Monday, September 4, 2017

Maine to Consider Adopting Regulations for Tiny Houses

An article in

When James Valley signed off on the tiny house on Route 197 in Richmond a little more than a year ago, Richmond’s code enforcement officer considered it similar to a mobile home.
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“It was my thought that it had been inspected, like a modular home or a mobile home,” Valley said.

But the tiny house, built by Luke Lucier in Cape Elizabeth and moved to Richmond, was not inspected, and that was a problem for the small town in northern Sagadahoc County.

Richmond drew the line on tiny houses at that one.

Tiny houses, celebrated as a lifestyle choice on a number of cable television networks with shows like “Tiny House Nation,” and “Tiny House Builders,” pose a number of problems for cities and towns across Maine that observe building codes.

Later this month, some of those problems could be resolved.
The Maine Technical Building Codes and Standards Board has scheduled a public hearing on proposed changes to Maine’s building codes, including adopting guidelines for tiny houses for the first time.

Generally speaking, a tiny house is a structure that’s between 100 and 400 square feet. Those compact areas feature living and sleeping spaces as well as a kitchen and a bathroom. Because of its size, a tiny house often costs a fraction of what a traditional house costs, although in either case, the choice of materials can affect price greatly.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said he met some people at Long Branch Tiny Homes in Bowdoinham, who wanted to show him what they were and talk about some commonly held concerns about the small structures.

“Many of them could be addressed if Maine were to adopt some newly proposed appendices for tiny homes,” Berry said.

When the Maine Legislature met, Berry sponsored a bill to adopt tiny house standards in the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. But he eventually withdrew the bill, opting instead to ask state regulators to use rule-making powers instead.

That route would be faster and more effective, he said.

“(The uniform code) applies to communities of 4,000 or more people,” Berry said, and often smaller communities adopt those standards as well.

In the code are provisions regulating ceiling height, stair dimensions and what’s acceptable for an emergency exit.

Because of their small envelope, tiny houses are designed using ladders to reach sleeping lofts, which may have roof windows or skylights for light and ventilation.

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