It was about a year ago, that my research into a Tiny Retreat Cabin began. Fifteen years ago, I had looked into building a cabin, a post and beam construction, even had the foundation poured and the floor timbers and wall timbers with mortises and tenons ready for constructing the frame, when I discovered through a feng shui consultation, that the beautiful site was a sacred spot and inappropriate for building a cabin. Although the timbers could have been easily moved to a better location, I also discovered that working with red oak was very demanding and after several years of drying, the nice long twenty-four foot beams had no resemblance to the original shape but had warped and twisted and started to look more like a cork screw. That ended my encounter with post and beam construction with great respect for the long history of craftsmanship.
In recent years, the Tiny House movement has become not only an encouragement for simplicity, down sizing and affordable living, it also has offered a lot of examples of individuals who with relatively little experience and on-the-job learning, were able to construct their own living space. After spending hours online studying the different designs and construction methods, it became obvious to me that a Tiny Retreat Cabin would be good fit for what I wanted.
In short, to me it is important that a retreat cabin is:
– Movable. There are many special locations and to be able to do a retreat at any of these locations is very appealing. A TRC can be loaded on a trailer, anchored on a site or even attached to two pontoons and transformed into a floating house boat.
– Building codes, permits, zoning exempt. Where we live, the building code stipulates that for ancillary buildings with a floor plan of less than 120 sf. no permit is needed and no zoning change is necessary. Living in an RV for more then 60 (?) days does require a zoning adjustment. Of course, familiarity with the building codes and conforming to the relevant codes is in everybody’s interest, but not having to ask for permissions saves time and money.
– Environmentally friendly. Not only is it nice to aim for a zero-energy usage through optimal use of solar energy, also the selection of “green” building materials can reduce the impact on the environment. Especially for a small space, the off-gassing of materials can be noticeable and selecting materials and paints that produce little chemicals and are allergy friendly is important. Further, the careful use and recycling of water is another important consideration. Paying attention to all these issues at the design stage can make it possible to have a self-sufficient, solitary retreat for a month or longer.
-suitable for other uses. Even though this cabin is primarily designed for a meditation retreat space, including dark retreats (with minor modifications), it can also be used as a mobile office, a guest room, or taken on road trips and vacations. It may be used when volunteering in disaster management after a tornado or an earthquake.
-Comfortable. Although it is very possible to have a productive retreat under rather primitive circumstances such as in a cave, health and sanitation criteria are easier met with tools such as clean water, lighting, refrigeration, heating and cooling, cooking and bathing facilities. Electricity is a key ingredient in making this all possible and allows a comfortable retreat under extreme weather conditions.
Given these objectives, lets explore the design parameters.