Certification of tiny homes has been a tricky topic for years now. I’ve been skeptical of many of the certifiers because I haven’t always seen the benefit. Last week’s conversation with Jenifer Levini only increased that skepticism. But this week, I’m happy to bring you my conversation with Alex Ontiveros from Pacific West tiny homes. Pacific West has been in the certification business for a long time, and in this conversation, we’ll see if Alex can convince me whether tiny house certification is worth it.
In This Episode:
- The certification process explained
- RVIA or ANSI: what qualifies for which?
- Egress windows and their importance
- What is the cost of certification and what does it include?
- Why should a DIY builder have their tiny home certified?
- Materials, techniques, and systems that comply with code
- Do you really need a contractor?
- The effect of the pandemic on the tiny house movement
Links and Resources:
- Pacific West Tiny Homes
- Tiny Home Industry Association
- Past Episode Links:
- Lindsay Wood (first episode and second episode)
- Dan Fitzpatrick
- Alexis and Christian
- Teresa Baker from LATCH Collective
Pacific West Tiny Homes has extensive experience in the analysis and design of many different structural, mechanical, and electrical systems, and works closely with its clients. The professional staff can provide superior technical resources in order to meet the client’s needs. PWTH also believes that close and constant communication is critical to the success of any project. Project communication can take any one of the following forms: hard copy or FAX correspondence, overnight letter or package delivery, telephone conference calls, electronic file transfer, or, the most important form of good communication, the “old fashioned” face-to-face meeting.
The Rinnai gas heater wasn't always meant for use in tiny homes
Egress windows are an important safety feature in any tiny home
Alex prefers his customers to ask a lot of questions!
Ethan Waldman 0:00
Who certifies you? Who certifies the certifier?
Alex Ontiveros 0:02
So we're actually accredited by multiple jurisdictions. California being one of the biggest in this comes from having the minimum qualifications of our personnel and being on a very strict review of what we do.
Ethan Waldman 0:17
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 162 with Alex Ontiveros. Certification of Tiny Homes has been a tricky topic for years now. I've been skeptical of many of the certifiers because I haven't always seen the benefit. Last week's conversation with Jennifer Levini, Episode 161, only increased that skepticism. But this week, I'm happy to bring you my conversation with Alex Ontiveros from Pacific West Tiny Homes. Pacific West has been in the certification business for a long time. And in this conversation, we'll see if Alex can convince me whether tiny house certification is worth it. I hope you stick around.
I want to start out with a different kind of listener shout out. There was a great conversation in the Tiny Living North Carolina group on Facebook, a poster named Mary said, "Another epic episode on the only tiny house podcast that is reputable. Not that you want any competition, but I'm always wondering why there isn't any current tiny house podcasts." And I responded to Mary, "That is so kind of you. I'm not sure. But podcasting is a lot of work. There have been a lot of shows to start with an episode or two but not carry it through." And I just wanted to expand on that a little bit. Because podcasting is a lot of work. I spend many hours each week researching guests, writing questions, having the interviews, producing the episodes, all the show art, posting it on social media channels, all of that is a ton of work. And, you know, the tiny house lifestyle podcast is and always will be free. But there are a few ways that you can support me if you enjoy the show, I would say the most direct way that you can support me is to head over to thetinyhouse.net and pick up a copy of my resource Tiny House Decisions. If you are really serious about tiny house living and you want support from me and a small group of dedicated tiny house peers, you can check out my online community, it's called Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage members actually get to listen, as I record these podcast interviews live, so they really get a back seat or a backstage pass to the podcast. But I just wanted to say thank you because I see your comments. And I really appreciate the compliments about the show. It always helps to hear from listeners. And I just yeah, just thank you. It's been over three years now that I've been doing the show and I have no intention of stopping. But again, if you are interested in helping to support me, in putting this show out, I encourage you to check out tiny house decisions that's at the thetinyhouse.net/THD. Or you can learn more about Tiny House Engage my online community where you can get support from your peers. That's the thetinyhouse.net/engage. And a rating or review in Apple podcasts or wherever you listen is always appreciated. Well, that's all for this different kind of listener shout out. I hope that you continue listening every week. Alright, let's get on with the show.
