Originally published 10/8/2015

Located in Regina, Saskatchewan, for nearly two decades, Robinson Residential has offered a full range of design services including site design, preliminary design, Robinson Home Plans, interior layouts and multifamily project planning for both new construction and renovations.

Known for creative home plans based on a variety of architectural styles, attention to detail and for providing courteous service, now this company is featuring their first Tiny House design for those Canadians seeking viable options to small housing. John Robinson, the Owner, explains, “We are working with several Tiny House Builders across the US and Canada who will be supplying fully built models, but also DIY packages where all the components are stacked on the trailer frame for quick assembly”

The 159 square foot Dragonfly by Robinson Residential, Regina, SK

Tiny Home Alliance Canada (THAC) asked John Robinson questions and his thoughts on the tiny house movement. Mainly we asked about design challenges unique to many parts of Canada’s environment. The concern that THAC gets from many Canadians who contact us is regarding winter and proper build/insulation methods for it.

John provides overall thoughts for our readers:

John: This is our first attempt to enter the Tiny House community, and we are learning a lot. I have been following the trends in the US, and when we started this design, we wanted something that could work here as well.

Many people in more temperate areas are converting what is intended to be a garden shed or storage building into a small house. But in Canada with minus 40 winters, it has to be insulated and built to withstand the issues that moisture can cause in a wall or roof cavity. We can’t simply pack fibreglass batts into a roof space and cover it up. So building in Canada takes more planning and cost for sure to get this right.

To keep things warm or cool inside, these small structures require excellent insulation on all sides. We are detailing them all to have either wood framing with spray foam insulation or in a kit form we are distributing them with SIPS construction; a structural insulated panel comprised of Styrofoam insulation with an OSB outer shell on each side. These make for a very tight construction, and a quick assembly. All the doors and windows are cut out, and the electrical routes are cut into the panels. The Styrofoam acts as it’s own vapour barrier as well. The panels are light and easy to work with. We have had excellent experience with Enersmart who supplied the panels for our cottage six years ago.

With proper insulation levels, they will not take much heat to warm them up. We are showing a small propane wall mounted fireplace and are recommending an electrical floor system in the bathroom to keep the floor warm.

Water Lines/Plumbing
In a tiny house in Canada, it is imperative that for interior comfort that the trailer is skirted in under to help keep the floor warmer, and plumbing lines from freezing. This is standard with mobile homes, and as long as you are located over a sewer and water connection, you are fine. Otherwise, you will need to look at some other options for plumbing.

Toilets have the most possibilities. For people having a sewer and water connection, a simple low water usage toilet is likely the best. But other options include a camper style with goes into a holding tank under the trailer. But these will have issues in winter. There are also electric toilets which don’t involve plumbing at all but need electrical, and composting toilets which are problematic if allowed to freeze.

Municipal Challenges
We are still working here in the city of Regina on new laneway and garden suite regulations. But I will be very surprised if they are allowed in the city on a permanent basis. They may be granted RV status, but I am not sure that will happen. There needs to be a social response to the before City Zoning regulations can be changed. I don’t think Regina is there yet.


THAC: “Will there be an off-grid option as part of the design package?”

John: So far we have not worked an off-grid design into the plans. The difference will be a propane refrigerator, composting toilet, water storage tanks, grey water storage tanks, and solar collectors that could be fastened to the roof or site adjacent to the house. We include propane water heater, range top and fireplace as standard components. These elements are all things that affect price, and at this point, I need to keep the options tighter and less complicated. People who purchase a kit can add or subtract these items as they like to suit their situation.

It will be tough to go “off Grid” in winter in Saskatchewan, and we are not going in that direction. If someone wanted to install a small wood stove that would be an option, but this requires always being close by to tend the fire. Everyone has different levels of comfort and degrees of work they have to do to keep warm.For those looking to be off-grid, John adds, “Deciding how “off-grid” you want to go is also going to affect what you do for plumbing and electrical; that has to be confirmed before any appliances are purchased.”

THAC: “Other Plans on the Horizon for Robinson Residential?”

John: We are working on some small house plans under 600 square feet now for use as laneway homes or garden suites. We will be showing them off in Portland on November 6 at their small house show. We have always be involved in small houses, and a few years ago I spoke at a Cottage Show in Winnipeg on the design of small cottages. We have a planned called the weekend warrior series on our website that is a modular DIY build that has several configurations of a 400 square foot design. This is something that we are quite excited about and are presently signing up builders in the US and Canada to build these. They won’t be inexpensive, but if building in Canadian sites, they have to be well detailed for building envelope concerns.

The Dragonfly-159 ~ Designed around maximum light and openness while still having a compact footprint; many large windows, two skylights and two sets of patio doors to make it feel like a sunroom, screen porch. There is a sofa bed for the main sleeping space with storage for bedding built into cabinets at each end. The kitchen area is quite spacious and has a pull our counter for dining. It slides back into the cabinet out of the way when not needed. The stair/ladder to the loft is a cabinet with drawers that slides back into the other cabinet. Multi-function is important in small design.

The bathroom features an acrylic shower; small wall mounted sink and space for whichever type of toilet is chosen while the loft overhead accommodates a twin mattress.

With full folding decks which fit into a recess of the sides of the unit for hauling, Tiny Home Alliance Canada thinks the contemporary Dragonfly design and company mission are very notable! We are always happy to see sensible housing designs born in Canada to meet Canadian needs.

Many thanks to John for the interview and the great information provided to our readers. We wish him and his team the best on this and other ventures! Check out his website