Emerging as a leader in sustainable tiny homes (USGBC Georgia) | U.S. Green Building Council
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USGBC Georgia's Emerging Professionals group toured a green tiny home and learned from Tiny House Atlanta's Will Johnston.

On August 17, USGBC Georgia’s Emerging Professionals group learned how big dreams turn into tiny houses—and have an enormous impact. Will Johnston, the founder of Tiny House Atlanta, guided a group of members, volunteers and staff on a tour of a local tiny home near Grant Park in Atlanta. He shared the story of how he became dedicated to sustainable residential development.

After spending a few years climbing the corporate ladder, Will Johnston realized that there was more for him to do in the world. Seeking inspiration, he sold most of his possessions and set out for New Zealand to backpack and look into the booming shipping container home. Johnston refers to container homes as his “gateway into the tiny house movement.”

Finding a mission

Three months later, he returned to the Atlanta area. He started seeing more and more posts about tiny homes on social media. Johnston “realized that there is a huge lack of housing for everyday people, and micro living could be the answer.” He started asking questions, found subject matter experts, joined organizations, attended events and started a Meetup group to get community input on how we need to be living.

He knew he was onto something big by the growth of his Meetup group and the support he was receiving from the community, so in 2014, Johnston took a leap of faith and founded Tiny House Atlanta. The nonprofit educates people on how “micro living” (in homes ranging from 300 to 1500 square feet) can benefit their finances, free time and mental well-being, also doing wonders for the environment.

Today, Johnston is working on developments centered on the idea of intentional living communities, which encourage neighbors to interact more. These developments incorporate gardens, fire pits, gazebos and other central features to create welcoming spaces. The designers also increase walkability by placing these communities close to shops and restaurants. In addition to enhancing the community vibe, the walkability also helps the environment by reducing the amount of CO2 emitted by vehicles.

How tiny homes benefit the environment

When they are fully constructed, tiny homes use a lot less energy to heat and cool, simply because of the smaller space. But big energy savings are are also made in the production, transportation and construction of the materials used to build these homes. A small home requires fewer materials than a large home, and can be constructed in less than a month. That means fewer trips for the workers to and from the job site.

Tiny House Atlanta tour with USGBC Georgia

There are drawbacks to tiny homes. Johnston warns that “if you are a person who needs their stuff, then this movement is not for you.” He asserts, though, that many people who downsize develop a peace of mind that they cannot attain when they have many possessions. Another challenge is all of the paperwork, procedures and variances that contractors must work with the government on before allowing construction on foundation. Tiny House Atlanta is currently working to fix and refine building codes that will facilitate the process.

How to get started in green building

  • Be creative and open yourself up to new ideas: “Innovate, go to lectures and events, travel to destinations that inspire you, and be willing to take risks.”
  • Learn motivational public speaking skills: “If you can’t keep the audience listening to you, then you're going to have a hard time spreading your message and achieving your desired outcome.”
  • Visit the Tiny House Atlanta site: See how Johnston and USGBC Georgia are incorporating a smaller carbon footprint into the sustainable strategies of affordable housing in Atlanta.
  • Join the community: “Sign up for USGBC Georgia newsletters to get a closer look at the local movement.”

Please visit the USGBC Georgia booth at the Big Huge Tiny House event held annually at Ponce City Market. In 2017, the event will be held on August 26 and 27.

View more USGBC Georgia events