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Exploring Tiny and Micro Homes with Brad McCorkle

Welcome to another enlightening episode of Real Estate Divas! Today, we dive into the fascinating world of tiny and micro homes with our special guest, Brad McCorkle, a professor at UT Arlington and a visionary in compact living spaces. Alongside my co-host Kristin Gerst with Capricorn Mortgage Investments, we’ll explore how Brad and his students are revolutionizing the concept of home design with their innovative projects.

Meet Brad McCorkle and His Vision

Brad McCorkle isn’t just a professor; he’s a pioneer in the realm of micro-living. At UT Arlington, he spearheads the Parallel Construction program, where students spend a semester designing and another semester building residential projects. This hands-on experience has led to some intriguing projects, including an urban farm, flexible pavilions, and several micro houses on campus.

Past and Current Projects

One of Brad’s notable projects is Casa Cortile, a 1560 sq ft house located near AT&T Stadium. Currently, his team is working on Skylark Residence, a 1630 sq ft marvel in Arlington. Both projects embody the principles of efficient design and functionality within limited space.

Understanding Tiny vs Micro Homes

The terms “tiny homes” and “micro homes” often get used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. Tiny homes are typically under 400 sq ft and often come with wheels, making them mobile. On the other hand, micro homes are generally under 500 sq ft but are designed for permanent installation. Brad’s projects fall under the micro home category due to their static nature.

Features and Innovations

Nexus Haus Micro Home

Nexus Haus is a 390 sq ft micro home that demonstrates clever use of space and design. It consists of two units: one for living/kitchen and another for sleeping/bath. Key features include:

  • 9 ft ceilings and large windows to enhance the sense of space.
  • Plywood interior for added rigidity and ease of assembly/disassembly.
  • A bathroom with a combined toilet and shower area, maximizing utility in a compact space.

Casa Modelo Micro Home

Casa Modelo, at 360 sq ft, also embraces the two-unit concept. One unit houses the kitchen and living area, while the other contains the bedroom and bathroom. The exterior boasts striking materials:

  • Shou sugi ban (charred wood) siding for durability and aesthetics.
  • Standing seam metal siding for a sleek, modern look.

Building Techniques and Costs

Constructing these homes involves innovative building techniques and cost-effective measures:

Advanced Materials

Brad’s team uses zip sheathing with R3 insulation and full spray foam encapsulation to maximize energy efficiency. High-efficiency windows and doors, often donated, further enhance insulation. Plywood flooring, stained and finished by the students, offers a cost-effective and durable solution.

Cost Breakdown

A 400 sq ft micro home costs between $30k to $35k in materials alone. If contracted out, the cost can range from $70k to $80k. For example, the Nexus Haus features $15k worth of donated windows and doors, substantially reducing overall costs.

Neighborhood Integration

Brad’s projects don’t just stand out; they blend in. Following city development codes, these homes are designed to match neighborhood aesthetics while maintaining their modern edge. The goal is to create homes that are visually appealing and contextually appropriate, ensuring harmony within the community.

Casa Cortile House

Casa Cortile, a 1560 sq ft house, showcases the potential of well-designed small living spaces. Features include:

  • Open concept living and kitchen areas for a spacious feel.
  • Vaulted ceilings to enhance vertical space.
  • Open closets to reduce clutter and encourage organization.
  • A walk-in shower that combines functionality with elegance.

Skylark Residence

Currently under construction, Skylark Residence is a 1630 sq ft home designed in a mid-century modern style. Highlights include:

  • 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a detached garage.
  • A courtyard that opens to the kitchen, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • 13 ft vaulted ceilings with clerestory windows for natural light.

Partnering with Housing Programs

Brad’s projects often partner with the Housing Channel and other city housing programs. These partnerships enable the construction of affordable homes sold at 80% of market value to first-time buyers. Buyers must apply, qualify, take a homebuyer education class, and live in the home for at least five years before selling or renting.

Case Study: Casa Cortile

Casa Cortile appraised just over $200k but sold for $163k due to the housing program subsidy. This approach ensures buyers move in with equity, setting them up for financial success.

Shipping Container Homes: A Viable Option?

Shipping container homes have garnered interest, yet they come with challenges. While they are cheap and abundant, modifying them for residential use can drive up costs. Cutting windows and doors compromises structural integrity, requiring additional reinforcements. Consequently, they often end up costing as much as traditional builds while offering less design flexibility.

Insights on Small Living

Living small is an art. Key takeaways from Brad’s projects include:

  • Embrace open concept designs to maximize perceived space.
  • Opt for vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows to amplify natural light.
  • Blur indoor and outdoor boundaries to create a sense of openness.
  • Utilize creative storage solutions to maintain organization.

The Future: Tiny Home Communities

Brad envisions communities composed of interconnected “pods”— private bedroom/bath units linked by shared living/kitchen spaces. This model allows for personal space while fostering a sense of community.

Concluding Thoughts

Brad McCorkle’s work in micro housing illustrates that small living spaces can be both functional and stylish. By adhering to city codes and emphasizing design, his projects offer a glimpse into the future of housing—efficient, affordable, and modern. Whether you’re an aspiring homeowner or a builder, there’s much to learn from the innovative approaches employed by Brad and his students.

For further insights and updates, stay tuned to Real Estate Divas and join us on this exciting journey into the world of tiny and micro homes!

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