Right, I am here with Alex Ontiveros of Pacific West Tiny Homes. Pacific West has extensive experience in the analysis and design of many different structural mechanical and electrical systems and works closely with its clients. The professional staff can provide superior technical resources in order to meet the client's needs. Pacific West also believes that close and constant communication is critical to the success of any project. Alex Ontiveros, welcome to the show.
Alex Ontiveros 4:14
Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's been a while.
Ethan Waldman 4:16
Yeah, and it's been a while. So I just I was hoping we could start off just by having you explain, you know what, what does Pacific West Tiny Homes? What did they do? And you know, if you need to kind of answer it twice and talk about what you do for DIY builders versus what you do for, you know, professional builders or maybe maybe they're both the same. Yeah.
Alex Ontiveros 4:38
Yeah, so essentially the process is the same we have. See, we started working with Tiny Home Builders back in 2016, officially on their tiny Pacific West Tiny Homes. What we provide for people as RV certification, or Park model certification depending on what their needs are, especially now with some jurisdictions wanting one over the other. We've been certifying for additional RVs for about 40 years. And we decided that that process is probably the best adapted until we have an actual code for Tiny Homes. As far as what we do for DIYers, we are able to guide a DIY builder from their design process all the way through finalizing their build. And we have a couple different ways that we can do this. Usually we review their plans in the beginning, we will send them either they will get access to all of the codes. And then we will keep track of their progress either through Dropbox, which was our old way of doing things, or now through BuilderTREND, which is construction management software, lets us see what our customers are doing. And that also gives us a control of seeing, you know, this person finished their framing. Okay, let's do an inspection. Let's see what they have done pictures video and a very comprehensive handbook that we developed over the last few years. And as they go through that process where all of their systems, that's what allows us to certify them in capacity. Okay, what we do for our manufacturers is we still use the tool of BuilderTREND that we have, but they go through a more rigorous process of we will go out to certify them, we will go out and consult with them to develop a quality assurance process. And then we're required to go in and check on their production on a quarterly basis. Okay, when those checks are done, and as long as they're building to the process that they told us they will build to then their bills will get a label that shows that the unit complies to either the RV code or the recreational part. Okay, okay.
Ethan Waldman 6:55
And does it would a DIY builder also get that kind of? Is it a stamp? Is it a piece of paper?
Alex Ontiveros 7:02
So it's an insignia that goes next to the house, it's the exact same kind of manufacturer when in that tells the insurance company or the financier or the municipality that the unit complies to those codes and that it has been inspected as required.
Ethan Waldman 7:18
Okay. Okay. And so, and you've, you've started to touch on the RV park model. code, which I think is the ANSI A 119.5 versus the RV, which is the NSPA 1192.
Alex Ontiveros 7:37
Ethan Waldman 7:38
Can you explain like the differences between those and when you would use one versus the other?
Alex Ontiveros 7:45
Absolutely. So the biggest difference on those will be the size and requirements for structural verifications. On the RV code. There is no structural requirements. They are limited to 320 square feet. And 250 amp electrical service.
Ethan Waldman 8:03
Alex Ontiveros 8:05
Oh, well, I'm sorry, going back a little bit. Those units are also limited to eight and a half feet in width. Okay, and to 13 and a half feet in height.
Ethan Waldman 8:14
Okay, so you're like standard tiny house on wheels, those those numbers that you're telling me those? Those sound familiar?
Alex Ontiveros 8:21
Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's the standard before they started, they need to get the permits for movement. Okay, down. Once they exceed those, that's when we go to the ANSI code, which will allow them to go oversize over height. And instead of limiting them to 50, amp electrical service, they can go to 100. Got it. Okay. And we will do this on request. Right now, we have seen a lot more than one for the park model code in California, because that's what jurisdictions have been approving and requesting from our builder. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 8:58
So even if they're building something smaller, they still want that, that ANSI code.
Alex Ontiveros 9:04
Yeah, there's ways to adapt even the smaller builds to that code. Got it?
Ethan Waldman 9:09
Are there differences? You know, in terms of egress windows, fire safety between the codes, like, Are there different standards? Are they pretty similar?
