Are ‘tiny homes’ good for the environment? Focus on materials, land-use, energy, and carbon footprint

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Material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are rising in building stocks. At the same time, the floor area of residential buildings per capita has been increasing. New houses can be very energy efficient but are often built from energy and emission-intensive materials. We investigated the potential of tiny homes for reducing material use, energy consumption, and associated emissions, as well as land use. For this study, comparative life cycle assessments and energy simulations were conducted on tiny homes, detached houses, and apartments in the context of Finland, Northern Europe. The results allow comparison between different building types. The studied tiny homes had lower energy consumption and carbon footprints than the reference buildings when comparing these indicators per capita or per building. However, when using floor area as a unit of comparison, the tiny homes perform worse. When looking at land use efficiency, tiny homes and apartment blocks performed better than detached houses. We conclude that, as tiny homes are strongly related to individual lifestyles, their overall relevance for lowering environmental impacts should be compared in relation to consumption habits and use of public services. Furthermore, the environmental benefits of tiny homes need to be interpreted in a broader sustainability context, especially in relation to indicators of social and economic sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-722
Number of pages25
Issue number5
Early online date11 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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