of the home plans feature the ability to build your house on a trailer hitch, making them movable. Budget-conscious folks may feel the pinch of having to purchase land to build on. This consideration, having the foundation of one’s home be a trailer one can tow, could help solve this problem, initially.

Straw-bale construction and earthen building design are also two good avenues to think about, if those materials can be sourced cheaply. While these two methods (or a combination of both), may be more labor-intensive than building with lumber, they can be achieved with the help of some friends, so if you have a dedicated group that can be relied upon to do a concerted project, this could be for you. Although they may seem unorthodox, next to the building standards we know as “conventional,” they have been used by many different cultures for centuries and provide great insulation benefits and are easy to heat and keep cool.