K-State Researchers Visiting, Studying Tiny House Villages

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
October 19, 2016

The houses may be tiny, but the health benefits of living “tiny” may be huge. Two Kansas State University researchers will be traveling the United States to study the new trend in housing – tiny houses.

K-State assistant professor of kinesiology, Brandon Irwin, is researching if living in a tiny house village encourages residents to be more physically active.

“A lot of these tiny house villages have community gardens in them, and so you’re also getting some more physical activity if you’re participating in that,” Irwin said. “And, you’re also eating healthier which might have sort of a snowball effect in wanting or being more physically active as well.”

According to Irwin, who is building his own personal tiny house, the biggest challenge with tiny houses is finding a place to put them because zoning laws often don’t address this type of structure.

“We know what a single family dwelling is. We know what a commercial building is. We know what an RV is. We know what a mobile home is. Is a tiny house an RV? Is a tiny house a mobile home? What is it?” he asked. “Because how you define it is going to dictate what zone you can put it in.”

K-State assistant professor of interior design, Julia Day, is researching sustainable building design and healthy building material for tiny houses. She is also working to establish a tiny house village or zoning district for tiny houses around Kansas State University’s Manhattan campus.

“I think there’s several folks at the city that are very excited about the idea of this, but we have to work through all the logistics,” said Day. “We’ll have to navigate through the building code and see [if] are we designing these to the actual residential building code or a tiny house code. If so, are they going to adopt those amendments?”

Day helped design Irwin’s personal tiny house, which will be featured in January on HGTV’s“Tiny House, Big Living.”

As part of their research project, they’ll be visiting several tiny house villages across the United States.

McPherson’s Mayor Tom Brown also recently spoke about a new tiny home village going up not far from McPherson.

“It’s interesting to follow Hesston converting a mobile home park to a tiny home village,” Mayor Brown remarked. “That is one way to get affordable housing.”

Mayor Brown was particularly struck by how tiny home living seems to mostly appeal to the younger generation.

“The statistic that stood out for me on tiny homes is that 32 percent of millennials would rather have a tiny home and free them to do other things,” he said. “So maybe we have a change as millennials take over the working world, and that is one thing probably, at least into this decade if not sooner, there’ll be more millennials in the workforce than any other group.”