A cross between a prefab and a recreational vehicle, rolling huts are easy versions of a tiny house. Originally designed by Tom Kundig with Olson Kundig Architects for Seattle dentist Dr. Michal Friedrich, who needed space for visitors, the concept has evolved into a low-tech, low-impact design for living.
Obviously, the main green aspect of the huts is their compact living space, keeping life simple while a few steps above camping. Blending into the landscape, the homes have a minimal affect of only two hundred square foot interiors on their surrounding environment. Each unit is constructed in a factory, with hopefully minimal material waste, and is rolled to the homesite. It has a durable, no-maintenance, natural material exterior of steel, wood and car-decking. The steel will last a couple hundred years and will weather to a brown color to blend with nature even more. The flat raised roof, over the 240 square feet of decking and the shelter, appears to float above glass. Its angle directs the eye toward the meadow and mountain.
The simple, inexpensive interiors are cork and plywood, left as raw as possible. A kitchenette wall separates the sleeping from the living space. A RAIS environmentally friendly wood-burning stove takes up a corner in front of the glass wall. It bears the Nordic Ecolabel and is carbon dioxide (CO2) neutral because the amount of CO2 emitted when fired correctly equals the amount the tree would emit as decomposing in the forest. There are clerestory windows for natural lighting and a sliding glass entry door.
The predecessor to the Rolling Huts was the Delta Shelter, as seen in the attached slide show. It tiptoes over the floodplain, all 350 square feet on two floors of the mountain retreat for Dr. Friedrich on his 46 meandering acres. The Delta’s steel shell has half glass walls and 10 X 18 foot steel shutters which can be rolled completely shut with a large hand wheel inside. The dentist had so many guests that he commissioned the development of the mobile temporary guest residences. The wheels underneath raise the huts slightly off the ground, being sensitive to the flood-plain meadow of the alpine river valley, where zoning does not allow permanent homes–not a green place to put a home. But the owner bought what was formerly an RV campground to allow the area to return to nature. The raised huts have an unobstructed view of the result and the mountains.
Located in Washington state’s Methow Valley, the huts are now for rent in what is called Wesola Polana (“Happy Valley” in Polish, the dentist’s native tongue). View the website for details on what comes with the huts and contact information. Each has a sleeping platform for two and is equipped with a small refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker, fireplace, and Wi-Fi. The living area’s modular furniture can be reconfigured to sleep an additional two people. Rental price ranges from about $80 to $100 per night if you want to test the feel of living in a tiny house.
Remember Kundig from a previous article on “The Pierre”, the house that seems to disappear into the rocks? There is no question that the design lines of his structures are always exquisite and unique. Greenwise it would be nice to see alternative energy, no-VOC’s, composting toilets and insulation to make the buildings more green. The beauty of the night pictures of these cabins in the woods cannot be denied.
The Rolling Huts could be replicated at the campground up near Matthews Creek off Highway 276 in northern Greenville County where they now allow tents and RV’s. For a more traditional rolling hut, see Karolina Koaches in Piedmont, S.C. and park one of their steel boxes in the woods. Or spend a couple thousand dollars on a K & B Express prefab in Wellford near Greer, S.C., ask them to add some wheels to the bottom, dress it up with some windows and create your own version of a rolling hut. Architect Kundig says “When you’re in a good cabin you can feel where you are in the larger landscape. If, in fact, you’re in a beautiful landscape, [like the Methow River Valley], the smaller the building the more you are in that landscape.”