Edmonton sustainability expert shares tips for building tiny home

Kenton Zerbin used to teach in the school system, but he wanted to teach something he thought would be more useful to students.

Kenton Zerbin's Tiny Homes 101 course teaches people about building and designing compact homes

Kenton Zerbin's 380-square-foot house is insulated to survive Edmonton's winter. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)

Kenton Zerbin used to teach in the school system, but wanted to impart something he thought would be more useful to students.

"I wanted to find something that was relevant for kids for tomorrow and for today," Zerbin told CBC's Radio Active Monday.

He started to learn about permaculture and tiny homes.

On Monday, the 30-year-old taught his latest course on tiny homes to 44 people in Edmonton. He will teach a series of courses called Tiny Homes 101 over the next couple of months.

Kenton Zerbin teaches tiny home and permaculture courses in Alberta and B.C. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)

Zerbin said the idea of building compact homes has been around for a long time, but has picked up steam recently.

With the increased popularity came increased creativity.

"People are really maximizing their space," Zerbin said. "You're getting some really beautiful homes."

Some people say a tiny home can be built for $10,000, but Zerbin said a more realistic cost would likely be from $60,000 to $100,000.

The price would be much higher, he said, if the owner wants to live off-grid and in a high-efficiency home.

He helped design and build his 380-square-foot home. "For me to actually build and be a part of the design process for designing and building my own house, it was extremely liberating," he said.

"There were definitely mistakes that I made, and that's where I see myself having strength as a teacher. I can help other people avoid costly mistakes, some of which I made."

Design for the user

Zerbin said anyone thinking of building a tiny home should design it for the user. He is six-foot-four, so he had to design the home with that in mind.

He and his wife also wanted a full-sized kitchen. "[We] wanted to make sure we weren't going to kill each other in the kitchen when we were getting ready in the morning," Zerbin said.

The inside of Zerbin's tiny house. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)
The ceilings of the home have to be high because Zerbin is six-foot-four. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)
Zerbin and his wife both wanted a full-sized kitchen. (Kenton Zerbin/Supplied)

He also suggested that anyone who wants to build a tiny home and move it frequently to try to make it no wider than 8.5 feet. The house would be moveable on the highway without any permits.

If a person doesn't plan to move as much but still wants to keep the option open, Zerbin suggests the width being less than 10.5 feet. That way, with a wide-load permit, the house is still moveable. 

Zerbin's home is built on a trailer and is less than 10.5 feet wide. With a wide-load permit and a one-ton truck, he can haul his house away.

He said his sold-out course has been well-received, so he's planning a second course on May 26 at 7 p.m. at Noorish Cafe.

More details on his upcoming events can be found on his website.