South Grey News | Tiny house Canadian debut

April 24, 2024

Ecopod Structures tiny house

BY JOHN BUTLER — Something can emerge from murky beginnings but have a bright future. Such is the story of a tiny house — a mere 20 feet by twenty feet — that will be on display at the South Grey Home & Garden Show at the Flesherton Arena on Saturday April 27th from 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday April 28th from 10 am to 3 pm. The Home Show is a free event but Food Bank donations are welcome. This is the first time the house has been displayed in Canada.

The prototype of this mass-produced house was first designed to house prisoners in China during the Covid epidemic. But Terry Garbutt, a retired Canadian computer pioneer who has lived in Grey Highlands for decades, is one of a group of Canadians who see tiny houses as part of a revolution of housing in Canada — a badly needed revolution, he says, given the housing crisis everywhere in the country that has finally found its way to the top of the political agenda. Among that group are the principals behind Ecopod Structures, headquartered in Berkeley north of Markdale, which will soon begin manufacturing the houses In Canada (Ecopod currently has several in stock from China.) “What you will see at the Home Show is the future of housing in Canada” says Terry, who will be on hand both days to show people the innovative features of the house.

The 20 foot by 20 foot house with a gently sloping roof provides 350 internal square feet of space, artfully designed to allow its occupants to make best use of the light-filled space. The current model is what Terry calls a “three season model” because it isn’t insulated for Canadian winters — useful as a summer guest house or temporary or emergency non-winter housing (it can be erected on a foundation in a matter of hours). But a four-season insulated model is under development he says. As well, a 20 by 40 foot version that can have a 20 x 20 foot model stacked on top of it is on the way. One of the unusual features of the house is that it folds up for easy delivery and relocation. It’s a single object that is unfolded bit by bit at its chosen site after it has been delivered by truck. It’s what’s called a “modular house”, which means it’s constructed off site using mass production methods and brought to its location.

The price tag for the current model? “$20,000” says Terry. “Where else can you get decent living space for a couple or a single person for that sum of money?”

The tiny house movement in Ontario may well benefit from an Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announcement on April 24 that it will “be working with modular housing developers and providers to gather practical and technical insights about construction costs, timelines, economies of scale, regional differences and supply chains to inform further actions to deploy modular housing in Ontario. This will include outreach to firms across Ontario, Canada and North America.”

Said Terry in response, “This announcement is good education and relevant to affordable housing, especially removal of red tape, but we also need to address land acquisition.”

Terry’s interest in the tiny house has nothing to do with profit for himself — it’s a labor of love. “After twenty years living on Grey Highlands, it’s payback time for me,” says Terry, who has an abiding interest in how technologies can be put to use achieve social benefits. “We need a disruptive and transformative change in how we see, build and use housing,” he says, “and the tiny house is at the forefront of this change.”

Come visit Terry and the tiny house at the South Grey Home & Garden Show. You might just catch his enthusiasm.


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