This article is written in an American context but I intend to pull it apart in the coming months and answer the questions in an Australian context. It’s worth checking out anyway.

Codes and the tiny house.


In a world of greed and excess it is ironic that there is regulation that prevents one from building a house that is too small. Too large I understand. But too small?

I discovered the minimum size dilemma in my early research of cabins, sheds and tiny houses. Why were all these tiny houses in the US built on trailers? Apparently by building a tiny house on a trailer one overcomes all manners of building standards and regulations. According to This Tiny House, “it is illegal to live in a tiny house in much of the US“. But what about those glorious log cabins you see in the woods? Well apparently “many rural areas are unregulated” in the way that prevents tiny houses from being permanently built at a location. So if you move off the beaten track, you’re less likely to be restricted by building regulations.

I stumbled upon this comment on an article about tiny houses at The Atlantic Cities:

“… 320 square feet it’s about as small as you can build in Tasmania (Australia) with approval”.

I’m glad I came across this comment as I am not that sure about the regulations here in Australia. There is a lot of conflicting information. Australian town planning consultant, Martin Clark does well at clarifying a few points*:

The BCA (Building Code of Australia) does not specify a minimum size for a dwelling. It is possible to make a complying dwelling in a very small space. A 2.44m wide, 6m long shipping container can be made into a dwelling provided:

  • it is the ‘high’ type allowing 2.4m minimum finished floor to ceiling height
  • a complying insulated roof is placed over the container
  • the hot water system is placed outside
  • a half-width laundry tub and small shower are used in place of more conventional items.

A shipping container of this type has an area of 14.64m2.

I’m still very unclear of the situation here in Australia. I will continue to dig deep and will write another post when I have heard back from Martin and when I have a better idea. To close, here are the rules of thumb This Tiny House suggests for overcoming minimum size regulation. Some of them may be relevant here in Australia, some of them may not be:

1. Move out of the city. Many rural areas are unregulated in this way.

2. Negotiate. Talk with your local building officials or neighborhood associations. They might be convinced that a small house is non-threatening.

3. Accessorize. Small dwellings are sometimes allowed to be built adjacent to a house, such as a “granny flat.”

4. Don’t hook up. If a structure is not permanently attached and not hooked up to public utilities, it may not be considered relevant to housing codes.

5. Apply pressure. Point out the immense housing problem and give an out for your local politicians to save the day.

* This information is a few years, so I have emailed Martin to check whether it is still current.