Tiny houses and urbanism

The tiny homes movement has been hitting the world by storm. With the promises of portable, compact living and some beautiful amenities, I definitely see the potential benefits. The wonderful architectural opportunities are compounded with a true need for housing, due to a lack in supply of good quality, affordable, housing. Community leaders and non-profits across the country are seeing tiny houses as a potential solution to chronic homelessness, and younger generations are seeing them as a creative solution to avoid the need to pool money with a bunch of strangers for an apartment.

There is a serious problem with the underlying theory that has caused the tiny house movement to grow in popularity so quickly. The problem is that there are two central limitations of tiny houses: vertical scalability and portability.

Urban theorists, like Edward Glaeser, have long argued the need to re-urbanize the cities and build taller structures. Studies have shown that urban living results in much smaller per capita Greenhouse Gas emissions and potentially better social cohesion. Tiny houses are now being built into tiny house communities, but there is nothing stopping a person from connecting their tiny house to their vehicle and moving it across country. This results in many of the same concerns seen in the last few decades that have been associated with suburban living. 

The basic concept of a compact urban form is wonderful, and I am in full support of this type of movement, but I am concerned that tiny houses may end up increasing sprawl and all of its negative outcomes on all aspects of health (physical, mental, social, and environmental).

There are many other options that can achieve the same outcomes (affordable, compact living in the urban space) without the negative outcomes described above. Modular construction techniques have dramatically improved in recent years, and the re-evaluation of individual space needs (which resulted from the tiny house movement) have real possibility to reshape the urban form. The concept of co-housing can also address the social capital and innovation needs of the city and can result in even greater innovative growth for those areas harnessing these concepts. 

Don't get me wrong, tiny houses definitely have their place, but I don't feel that they go far enough to address the housing needs of society and the social-emotional-environmental factors that need to be considered when attempting to find a solution to chronic homelessness and affordable housing. 

Code Consulting, explained

Traditionally, individuals and firms wishing to commence construction activities hire a Registered Design Professional (an architect or professional engineer) to design plans and oversee the projects (if Construction Control is required).  For less extensive projects, the permitting may be submitted by a contractor.  Regardless of who is designing, or overseeing, the project(s), the regulatory agency (building, planning, or health department) may hold up the project due to insufficient submittals or questions regarding the designs or scope of the project.  This is where a Code Consultant comes in handy.

A Code Consultant will work with the design and construction teams, as well as the client and the regulatory authority, in order to make sure that all permit applications are completed and submitted in a package that will result is the most efficient permit review possible.  This includes:

  • pre-submission meetings with the regulatory authority;
  • reviewing all plans prior to submission in order to determine compliance with all relevant codes;
  • reviewing permit applications for completeness of documentation and other submittals; and
  • Serving as an intermediary, when needed, between the regulatory authority and the design and construction teams and / or the client.

In many circumstances, a Code Consultant can save a client significant amounts of money and aggravation by catching problems before they are submitted -- which often starts a series of back-and-forths that can extend the permit issuance date even further into the future.

At Pracademic Solutions, we provide Code Consulting services in a wide variety of subjects,  We have relationships with outside Registered Design Professionals to assist us with services that require their stamp for one reason or another.  A partial listing of our services can be found here.

If you have any questions that are not addressed elsewhere on the website, or would like to speak with a representative, please email info@pracademicsolutions.com, and someone will get back in touch with you shortly.

What is Pracademic Solutions?

Having worked in the code enforcement arena for over a decade, I have observed the many frustrations faced by inexperienced property owners, contractors, and real estate developers.  I have also observed, first hand, the difficulties confronted by local officials when asked to develop regulations, protocols, and procedures for novel programs in their respective fields.  It is with this experience that Pracademic Solutions was born.

Pracademic Solutions was created to fill a gap in both the public and private industries.  Oftentimes solutions to common problems are addressed from just a scientific, or strictly academic, direction.  Public health and public safety codes are filled with many prescriptive requirements that result from many laws and regulations.  In the private sector, this has resulted in a heavy reliance on Registered Design Professionals (i.e., Registered Architects and Professional Engineers).  In the public sector, this results in increased reliance on boilerplate methods, or hiring of consulting practices who rely heavily upon the newest academic research, as well as attorneys and Registered Design Professionals.

The problem inherent in both of these sectors is that many of these outside consultants, or experts, have limited (or no) experience "on the ground" in their respective fields.  They can apply the most current knowledge, and have extensive experience in research methods and community engagement, but they are lacking the practice-based background that is necessary to provide their clients with a solution that is rooted in both academic knowledge and practical experience.

The team at Pracademic Solutions is comprised of subject-matter experts  in the fields of building construction, public health, urban planning, and environmental health.  The team has extensive experience working in leadership positions at the local and state levels, as well as with many of the largest professional associations in their respective fields

At Pracademic Solutions, we strive to help our clients implement practical solutions that will result in sustainable, quality, outcomes to our clients' problems that incorporate field-based experience with the most recent academic research.

Systematic review in Environmental Health policy / research

A recent issue of Environmental Health Perspectives described a new methodology for performance of systematic review for Environmental Health research and policymaking.    The EHP framework, known as the Navigation Guide, sets up a methodology for conducting systematic review in Environmental Health (found at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307175/).  Case studies, focusing on the outcomes of PFOA exposure are described in later articles in the October 2014 issue of EHP (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/october-2014/),

Given the potential strengths of systematic review in the identification and quantification of a public health problem, I am concerned that the understanding of the uses of systematic review -- and its associated statistical tests -- will be improperly applied as a proxy for causality.

Before widespread use of systematic review is expanded, the environmental health workforce and policymaking bodies need to obtain more education about the strengths and limitations of systematic review.  It has been well-characterized and implemented in evidence-based medicine -- where they are capable of targeting RCTs for their inclusion -- but much of the Environmental Health research is observational in nature, and lacks the consistency in controls that are integrated into the design of RCTs.  I have, personally, seen the improper application of systematic review (in my personal opinion) results in order to push specific researchers' agendas -- sometimes having these results published in such noted journals as BMJ Neurology.