Sigurd is a first year architecture student who lives in an unusual form of student housing. He has taken things into his own hands and built his own accommodation, namely a tiny house! I went to visit Sigurd, and was amazed by what I saw and heard.
“It was the epidemic of YouTube videos from America that I chanced upon in ninth grade. When you Google “tiny house” you get a whole lot of results: blogs, videos, tours, etc. And when you watch video after video you fall into a world where you start to come up with ideas how you would have done it yourself.”
Sigurd thought at first it was totally unrealistic that he would be able to build his own tiny house, but then he realized that he eventually needed student housing, and with a little financial calculation, he managed to convince his parents. He ended up getting a loan from his parents, which he now pays down with his student loans. “Now I have a down payment on a loan, and own a house, instead of paying rent. If I sell the house I get the money back!”
It seems as though Sigurd is comfortable in his tiny house. He likes making his home cozy and having friends over. “It worked out great having three people in the kitchen making taco at the same time.” He then shows me that behind the couch he has a wooden folding table, perfectly suited for four people.
However, just months after living in “trekkhuset”, Sigurd has already come up with things he could have done differently. He is thinking of eventually selling the house. “It is complicated moving the house from Trondheim, but when I am done with my architecture degree here I will most likely see the house with different eyes.”
Sigurd has become an important resource for tiny house fanatics here in Norway, and globally. He has a blog (trekkhuset.no) where he writes posts about his process and includes tips and guides of how to build a tiny house. He has even had a fifth year architecture student come over for inspiration. “Frankly, others are able to learn from my successes and mistakes.”
When Sigurd started with the tiny house project, he thought that Trondheim would be a nice city to place the house in. During the process he also realized that architecture would be suited for him. “It was exciting and fun to sit and draw and plan the layout. I had to learn 3D drawing in Sketch and common construction principles. For example, I did not know how to place a window in a house. Everything regarding houses I had to learn. Even though it is a small house, it’s still a house.”
Like any other thing in life, Sigurd faced some challenges along the road. “Water and sewage, weight, height, choice of materials, heat, windows, layout, power, ventilation, bathroom, transport, building, property are some of the challenges I met. Like I said, everything you have to take into account in a regular house you also have to take into account in a tiny house. But also transport and property, plus everything has to be compressed.”
At first Sigurd thought finding a property would be the hardest challenge he would face, but a simple post on Facebook with 9,000 likes and 6,000 shares got him a place to live quite fast. “A lot of goodwill amongst the Trondheim population. It worked itself out surprisingly fast.”
Surprisingly, water and sewage turned out to be the hardest challenge he faced. In fact he didn’t get water until two weeks ago. Right now he only has a temporary solution to his plumbing issue, but of course Sigurd has been in touch with a local plumber and is positive that things will work out.
I asked Sigurd to describe his building process in three words, and the answers were quite creative.
“time optimist – you think, from what you see on TV, home makeover shows and such, that things go fast. I thought I would have moved in in September, and really I wasn’t done until I finally got water supply a couple of weeks ago.”
Another phrase he used was “no clue”. Walking into a plumber’s office saying, “Hey, I need water!” isn’t exactly something you do every day.
“Good at writing email is another one. Sponsoring, help, Trondheim county bureaucracy, professionals, etc. I’ve written many emails.”
Overall, Sigurd has had quite a ride. “There have been some hard times, like painting the house. But quitting has never been an alternative. I’ve spent a lot of money on this, and I need a place to live. And most of the time it has been a fun ride. For example assembling this fine kitchen. And turning on the water faucet for the first time.”