Alex Ontiveros 9:21
So between those codes, it's actually very similar. They still have to have fire extinguisher, their uterus is still have to be 24 wide by 17 tall. And these units are considered self-rescue. So that's why you will see when those that are smaller than what they residential.
Ethan Waldman 9:38
Okay, interesting. Self rescue. Yeah, cuz I know that that for residential code and egress window. When I was working on my tiny house, too. There was just no way I could get a residential size egress window in the loft. It would actually be taller than the loft.
Alex Ontiveros 9:54
Yes, yeah. That's one of the biggest issues in that one is based more on On the square inches, okay, and obviously the height and width requirements for this one is pretty cut and dry. It has to be no less than 24 wide by no less than 17.
Ethan Waldman 10:10
Okay. And that's, that's considered big enough to crawl out of correct? Yeah, got it. Got it. What what other? What are some other highlights of these codes in terms of safety? Or what are you seeing? A different way of asking the question is, you know, what do you see in uncertified tiny house builds that kind of run up against what's in the codes?
Alex Ontiveros 10:36
The biggest thing will be the egress window. Okay, for people that don't go with any certification, they think, you know, especially in the loft, the windows are too small. Right. So, Well, technically, you could get out of one of those in a fire. You know, there's reasons why we are right, the 24 by 17, which is actually someone went around RV, Park, campground, sorry. And they put an ellipse around people to come up with that. Wow. Granted, this was in the 60s, I think body shapes have changed in the in the meantime, and yes, probably be a little bigger.
Ethan Waldman 11:15
Yeah. Yeah. And 24 wide and 17. tall. That's kind of a funny shaped window.
Alex Ontiveros 11:22
It is. Yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 11:24
Do I guess you can order a custom, you know, any custom size window? And then how does? I'm guessing that it has to open it has to either be a case it has to be a casement window, right? Or an
Alex Ontiveros 11:35
casement window we do we actually do see it on sliders. Okay. And single on Windows. Okay? It's the sliders just have to be. Usually what we see on those is the vinyl that separates the window, the operating window from the fixed window takes a little bit of space. So people end up with a window that is 20. I'm sorry, that it's a five foot window by 20. tall. Right. And it looks great. And let's let's in a lot of light bar, it is a huge window up there. Yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 12:07
So I'm curious how if at all, this work and these, you know, ANSI and NFPA? How do these intersect with, you know, the the Appendix Q effort.
Alex Ontiveros 12:22
One of the things about the Appendix Q is being that it's in the residential code, it technically, technically only applies to units that are being built to well to residences, right? We do make a lot of provisions and inclusions in that for the RV code. The reality is that with some designs, that just does not work. Okay, love heights are the biggest consideration on the Appendix Q. Okay. So, you know, depending on on how the people how the customers are building their first floor, and how much room they have on a loft, they may not be able to comply. So, you know, we can try to adapt our designs to fit it, that the reality is that we're gonna see about 30%.
Ethan Waldman 13:04
So do you offer designs as well, like, Are there you know, pre pre approved ANSI, or NFPA Tiny Home designs?
Alex Ontiveros 13:14
So there's actually a couple of places that offer them. Okay, there's some models that we have already reviewed, okay, on work, that our customers have sold to tiny house plans.com. Okay. And those are the sites that we have already reviewed for them on manufacturing scale, but they already meet all of those requirements, where the code,
Ethan Waldman 13:35
got it, but then it then it, it's on the builder to then build it to the code as well.
Alex Ontiveros 13:42
Correct? Yes. And then the certification, if they do decide that they want to go that route, we would rather get them in early just to make sure that they're following as they're supposed to. And so that we can address any issues that may come up during the process, right. It's
Ethan Waldman 13:56
a lot, lot easier to address, an egress window. That's the wrong size before you frame it in.
Alex Ontiveros 14:03
Exactly. Yeah. I can tell you people are not happy when they have already built it in, put the window in. And I tell them to rip it out. They're not very happy with me.
Ethan Waldman 14:12
No, no, that's bad. Yeah, so who, sir, who certifies you who certifies the certifier?
