Unified Construction Method™ for Tiny House Vehicles

What is the Unified Construction Method™?

The Unified Construction Method™ is a patented building method for tiny house vehicles (tiny houses on wheels/trailers) developed by Fred Schultz of Fred’s Tiny Houses. Fred developed the Unified Construction Method™ to make his tiny house vehicles safe to transport and comfortable to live in all year round.

Why is the Unified Construction Method™ necessary?

Tiny houses on wheels are vehicles, not buildings

Tiny houses that are built on trailers are vehicles. Even though they are not motorised, they are vehicles, which means they need to be built to withstand the physical forces that they encounter during transportation. 

Many tiny house builders design and build their tiny house vehicles the same way that they build houses on solid foundations. They have not thought about the significant road vibrations or wind-forces that the house will be subjected to or how to keep the whole structure together in the face of these forces.

Fred’s Unified Construction Method™ is the only tiny house vehicle building method that considers these forces. The Unified Construction Method™ considers every connection point in the construction of the house and it uses building materials and fastenings to create a solid, unified whole that is vibration resilient and super strong that will last the long life of the tiny house vehicle.

Safety

Tiny house vehicles are subjected to incredible forces during transport that conventional houses are not. 

Wind-force: On the road, tiny house vehicles may have to withstand hurricane winds above 90km per hour, known as ‘storm-force’ winds that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology states is ‘seldom experienced inland’ and from which we can expect ‘trees uprooted; considerable structural damage’. This is because conventional houses built on foundations are not built to withstand this kind of wind force. So conventional building standards cannot be relied upon to build safe tiny house vehicles.

Vibration: Tiny house vehicles also have to withstand long-lasting vibrations that stress every connection point in the whole structure. Think of the road vibration as being like that in an earthquake. But earthquakes only last for about a minute. Tiny house vehicles have to withstand earthquake conditions for hours and hours across their lifetime.

The Unified Construction Method™ was developed to create the strongest possible tiny house vehicle, protecting it against the significant transportation forces and making the structure lightweight and livable year-round. It is also a method that is build-able by DIY builders and uses readily available building materials in unconventional ways.

Consequences of using inadequate building methods

There are several layers of consequences for using inadequate building methods when building tiny house vehicles.

For the tiny house owner: You don’t want your tiny house to break or endure any damage during transportation. It would be such a shame to see all the hard work, time and money you put into your beloved tiny house to be ruined or damaged during transport. Just imagine the cracked facades or leaks because of road vibration that your tiny house couldn’t withstand. You don’t want the disappointment, expense or embarrassment of having a tiny house vehicle that’s not built for purpose.

For fellow travelers on the road: No-one wants to cause a road accident. Unfortunately, if inadequate building methods are used to build tiny house vehicles, parts of the tiny house may break or come loose during transport and cause major road accidents.

For the whole tiny house movement: A road accident involving a tiny house vehicle will be cause for a lot of negative attention in the media. Worse yet would be a road accident caused by a problem with a tiny house vehicle. That kind of front-page news would spur regulators to crack down on the tiny house movement and implement any number of rules or regulations that could threaten the tiny house movement from growing or from tiny houses being a viable option for most people.

Everyone who builds a tiny house vehicle carries the responsibility of the tiny house movement on their shoulders. When you build a strong, vibration resilient tiny house vehicle, you are acting responsibly on behalf of yourself, others around you and the whole tiny house community. 

Current lack of building regulation for tiny house vehicles.

At the moment there are a few regulations that determine the parameters of tiny house vehicle construction. They are:

  • VSB1 = Roadworthy guidelines for all vehicles in Australia. ie: Where the door has to be placed on a caravan.
  •  The VSB1 is underpinned by the Australian Design Rules = Set out Australian Standards for everything. ie: Minimum standards for vehicle lights to make sure it is safe on the roads.

There are NO building regulations for tiny house vehicles that cover the construction methods used.

The closest thing to a building regulation that could be applied to a tiny house vehicle is the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The BCA defines the minimum standards of building techniques to be used on buildings (think conventional buildings on foundations). But, as we said before, tiny houses are not buildings. They are vehicles. 

