A Firm Foundation for Tiny House Building Codes

Tomorrow I will attend the first of two meetings to make and review proposals to Virginia's Statewide Uniform Building Code.

A Bit of Background

The state's building code borrows heavily from the most recent edition of the IBC (IRC 2015), though code proposals from Virginia are often used as precedent for introduction of future editions of the IRC. Tomorrow's meeting covers the first chapter, which doesn't seem to have anything of import to legalization of tiny houses (Scope and Administration).

A Means to the End

One of our local administrators in the capital region's Building Department suggested that I "play the game an inch at a time" and make several small proposals that could be applied to tiny houses. Making several proposals may see incremental success, rather than having one all-encompassing proposal shot-down for minor conflicts in opinion.

Shared Interests for Tiny Houses

Among many that come to mind, I plan to propose changes to:

  1. Minimum Square Footage (adopt IRC 2015's reduction)
  2. Minimum Ceiling Heights Below Lofts (more like ANSI)
  3. Steps and Risers (this one may be a serious challenge)

One Code to Rule Them All...?

For what it's worth, I personally support both the THOW-centric point of view, with great appreciation for the more traditional approach accepted for houses on "permanent foundations" (i.e. Planning Department, Building Inspections, Certificate of Occupancy).

While many may prefer no code, use of the ANSI RV code, or the proposed ANSI code for THOWs, it seems reasonable to propose adoption of building codes that are meant for foundation-based homes, though directly apply to THOWs. This may help provide greater reasoning for accepting THOWs as Secondary, Accessory, and/or types of allowed Dwelling Units.

Further, while I'd love to build against an simpler more applicable code than the IRC, acceptance of THOWs as legitimate housing is probably further down the road than tweaking codes for small foundation-based dwelling units. In the end, the more traditional codes should compliment THOW specific codes and support the market shift to smaller, more affordable housing.

One Foot in Front of the Other

I believe that if we start with codes that can be applied as parallels to THOWs, we continue to leverage the collective strength of everyone in the Tiny House Movement. When it comes down to it, the biggest difference between tiny house types could be a few wheels under an otherwise "permanent foundation."

Your collective input on what we could propose in our state (Virginia) through the official process may help open the door for everyone.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Live Large -- Go Tiny!

Thom Stanton
Founder/CEO, Timber Trails LLC
Lead Organizer, RVA Tiny House Team (Meetup Group)
State Chapter Leader, American Tiny House Association

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