Alex Ontiveros 14:22
So we're actually accredited by multiple jurisdictions, California being one of the biggest. And that is for the type of work that we do. We're, we're deputized by the state to do what we do. And this comes from having the minimum qualifications of our personnel and being on a very strict review of what we do. And just in between this I do want to say Pacific West Tiny Homes. We are the the tiny home inspection arm for Pacific West Associates. Pacific West Associates is the company that provides the certification and the one that is accredited by the states to perform the work. We Just do the inspection services.
Ethan Waldman 15:01
Okay, so your everything is included? Are you separate companies? Or is it kind of like some part of one company?
Alex Ontiveros 15:09
Where we're separate companies at this time.
Ethan Waldman 15:12
Okay, okay. Got it? What is it? What does it cost to get, you know, to work with you throughout like a DIY build?
Alex Ontiveros 15:22
Let's see for the DIY, the cost of the program is $2000. And it is a flat cost, we don't have any hidden fees, we don't have any surprises. We provide consultation guidance, and all of our, all of our reviews are already included in the price. And we can also provide additional services specific quest associates is a an engineering firm. So we do have those services, and those are price that's needed for the customer. Okay. And then working with manufacturers, that one is also a fixed price, but we work with the manufacturer as far as what we're going to charge for the specific circumstances that they have. Got it, mainly because we're not going to treat a manufacturer that builds a few for a year, the same way that we would treat an RV manufacturer that makes 400 a month.
Ethan Waldman 16:15
Right. Right. So I think I think that certification is is probably a good idea. I'm curious. You know, I think from a pro builders perspective, I can see very clearly, you know, the argument of why you would want to do it probably makes it easier for your customers to get loans, potentially easier to for them to find parking. But as a DIY builder, you know, what? what's, what is your pitch to kind of say, like, why should I spend, you know, why should I spend an extra $2,000 on my tiny home?
Alex Ontiveros 16:55
Well, usually we call the customer, you know, the biggest reason why you should is because you would not trust a home that somebody built to, you know, if you didn't have a building inspector, would you live in it? You know, it's all about the accountability, it's all about keeping people safe. Got it. A lot of people have been coming to me now saying, you know, I live in the LA area, and I want to put one in there, but they told me that it has to have a label on it. Okay. You know, do you have anybody else that's going to be working with you? Are you going to be doing all of the work yourself? What is your experience level? And then they tell them consider you're going to be putting either your family or somebody else's family in there? Yeah, no, let's get an extra layer of protection and an extra set of eyes making sure that everything is in order. Right.
Ethan Waldman 17:41
So this is actually a question coming in on the chat, which is a great question. What, what happens if codes change during the life of the tiny home?
Alex Ontiveros 17:54
We expect that a lot of them will be grandfathered in. Okay, right now, the codes haven't changed since 1999. At that point, what we had was the ANSI 119.2. Okay. And from that, it's separated to the NCAA 119.5, and then the NFPA 1192. So we it's been about 21 years now that we have had no changes. Okay, now, we are working on code that is that is specific for tiny arms. Okay. And the idea and the biggest thing that we want is to be able to make sure that people that have built up to this point will have a minimal amount of changes that will have to be made to comply with the new codes. I think that's one of the biggest things that we're going to have to take into consideration as we keep going on the standards development process. Right.
Ethan Waldman 18:45
So is that a standard that's going to be through through ANSI? Like a specific Tiny Home code?
Alex Ontiveros 18:52
As of right now, that is the idea. And that has been one of the main focuses of the Tiny Home Industry Association. Yes. And what?
Ethan Waldman 19:02
What's going to be different about that one, what's going to be different about the tiny home code versus you know, ANSI 119.5?
Alex Ontiveros 19:10
Well, one of the biggest complaints that we have on the on the RV code says that by definition, they say that these products are for temporary part time seasonal occupation. That is the biggest thing that we want removed out of there. We want to make sure that there's no limitation on how long people can live in. But obviously, we're gonna have to address some of the deficiencies on those codes, like the structural requirements, the installation requirements, quality of living in these units compared to what it would be in an RV. Right. That is that's about the biggest reason why we need something new. And it's a code for a completely new product. Yeah. RVs are generally expected to last somewhere around five years where our builders Tiny Home They're starting to building these units for 25 plus years.
