Living big in a small way: The tiny-house movement
What's the smallest space you could live in? Six square meters? Twenty? Forty-five? The latter is the Swiss average per capita. Tiny houses prove that good things do indeed come in small packages. As the perfect size for a single person, micro-houses have potential in Switzerland.
Tiny homes are perfect for single people
In a popular German kids' TV program called "Löwenzahn," the presenter lives in a converted building site cabin. Many children – and secretly adults as well – harbor a desire to live like this too. This dream could become a reality with a tiny house. Small houses have long been established in the UK and the US, and they are currently very popular in Germany and Switzerland.
Micro-homes are getting a tailwind from the growing number of people living alone: Today, over a third of Swiss households contain just one person – and this trend is set to continue. According to a projection by the federal government, single-person households will increase from around 1.4 million at present to 1.8 million by 2050. This is where the tiny-house movement conveniently comes in.
Small houses provide enough space for a family
Tiny houses don't come in a standard size. Most micro-homes measure between 15 and 45 square meters, whereas the average single-family home in Switzerland spans 80 square meters. But a tiny home still has everything you need: a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a living room or bedroom. Small houses – which, at up to 90 square meters, are significantly larger than tiny houses – are a better option for couples or families.
Small houses don't just take up less space – they are also significantly cheaper to buy. And they're practical too: If they're on wheels, like many tiny houses in the English-speaking world, you can simply pack up and go if you want to move. Even when a micro-house is placed on a foundation, it can often be towed using a truck. Nevertheless, it should be noted that micro-houses still require a building permit and that various laws must be observed.
Tiny house as a vacation home or main residence
Small houses have long been used as vacation homes. Micro-houses can be rented for vacations through various providers. The range of small houses on offer is very wide and providers are highly creative: For example, you can now spend the night in a converted wine barrel or shepherd's hut. If you are particularly taken with the idea, you can buy yourself a tiny house as a vacation home. Read more on how to go about this in this article.
Vacationing in a tiny house can be very sustainable too. This is because micro-houses are usually made from renewable raw materials or have a modular design, which means that fewer resources are consumed. Examples of such buildings include the Mikro Huus, the Smallhouse, and the Kleinhaus. In Switzerland in particular, compact homes can offer a vacation with the right amount of sustainability.
Can you imagine living in a tiny house?
Admittedly, a tiny home or small house isn't for everyone, but it offers a solution to many modern problems: In Switzerland, land to build on is becoming increasingly scarce, especially in central locations. At the same time, the population is continuing to grow: According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Switzerland will be home to more than ten million people by 2040. At the same time, these people want more and more space: In 1980, living space per capita was 34 square meters – by 2021, the average had risen to 46.6 square meters.
Tiny homes are bucking this trend by making smarter use of living space. Micro-houses make high-density construction easier too. On many lots, there would be room for additional homes with a small footprint. The key question, however, is how much Swiss people are willing to downsize their living space. How many square meters are the absolute minimum for you?
Minimalist living – reducing your living space
There are many reasons for wanting to live in a smaller space. For example, maintaining your current home in your senior years can often become a burden because it's no longer manageable. Moreover, living in a tiny house is often associated with a particular lifestyle: Minimalism is in vogue and resource-efficient living is becoming more and more of a necessity in view of global warming. Moving into a tiny home isn't the only way to meet these needs, however – for example, you can focus on space efficiency when building a house or decorating the interior. Having movable walls or multipurpose rooms is a perfect way to do this. Read this article for more tips on living in a small space.
Small house, big hurdles
Building a small house may seem easy at first glance, but in reality it's often a complex process due to having to obtain building permits and comply with spatial planning laws. You can't just build a micro-house anywhere you like – you need to check with your municipality beforehand. The basis for obtaining approval are the relevant building and zoning regulations, which may also contain design specifications. Furthermore, tiny houses must be built in residential areas. This means they cannot be placed outside the construction zone, for example in the agricultural zone, and they are subject to regulations similar to those for caravans if they are going to have wheels.
The association "Kleinwohnformen Schweiz" [Small Types of Housing Switzerland] has been campaigning for the recognition and legal certainty of tiny houses since 2018, not least because of the numerous legal obstacles. Find out more.