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The DIY Tiny House Made from Hemp: A Community-Built Mobile Home from Common Knowledge in Ireland

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The DIY Tiny House Made from Hemp: A Community-Built Mobile Home from Common Knowledge in Ireland

October 7, 2022

Film and television director Steve Barron became a hemp farmer and an eco activist at age 60 when his first grandchild was born. “The plan,” he says, “was to try to contribute something to our world, our planet.” Wanting to show the unexplored possibilities of his crop as a natural building material and carbon sink, Barron constructed his own home out of corrugated paneling made from hemp fiber. The resulting carbon-neutral compound at Margent Farm in Cambridgeshire, England, is one of our favorite projects featured in Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

Fittingly, the first customer for Margent Farm’s hemp cladding is Common Knowledge, an emerging social enterprise in Country Clare, Ireland, with a mission to “empower people with the skills for an affordable, sustainable, and happy home.” The nonprofit was founded by four friends with backgrounds among them in sustainable architecture and building, and a desire to impart DIY skills: Common Knowledge hosts practical workshops in bricklaying, carpentry, and energy efficiency, among other things.

Recently, in its effort to make housing more affordable and adaptable, the team designed its first Tigín, Gaelic for a tiny home, and has begun teaching groups how to construct their own. Composed of natural, tactile materials, including cork, Common Knowledge’s compact dwelling is on wheels, so it can fit  just about anywhere. Join us for a trailer tour.

Photography by Shantanu Starick, unless noted, courtesy of Common Knowledge.

since it began holding tigín classes in its  sque quarters outside ennisti 9
Above: Since it began holding Tigín classes in its picturesque quarters outside Ennistimon, Ireland, Common Knowledge has completed four tiny homes—and taught 200 people how to construct them. The dwellings are for sale starting at €47,000, and proceeds go back into the group’s programming.

Common Knowledge emphasizes its goal is not to make products but to teach how to “build, make, and mend as a way to empower people to take action on the housing and climate crises.”

the corrugated paneling sourced from margent farm is composed of compressed hem 10
Above: The corrugated paneling sourced from Margent Farm is composed of compressed hemp fiber bound with a resin of farm bio-waste, including sugarcane, corncobs, and oat hulls. Read all about the hemp’s impressive eco-creds in Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.
the interior is \20 square meters (approximately \2\15 square feet), but its ta 11
Above: The interior is 20 square meters (approximately 215 square feet), but its tall ceiling and many windows make it feel larger. The DIY sofa pulls out to become a double bed. The floor tiles are composed of natural rubber and linoleum.

The structure has what Common Knowledge describes as a “customized electrical system, adaptable to both off-grid and mains power supply.” The group says intended uses for its tiny home vary:  most people are “looking to use them as their principle residence, with 10 percent seeking to use them as a meanwhile residence during a self-build, and another 10 percent looking to purchase them for their children to help them escape the rent trap.” The houses are also ideal as vacation retreats, guest quarters, and backyard offices.

the cork paneled insulation and pine framework are left exposed. cork comes fro 12
Above: The cork paneled insulation and pine framework are left exposed. Cork comes from the cork oak tree—it can be stripped and regrown without harming the tree—and is increasingly be used as an insulating building material that is both light and durable, naturally fire retardant, and recyclable.

As for the choice of gas for the cooktop and hot water system, Common Knowledge co-founder Harrison Gardner explains: “we went with gas to lessen the electric load in a potential off-grid scenario. About half of our prospective buyers have suggested they would like to operate the Tigín off the grid and the electricity and subsequent square meters of solar panels and wind energy would be huge for such a tiny space. Probably as big as the house! So we looked to the gas option and future of gas as it heads towards renewable and regenerative sources.”

the wood is marine ply and iroku. a ladder leads to a loft bed. beyond the sink 13
Above: The wood is marine ply and iroku. A ladder leads to a loft bed. Beyond the sink is the WC and shower. The double-glazed windows and doors are from AluClad.

“When designing the Tigín, we took into account sustainability, affordability, and the feel that each decision would give the space. Being a mobile structure, we also needed to consider weight, size and dimensions,” says Fionn Kidney, one of Common Knowledge’s founders. “We showcase sustainable materials as we strongly believe they should be more widely used. It’s difficult to build sustainably, affordably, and create a home that feels right, but we believe this design offers a strong resolution of all three.”

the customizable storage shelves at the front can also be turned into a work sp 14
Above: The customizable storage shelves at the front can also be turned into a work space with a built-in desk.
the composting toilet, including wooden seat and lid, is the terablœm fro 15
Above: The composting toilet, including wooden seat and lid, is the TeraBlœm from Trobolo, which comes as a preassembled kit and costs €429.
the mezzanine is big enough for a king size bed.above: common knowledge is gett 16
Above: The mezzanine is big enough for a king-size bed.the mezzanine is big enough for a king size bed.above: common knowledge is gett 17Above: Common Knowledge is getting ready to open-source the design for the Tigín, including a toolkit containing architectural drawings and a list of recommended materials and sources for them. Recognizing that hemp panels and other details may be hard to come by or too pricy, the group also suggests attainable alternatives. Yes, all for free.
each tigín is built by a community of teachers and students. photo by nico 18
Above: Each Tigín is built by a community of teachers and students. Photo by Nicola Henley.
in addition to being a founder of common knowledge, gardner is a master builder 19
Above: In addition to being a founder of Common Knowledge, Gardner is a master builder and a specialist in sustainable design practices. He recently published Build Your Own and has a television series by the same name forthcoming from RTE in Ireland.

Follow Common Knowledge @common_k_.

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