Ethan Waldman 20:03
Right? I mean, you'd hope that because they're being built like traditional homes that they can last quite a bit longer than an RV.
Alex Ontiveros 20:11
Exactly, yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 20:16
How do sips builds fit in? Are they like, easy to certified sips panels? Or is it something that is not usually used in in the code?
Alex Ontiveros 20:29
You know, they are code, especially on on an RV certified unit, it doesn't really come into play that much. Okay, because, I mean, the diversity of materials that's there for building is just incredible sips units have the advantage that most that it's already structural. So it will provide a much higher level of rigidity. In some cases, depending on the construction. Of course, it just depends on the materials that you're using. Right. Okay. But we do have, we do have a couple customers that bill with tips. And they say that the advantages over traditional insulation, and the advantages over traditional construction far exceed the cost of what would be traditional structure with Spray Foam Insulation and all the additional. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 21:15
Okay. That sounds like it's less about. I mean, obviously, the home has to be structurally sound, but it sounds like it's more about the fire, grass, that kind of stuff.
Alex Ontiveros 21:29
Yep. And we can still meet all of those codes, even on a sips build. So it's not, I mean, I guess that's another thing about the code, they're flexible enough to where we can use those health printed materials, right, or the constraint.
Ethan Waldman 21:45
If you're building a tiny house, and you are using a maybe a set of plans that you bought, or something you designed, did they have to be stamped by you know, an engineer in order to, you know, get a certification?
Alex Ontiveros 22:03
Not in all jurisdictions, okay. The State of Washington does have a requirement that everything that gets sent to their Labor and Industries department has to have an engineering step four. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 22:16
But most other places don't. Okay, so the but then as the certifier, you have to look at those plans, and and kind of you know, essentially look at them and say, yes, if you build it this way, it will be structurally sound.
Alex Ontiveros 22:30
Correct. And we do have, like I said, because of our requirements for, for our accreditation, we do have to keep engineers on staff, and they will look at these plans and make sure that everything complies. And if not, you know, well, we'll definitely let the customer know that that changes need to be made.
Ethan Waldman 22:46
Right. Okay. Okay. Um, I feel like I'm getting into the weeds, but I'm just following this these, like, various building materials. One thing that, you know, people in tiny houses have started to do is to use advanced framing. And so, you know, rather than framing 16 inches on center, they're doing, you know, 24 inches on center, and then there are some different requirements for for headers and things. Have you seen, are you seeing builders using that, and then can that fit in with the code as well,
Alex Ontiveros 23:19
that can fit in, and there's actually already provisions made in the ANSI code for that. Okay. There's also provisions made for people that want to do metal framing rather than traditional wood framing, okay. And it really just depends on on what the customer is looking for. Most of the time, when we look at these is the product that they're using listed for the type of use that they wanted. And this goes for your framing for your installation for your appliances, appliances is a biggest one. But I mean, as long as it holds a proper listing that can be used for building an RV, we have no problem with them using it, they just need to show that that it's going to be equivalent to or greater than traditional construction.
Ethan Waldman 24:05
Right? Yeah, that's actually you just reminded me of something you just said. Sometimes, it's, well, it's not necessarily hard to find RV products, but sometimes the quality of the appliances is is lesser and so we end up going with residential appliances. But you know, I remember this is a long time ago when I was building my tiny house. I was looking at like a nice Rinnai forced air, you know, propane, or you know, heater and, you know, I called them and said like, hey, I want to put this in my tiny house and they're like, you can't because that's a movable structure. And these aren't, you know, this was this is almost 10 years ago. Okay. But they basically said, you know, these are first not for moving houses like they're not certified for a movable home.
Alex Ontiveros 24:58
Interesting. Yeah. funny that you mentioned every night now they do hold a listing that says it's okay to put them in mobile homes. Okay, so Rinnai is actually one of the ones that we've been recommending the most. And I have a lot of my builders love them. I mean, yeah, they it's been, it's been one of those products that are up there. And then you'll find some others that have very clear on the installation instructions, not for use on an RV mobile home or both. Right.
Ethan Waldman 25:27
And so if it says that, then you can't, you can't use it, we cannot approve those. Right, right. Okay.
