Small House Designs with Big Impact



Lanefab Design/Build recently completed this laneway house in the backyard of their clients’ existing house in Vancouver, Canada. The owners are renting the laneway house out for now but plan to eventually move into it themselves, allowing them to downsize without leaving the neighborhood they love. The small house incorporates several green features and achieved one of the highest home energy ratings in Canada.


The 580 ft2 (53.9 m2) home (not including garage) has a reverse floor plan arrangement. From the entrance, a flight of stairs leads up to the main living space, while the bedroom and bathroom with laundry are a few steps down. The architect took advantage of the height difference to tuck the laundry machines under the entry coat closet, a great example of designing in three dimensions. The bathtub is likewise placed beneath the stairs, with standing room for showering at one end.

The upper floor living area is a single wide-open room brightened by skylights and a south-facing glazed wall. A single-wall kitchen stretches the length of the room, offering plenty of space for two cooks to work. The glass doors opposite open to a sunny and spacious terrace. On either side are planter boxes for a rooftop garden — the owners enjoy gardening and wanted the design to incorporate space for growing their own food.

Rain from the roof is collected in a 500 gallon storage tank buried in the yard. The untreated rainwater is directed to the garden, laundry and toilets via “purple pipe” distribution lines, separate from the potable water lines. The small dwelling is very highly insulated with R40 walls (roughly double the typical level), R50 roof and triple-glazed windows, minimizing heating requirements. A heat pump heats water for both ordinary domestic use and the hydronic in-floor heating system.
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