Singapore company Big Tiny offers eco-friendly 'tiny houses' for sale; buyers rent them out in scenic spots

ST VIDEO: TOH WEN LI
(From left) Big Tiny co-founders Jeff Yeo, Dave Ng and Adrian Chia, together with their Big Tiny prototype house.
(From left) Big Tiny co-founders Jeff Yeo, Dave Ng and Adrian Chia, together with their Big Tiny prototype house.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

SINGAPORE - A new company founded by three Singaporean entrepreneurs allows homebuyers to buy an eco-friendly "tiny house" on wheels and rent it out to tourists in scenic locations overseas.

At least two groups of homebuyers have already jumped on the bandwagon, and expect to be renting their houses out in New South Wales and Victoria by the end of this month.

The houses, which can be shared by up to eight buyers, cost $80,000 each and can be rented out overseas for between $150 and $250 a night. They will be listed on AirBnb and Booking.com.

They range in length from a 4.8m-long house covering 186 sq ft, which can comfortably house two guests, to a 7.2m-long one for four, which occupies 240 sq ft. Both of these come with a loft bedroom.

The "tiny house" movement began in the United States three to four years ago. "And in Australia and the rest of the world, it is just starting," Big Tiny's co-founder Adrian Chia, 37 said.

"People are downsizing their houses to simplify their lives. In Big Tiny, we pair tiny houses with a spectacular rural setting."

Big Tiny, founded by three Singaporean entrepreneurs last March, claims to be "the first company in Singapore to integrate the concept of 'tiny houses' with ecotourism".

The company, which has an office in Yishun, is targeting young couples with children, inter-state tourists and travellers seeking refuge from hectic city life.

The idea for Big Tiny struck Mr Chia, 37, when he was holidaying in Great Ocean Road, a scenic coastal region in Australia two years ago.

"When I opened my (farmhouse) door, there was greenery. It was a chance for me to recharge after a hectic Singapore life. We want to bring (this concept) to Singapore and the rest of the world," said Mr Chia.

They partner with local landowners such as farmers or vineyard owners. These people give permission for such houses to be parked on their land, play the role of hosts and benefit from the additional income in rent.

Public response has been "very positive" so far, said co-founder Jeff Yeo, 37. "A lot of people have been looking into the tiny house movement, they have been watching FYI," he said, referring to the American cable channel that aired the Tiny House Nation (2014) series.

The first two houses will be launched in New South Wales - on the edge of the stunning Blue Mountains - and in Victoria by the end of January.

Two more will be ready in Brisbane and New Zealand by mid and end-2018 respectively.

The prefabricated houses are assembled using machinery, and can be yoked to a four-wheel-drive and transported to various locations.


Multi-functional stools that can also be used as storage spaces or coffee tables and a table that folds away are some of the features in the house. ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

The co-founders will eventually approach the Urban Redevelopment Authority to discuss the possibility of parking Big Tiny homes in scenic spots such as East Coast Park and Marina Barrage.

But for now, Australia is a hot spot on their radar, not least because a large number of tourists in Australia are Singaporean, said Mr Chia.

In 12 months ending October 2017, 8.7 million people visited Australia, of whom 438,100 were from Singapore.

At the core of the houses' design is the idea of sustainability. Each comes with solar panels, a rainwater collection system and a composting toilet. 

Big Tiny houses are built to local building regulations and have been designed with the local climate in mind. For instance, some units in Australia have been fitted with double-glazed windows for insulation as well as insect nets.


The house comes with a fully stocked kitchenette, which has a microwave, a sink and a mini fridge. ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Big Tiny's designer and builder Dave Ng, 37, who is also one of the co-founders, took pains to make the idea of using composting toilets - dry toilets without the flushing mechanism - more palatable for his guests.

Sitting down on the toilet seat automatically switches on an exhaust fan and opens the toilet bowl, filled with sawdust, which would otherwise be left closed.

All units come with heating, air-conditioning, a backup generator, fully-equipped kitchen, shower, television, sofa bed and other minimalist furnishings.

The units can last for 15 years with regular maintenance and also come with a fire extinguisher as well as an extra digital lock to ensure security. The landowner, always "a phone call away", will meet guests when they arrive and help them settle in.

The units have large windows and come with "multi-functional furniture", including a sofa bed, foldable table and chairs which double as storage spaces.

"People may think that a Big Tiny home might be uncomfortable. But once they step into the unit, they feel the spaciousness of it, even in such a tiny space," said Mr Ng.