Interesting. So, one thing that that I've heard from people, you know, wanting or needing later on, are like, is like a record, you know, of their inspections, the photos, the videos, do you keep the records, you know, for each tiny house from the manufacturer and DIY houses?
Alex Ontiveros 26:00
So for the manufacturer, it is the manufacturers responsibility to keep a permanent unit record, okay, for a forever, pretty much. And part of that is the liability, you have to know who did what and when it was done, for them to be, you know, protected. As far as as our DIY, so yes, we do keep a permanent record for all of them. And we can make it available on demand for for the customer. And then if a jurisdiction needs to see it, you know, we have to get permission from our customer in in writing, for us to release that.
Ethan Waldman 26:34
Right, right. And then I'm guessing the customer probably also has the opportunity to just download everything if they want to save it.
Alex Ontiveros 26:41
Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, Dropbox makes it easy to do that. Going forward with our new program, we can actually, let's say the best example I have is, let's say they build a home. But the jurisdiction, wherever they're going wants to see that the work was done properly, we can now give them access to the specific checks that they need for them to just go in and verify that everything was done to the actual requirement. Got it?
Ethan Waldman 27:12
So I know that the California is a very kind of hot place right now for ad use. So are there Pacific West certified tiny houses on wheels that have been approved as at use in California?
Alex Ontiveros 27:26
Well, here's the interesting thing. The State of California, the city of LA does not keep track, they don't make any. They don't have any different forms for a regular ADU, and the ones that are built on wheels. So as far as those numbers, we are not sure. Especially because most of that goes for the manufacturer. Okay, but we do know that the city of LA has been recommending our certification to builders and to the Okay, so we assume that there's been a few, but until they actually keep track of the of the numbers of tiny home ad use and write on foundation ad use. I really, unfortunately.
Ethan Waldman 28:07
Yeah, cuz once we're talking about on foundation ad use, then we're away from ANSI and NFPA. And we're just into residential code.
Alex Ontiveros 28:15
Correct. At that point, they would be under California Building.
Ethan Waldman 28:18
Right. And so they're the building inspector in whatever town that they live in is the is kind of that you're going to be the certifier. Exactly. Okay. Okay. I'm curious. You know, I feel like I've been firing questions at you, and I appreciate your you've got great answers. And just you're very knowledgeable. What, you know, what are some misconceptions? Or what are some things that you wish people would ask you that they don't ask you?
Alex Ontiveros 28:48
Honestly, my wishes that they would ask me everything else are building? Yeah, of course, time constraints are going to make that difficult. But yeah, the biggest thing that I have with my builders is that I would much rather have them ask me a question, send me a text message, send an email. Every time they have a question. It's not something that bothers me. I mean, it's not. And I tell them upfront, please, please. There's no stupid questions, right? Send it to me before you do something, because if you close that ball, and I need you to change a line, you are going to change the line, but you're not gonna like me very much. Right. So I guess another thing that I would wish is that we can make the the tiny home certification education a lot more. A lot more widespread. What we've been trying to do is educate people and you know, we've been in business to try to make sure that people are not hurting themselves or someone else where while they're building, right, oh, I mean, that's the thing. When means I love it. When people ask questions. It's when they don't that I start worrying about them. Okay,
Ethan Waldman 30:05
are there any you mentioned? Like people not getting hurt while they're building? Are there any standards, you know, in antsy or an FDA about the actual build site and safety there in order to be certified?
Alex Ontiveros 30:19
On the not on the NCR NFB a, that's completely up to OSHA and the locals. Okay. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 30:27
So I would imagine with DIY builders, you're getting a wide range of skill levels, you know, how much actual building help, can you provide? Like, you know, if somebody is like, you know, what's the proper way for me to, you know, attach this sheathing to my frame? Like are you getting? are you answering questions like that? Or do people need to kind of know how to build in order to work with you?
