June 30, 2023

Ursa Tiny House (183 Sq.Ft.)

Ursa, built in Cascais, Portugal, is a unique tiny house designed and built by Madeiguincho in 2020. The project was a challenge set by the CEO of Madeiguincho to create three prototypes of houses on wheels with different lengths (4m, 5m, and 7m) and a maximum height of 4m, adhering to the size regulations for motor vehicles. Ursa, with an area of 17m², explores the concept of mobile homes and the reimagining of modern lifestyles to fit into a tiny space.

Ursa is a fully off-grid tiny house, featuring sustainable and self-sufficient systems. The roof of Ursa was designed with a 5% slope to facilitate rainwater collection. Rainwater flows down the facade and through an oval window, directed towards a gutter that leads to a particle filter. The filtered water is then stored in two tanks with a total capacity of 650 liters. A pressurized water system pumps the rainwater to an 80-liter heat accumulator tank, supplying water to the three plumbing fixtures: kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and shower. Drinking water is provided through a 3-stage reverse osmosis filter installed beneath the sink. All water used in the fixtures is stored in a tank for later reuse in watering plants.

To power Ursa, five solar panels are installed on the south-facing roof, adjustable up to a 30% inclination to maximize energy production throughout the year. The energy generated is converted and stored for later use, powering the water pump, water heater, refrigerator, and glass-ceramic cooktop. Ursa's energy-efficient design enables it to function completely off-grid. Additionally, a dry toilet connected to electricity (12V) produces compost, closing the cycle of self-sustainability.

The layout of Ursa was developed in collaboration with the client, considering their specific needs, such as two sleeping areas, a workstation, a kitchen area, a full bathroom, and an outdoor deck. The design principles of "small is beautiful" and "passive house design" guided the development of the layout.

The structure of Ursa consists of a primary steel frame and a secondary wooden frame. The interior walls and ceiling are covered with birch plywood panels, while the exterior is adorned with heat-treated timber (thermowood). For insulation, 40mm thick expanded cork boards were utilized, creating a thermal envelope to enhance energy efficiency. Solid plywood and double glazing with tempered glass were chosen for the windows and doors.

Despite the challenges, such as the large oval window, the project was successfully executed at a single location, known as carpintecture. In the future, Madeiguincho aims to integrate food production systems into Ursa, enabling occupants to transport their food while traveling in their tiny house. Ursa exemplifies the fusion of innovative design, sustainability, and mobility in a compact and functional living space.

Images © Madeiguincho

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