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Building a tiny home

Local builder discusses decision to create a smaller space for his family

Ben Garratt and his family currently live in a 1,500-square-foot duplex in North Vancouver.

Soon, though, they will move into a tiny house that is 15 feet long by seven feet wide.

"It's going to suit us well," says Garratt, who will live in the small two-storey structure with his wife and two young children.

Garratt works in construction and specializes in natural building, which has a focus on reducing a home's carbon footprint and chemical off-gassing by using non-toxic materials. He started to build his tiny home in April and worked on it in-between other projects. He hopes to have it done by the end of October as the family will be heading to Australia in November for the winter. Garratt is originally from Australia and works in natural building there as well. The tiny home is being built on his North Vancouver property but will be moved to a friend's backyard and rented out while the family is Down Under.

"The intention is to live in it when we get back," explains Garratt.

The idea to build a tiny home was sparked by his extensive travel in his 20s and the family's more recent travelling in Australia for the past few years. While in Australia, they drove a hatchback between Garratt's various construction jobs there, and noticed even living out of a small car they still had too much stuff. Each time they returned home they found they were getting rid of more and more junk.

"I guess that was the progression, travelling and finding that we had enough, and then coming back from travelling and not even wanting to unpack the boxes that we packed up before we went travelling because we didn't care what was in them. It didn't matter," says Garratt.

They even cut back on toys for the kids.

"It's really interesting to see how they react to that as well," says Garratt. "They've got a more meaningful relationship with the things they do own because they've got less of it."

He says their current home is "way too big" for the family and they want to downsize. They plan to keep the duplex as an investment and rent it out.

The tiny house is mostly made of timber and will have an incinerating toilet instead of tanks. The toilet will incinerate waste and turn it into dust, which can then be put in the garbage. The house is on wheels and the family plans to move it to Vancouver Island in the spring and live in it at a place called O.U.R. Ecovillage, which identifies as a sustainable community, where Garratt will teach a natural building course. He also plans to teach others how to build their own tiny homes.

"I think it's such a gift to be able to do it and the tiny house makes it a little bit more of a hobby size," says Garratt, noting the size makes building accessible to more people and doesn't require hiring an architect and trades that are needed for a larger house build.

"With some basic tools and some help from a carpenter you can actually build your own home and I think that's what I like about it," notes Garratt. "I think I like helping people make things."

For more information visit Ben Garratt's Facebook page: Chemical free tiny house.