Alex Ontiveros 30:58
Well, so there's a lot of people that already have some exposure to what they're doing. Usually, when they don't, they will, they will hire the services of a contractor to get it done. Okay, we do get those questions. But then it also depends on the material that they're using, not everybody builds with a two by four, and then you get the people that want to build with a metal frame. So while we can point them in the right direction, and we'll we can point them in the, in the requirements. It's really not something that we get very commonly. Right. Okay. I want to
Ethan Waldman 31:39
move on to a couple other kind of building systems. And just, I'm curious, what are there any ventilation requirements in in either of the codes? Because I know that, you know, as we're building these, these little tight houses, the need for fresh air and ventilation becomes really, really important.
Alex Ontiveros 32:01
Yes, you know, the in this actually come up often, very often reasonably, there's a lot of people that do like the the Lunos systems and the air recirculation systems, there's no no actual written requirement to have them. I mean, it's really difficult to make a house hermetically seal on it. But we tell people that it's, it's really up to the place where they're going to be how much they're going to be occupying the house, it's not the same, we live in Wyoming during the winter, you're not going to open the window, right? You know, so you're going to have that system and it might be helpful, or, you know, you're going to move into a different structure and in the severe cold, and just have the home there. So, it it really varies customer to customer whether they want to happen or not. Got it. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 32:52
And then another system just moving on to kind of water. Are there any water? What does the code say about managing water in a in a tiny home, you know, about the plumbing about maybe storing water, storing gray water, that kind of stuff.
Alex Ontiveros 33:12
So the one of the this is one of the biggest misconceptions that you have to have gray and black water tanks. Okay, there's a lot of people that will build that don't need to have them because you know, they're gonna go in, they're gonna park it somewhere, and they already have access to the utility. So why add an extra step? Sure. As far as the freshwater, it's always a good idea to have a tank of freshwater. But again, it's not by any means required. There's people that are just going to connect to the fresh water and get their supply from them. Right. And then when you start getting into rain catching systems and things like that, that's mostly depending on where they're going to live. Okay, there's places in California that will not allow it, there's places in Colorado that will not allow it, and then there's some others that you have to
Ethan Waldman 33:55
Right. So it's not like, you're not going to run afoul of of ANSI by harvesting rainwater off your roof.
Alex Ontiveros 34:04
No, you might run afoul of the locals. Right. As far as the code. No, you
Ethan Waldman 34:10
got it. Got it. And so then when, you know, we've talked about ventilation, water, what about you know, in terms of the electrical like, do you have to have an electrician or can you know, can a DIY builder do their own wiring?
Alex Ontiveros 34:29
They can do their own wiring. However, there are testing requirements on the National Electric Code that 95% of people would have never heard about. Yeah, one of our tests is an electrical withstand test or it's also called a hypothesis. They have to run a current through their entire system, okay, and the machine to do that. This is not a test that is required in residential or commercial construction, but you do see it a lot on factory built housing. And even in military applications. So the average customer, I really do not expect them to spend 15 $100 to go buy a machine that they will use twice, right? So at that point, they will have to bring in an electrician, they will do a once over on the system and make sure that everything's okay, sign off on the work, performed the test. Got it, that gives us the assurance that if the test passed, and they didn't see any major, major issues, things were done the way that they were supposed to be. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 35:31
And are there any similar requirements in terms of plumbing? Like, is
Alex Ontiveros 35:35
there a stage where you're probably going to need to have a plumber come in and sign off on things that will really depend on the experience of the person doing the plumbing, okay, getting access to a to a compressor, is a lot easier than getting access to a high powered machine for the electrical. Okay. So generally, the tests that you do on the on the plumbing are not going to get anyone killed, they're going to get a bunch of stuff. Right. But the, the electrical test is more involved. So we do allow them to perform the work on the planning, and even the testing if they feel like they're comfortable with it. Okay. And that's something we remind everyone of, are you comfortable with what you're doing. If not, please get someone to double check your work, and then we'll triple check their work. Everything has to be signed off. And this is part of that permanent human record that I mentioned earlier, say, Mr. Jones goes, and he does the plumbing, but he doesn't feel comfortable hooking up a compressor to it to to pressurize the system, you know, then call a call a plumber, and they will do it for you. And they will sign off on the paperwork. And we're perfectly fine with that. Very cool.
