GOING OFF-GRID IN A TINY HOME IN MALAYSIA

The GreenMan Tiny Home is the embodiment of the ideal ‘green lifestyle’ when it comes to a roof over our heads.

Text and Photography by Jan Yong.

A home for RM50,000? Yes, some may say, that was the price of a low-cost home in Malaysia many years ago. Today, it doesn’t seem possible. But reality or rather people’s ingenuity has a way of surprising us. Such a home is now possible in Malaysia thanks to Matthias Gelber, aka the ‘Green Man’ internationally. The best thing is – it is possibly the ‘greenest’ tiny house in the world – it is zero-energy, carbon neutral and completely off-grid.

Tiny homes have been around for decades in America and Europe; in Asia, it is manifested in traditional dwellings such as the kampong house seen in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries.

The design of the GreenMan Tiny Home (its current name) was inspired by traditional kampongstyle houses which were built using eco-friendly materials and raised above the ground to keep the interior cool in the tropical heat.

What Gelber does which is unique is to pack the Asian traditional dwelling with almost 100% sustainable features within a compact space – 150 sq ft (the size of a large parking lot).

“It has bothered me that modern homes are hot like saunas and that the use of air-conditioning has become the norm. We went back to the original structure of kampong houses and made urban living comfortable without the need for an external electricity source and water supply. Most people think green living is expensive but I want to prove that using natural resources like solar power can be cost effective, provided items that consume a lot of electricity are completely avoided. The GreenMan Tiny Home project is an educational experiment and I hope that many Malaysians will learn from it and be inspired,” explains Matthias.

MALAYSIAN GENESIS

Construction of the prototype began in September 2016 at the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM), which is the research and testing arm of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia; and was completed in February 2017. The green studio apartment was a crowd-sourced effort by several Malaysian construction industry players who all share a commitment to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle in Malaysia. “Many of the materials were donated to us. We even have people offering to let us park the tiny studio apartment on their land,” Gelber reveals.

About the only non-‘green’ item is the aluminum linings for the door and windows. “This is because wood-based linings will expand or contract, hence is not the ideal material to be used while aluminum is light, cheap and stable,” says Adam Kiss, the coordinator for the Green Man Tiny Home project. Both men, while hailing from Europe, Germany and Hungary respectively, have strong ties with Malaysia, hence its Malaysian genesis.

All materials are sourced from Malaysia with some using overseas technology such as the ‘EcoLoo’ which uses bacterial culture to treat the waste and create organic fertilizer that is pathogen free yet rich with nutrition. The patented toilet system renders the waste odourless, waterless, sewage-free, energy-free, and maintenance free.

The other two must-haves to make this a truly selfsustaining off-grid home are the solar panels and the rainwater harvesting system. The latter has been designed by Kiss using three different types of filters which makes it drinkable.

For the bath, be surprised to find a bathtub and a shower head right above it. Kiss designed the bathtub to fit into the tiny house and got it made by a factory. However, the bath can be customised with several options available for buyers.

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