Since the BCA outlines standards that are designed for buildings, not for vehicles, it is not safe to rely on the BCA for building a safe tiny house vehicle. 

So how do I know if my tiny house vehicle will be safe to tow?

At the moment, tiny house vehicles are being built with a wide range of building techniques. The responsibility for determining the quality of the build rests solely on the shoulders of the consumer.

That’s right. If you buy a tiny house and it falls apart on the road, that is your responsibility. It is all up to consumer discretion because there is no regulatory body overseeing the building standards of tiny house construction.

So how do you know if your tiny house vehicle will be safe to tow? Find out how the builder is constructing it. If they are using the Unified Construction Method™ and have a license to prove it, then you know that it is built strong, vibration resilient and designed to withstand the incredible forces undergone during transport.

“But I’m only going to move my tiny house once or twice…”

If you lived in an earthquake zone, you would build your house to be earthquake proof. You wouldn’t build it for completely stable conditions and think: ‘I will only experience one or two earthquakes… I’ll get away with this design.” 

Well, traveling down the road is equivalent to an earthquake for a tiny house vehicle. So it needs to be built to withstand earthquake conditions. Even if you didn’t plan on moving it ever.

This is because if a tiny house is built on wheels someone will want to move it. Whether the tiny is in your possession or after it changes hands, it is valuable when it is in the right location. And there’s no way of knowing when a poor design will come apart. So it doesn’t matter if you only move it once or never at all. If it is built on wheels, chances are someone will try to move it, and that needs to be safe as… houses.

How does it work?

The Unified Construction Method™  is comprised of four elements.Three of those elements are designed for safety and one element is designed for comfort.

Element 1: Floor Joist Tie Downs.

The safest way to attach a tiny house to the trailer is by using a horizontal bolt, going through steel tie downs that are welded onto the trailer. This is because the upward lifting forces during transport will pull the tiny house up, potentially off the trailer. The easiest way to get a screw out is the way it went in. So by using a vertically orientated screw down through your floor joist and trailer, you create a wholly inadequate method of attachment. 

The floor joist tie downs integrate the trailer with the floor to create a unified whole. It is strong, integrated and allows for a truly insulated floor. For more on the floor insulation, see our Trailers Magazine.

Element 2: Stud Wall Tie Downs.

Eight stud wall tie downs extend from the trailer up into the walls of the tiny house to integrate the trailer with the walls. The king studs extend from the trailer to the rafters and hold the entire house together in one continuous, fixed structural member.

 

Element 3: Bracing Ply Wrap.

Bracing ply is used to wrap the entire body of the tiny house vehicle. This material is usually only used in corners to create structural integrity. By wrapping the entire house, the bracing ply shields the tiny house from movement in any direction, creating a super strong structure that is light weight and thin to maximize internal space.

 

Element 4: Radiant Barrier.

A radiant barrier is installed inside the ceiling to lock out 97% of the sun’s radiant heat. This is especially important in tiny house vehicles in Australia for three reasons:

  1. Summers are blisteringly hot and using solar panels means parking your tiny house vehicle under direct sunlight.
  2. There is no ceiling cavity to trap or release hot air in tiny houses.
  3. Sleeping in a raised loft bed puts you right in the hottest part of the house.

The radiant barrier is installed in such a way that provides effective shade within the ceiling, locking out 97% of the sun’s radiant heat so that your ceiling is room temperature, all year round. (It feels like you’re parked under a tree instead of being parked under the blazing sun.)

 

How can I get the Unified Construction Method™?

DIY Builders:

Come to our workshops to learn everything you need to know about how to build using the Unified Construction Method™.  You receive the license to use the patented method for FREE.

Commercial Builders:

Affordable licenses to build using the Unified Construction Method™ are available in two formats:

  1. Once-off License enables you to build one tiny house vehicle using the Unified Construction Method™.
  2. Yearly License enables you to build as many tiny house vehicles as you like during that 12 month period under the one license fee. 

Check out our Business to Business page for more information.