These digitally manufactured tiny homes take just weeks to build
Once upon a time, tiny houses as we know them were mostly rustic, do-it-yourselfers that were mostly assembled by their owners. But the tiny house movement and tiny house building industry has evolved and matured significantly since those early years, and now we have an amazing array of diversity, from low-budget handcrafted tiny homes made from salvaged materials, to smart tiny homes and other high-end homes. Luxury designs at sticker prices to match.
But these are not all unnecessary things to artificially raise prices; Some of these new developments in the booming small living industry are actually quite interesting. An example of this is the story behind Pennsylvania-based Atomic Tiny Homes, a company launched by sister duo Daniel McPhillips and Chloe Rich at the beginning of the pandemic.
Before 2020, the pair were doing a large-scale live entertainment events scene. However, everything changed with the ensuing lockdowns due to the pandemic, and the two and their team of professionals had to quickly pivot to find other opportunities. Fortunately, the duo was able to translate their skill set from the live entertainment industry to improving the construction process behind tiny homes, using computer-aided manufacturing tools. Instead of months, Atomic can deliver a prefabricated tiny home within weeks. We get a glimpse of how the process works via Tiny House Expedition:
As Chloe explains, using computer-aided digital design and manufacturing tools makes their approach more efficient:
“What’s interesting about the way we build is that it’s not a typical home building. We’ve taken a lot of the technology that we used on the live event side, and brought it into building homes. And while we build to ANSI 119.5 standards, they go beyond that in a lot of places.” We offer a lot of new ways to connect pieces in-house; we build everything using our own CNC machine. Everything is cut on a CNC machine and then connected together, like puzzle pieces, and we are able to get very tight tolerances, while You can’t do it any other way to build a house.
According to their team, about 80% of the materials used in their tiny homes—from wall and roof panels to ZIP-insulated R-sheathing—are cut using a CNC machine. CNC stands for computer numerical control. These machines are computer controlled and provide efficiency, accuracy and consistency unlike what can be achieved using manual processes.
Even the studs are CNC-cut, with integrated slots to run electrical wires, and they’re made of thick plywood, allowing them to hold tighter than traditional dimensional lumber framing. All parts are labeled and organized on the shop floor, ready for assembly. This approach means reducing construction waste and reducing assembly time from months to just five weeks or so.
What’s also interesting is that Atomic has partnered with small-time advocate and entrepreneur Abby Shank. Shank is also the CEO of Tiny Estates, a Pennsylvania-based tiny house community that rents home lots to tiny homeowners and also offers short-term rentals and a list of models available for sale. As Daniel recounts, a few years ago, the Atomic team went to visit Tiny Estates to learn about what it would take to build tiny homes, and Abby eventually convinced them to join:
“We decided to build ten with Abbey Shank, the first ten we built last year to get our start-up inventory going. Then we started getting some customers, and we found very quickly that the technology and construction practices that we were using on live entertainment (projects) — using CNC , and using plywood, and very high tolerances – that translated into really, really tiny living, because you’re very specific about the space, and I found that we could do it very efficiently. The timelines that we’ve heard over and over again – that the wait for a tiny house is a very long time – ( “It got us thinking) How can we build a product that we can (deliver) in six weeks. That we can scale and then it started to get really exciting.”
Atomic can either design a custom build, or one can purchase a pre-built model through their agent, Endeavor, who now has a stock of move-in ready homes. To get an idea of what it might look like on the inside, take a look at this 40-foot-long, 3-bedroom tiny house with an all-metal exterior.
The interior space of approximately 400 sq ft (37 sq m) is well designed. Here we see the hallway and staircase with integrated storage.
The master bedroom is located to the left and has two large closets near the pocket door, as well as plenty of storage space around the bed.
The kitchen is small in size but has enough space to cook meals and store food.
Here is the bathroom.
The living room is located on the next floor, and the loft is located above.
At the other end of the house, we have the other bedroom on the ground floor, which is lit by lots of windows. This room can also be converted into a home office or guest room by removing one of the windows and installing a Murphy bed.
According to the company, the starting price for one of their tiny homes is $104,000, although they are now working on another more affordable model. It’s truly an exciting convergence of digital fabrication with tiny house magic; To learn more, visit Atomic Tiny Homes, Endeavor and Tiny Estates.