Ethan Waldman 36:47
I'm curious, you know, right now, with the cost of building materials kind of skyrocketing. It's making building a tiny house or buying a tiny house quite a bit more expensive. course, it's also making buying any house, new construction, more expensive. But I'm curious, what do you see, you know, where do you see the tiny house movement in five years? Like, is it going to continue to explode? Or what what do you think?
Alex Ontiveros 37:16
I do think it will. I mean, seven years ago, when we started looking at the tiny home movement, you know, it really wasn't as widespread as it is today. And everybody thought, Oh, you know, it might pass and it might just be a thing of a couple of years. But looking at all of the issues that the tiny home industry can solve, and you know, the the need for additional housing, the need for cheaper housing, and the emergence of all of these jurisdictions wanting to use it as a solution. We really don't see us going away. Yeah, I mean, just for the end, these are just statistics based on our business, but the pandemic It was a boon for for these types of industries, both the RV, the tiny home and even the boat, boating industry. 2020 was probably the best year for a lot of our builders. And the reason for that is because everybody want them to distance each other from each other. Right? It drove people to buy more Tiny Homes buy more RVs. Right, some of our customers are sold out until 2023. Now, so Wow. It. Yeah, I don't think this is going away. And I think with a more widespread acceptance, especially in the bigger cities like LA and Fresno and San Diego. This just encourages other jurisdictions to be able to expand on it and start accepting it into their communities.
Ethan Waldman 38:50
Yeah. Do you have any any predictions for how the legalization will play out? Because it is so fragmented right now you've got like the effort to have states pass, you know, approve the the latest version of IRC so that Appendix Q is kind of Incorporated. And then you've got cities like LA, going the the RV certification route? Like, are we going to coalesce around one thing? Or is it going to continue to be kind of piecemeal?
Alex Ontiveros 39:24
I think that as soon as we have a code that is specific to movable Tiny Homes, that will bring a level of national acceptance towards it. In the meantime, you know, everybody has has their idea of how long you can live in an RV. Yeah, like, you know, here in Wyoming, you can live in them. Depending on the jurisdiction, they won't say anything or they will make you just like with the Tiny Homes, take it out of the park, go drive once around the block and bring it right back. Right. But but because everybody has a different idea, right? And then I think it's going to be just, you know, they'll accept it in a couple jurisdictions and some others won't. But, you know, through the efforts of people like Dan Fitzpatrick, the LATCH Collective, Mr. David Latimer, you know, all of these people talking to jurisdictions, Lindsey Wood, Alexis Stevens and Christian Parsons. I mean, they've been all of these people. And these are just the more the more prominent ones, I'm sure that there's people doing the same type of work all over the country, right. But these are the people that I work with on a nearly daily basis. And I know what they're doing. And I know that their efforts have not gone to waste or not in vain. They're, you know, that type of work is what is needed for more places to to accept this as a form of housing. But I really do think that as soon as we have a code that is specific for this, then it will just go nationwide. A lot. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 41:02
Yeah, that that makes sense. Just having something to advocate for that is specifically for this thing. Will will probably go a long way. Exactly.
Alex Ontiveros 41:16
And I mean, you can see all of these efforts, through the tiny home Industry Association mchem to have dimension I am a board member of these are the things that we're trying to bring into the communities. The acceptance of a code, any code at this point while we work on the other one. Yeah. And then, you know, promoting the work of people like Lindsay would like Dan Fitzpatrick, Alexis, Stephens. Yeah, all of these people are working towards the same goal. You know, we want to make sure that on our side on the actual building, building code side, we can reinforce our work as much as possible.
Ethan Waldman 41:51
Nice. And a note to our listeners, we have we have had all of those people, Lindsey Wood's been on twice, Alexis and Christian have been on and Dan Fitzpatrick has been on so we'll, we'll list those episode numbers in the show notes so people can listen to those conversations as well. Alex ontiveros, thank you so, so much, you're so generous with your knowledge, and just great at answering these questions. So thank you so much. Not a problem at all.
Alex Ontiveros 42:19
Thank you so much for having me. I guess we would like to encourage everyone if they have questions, please write in to us, please give us a call. My phone is a public domain at this point. Anything. Like I said, I come from a background of my from many different backgrounds, but the one that I enjoy the most is education. So anything that I can pass on to people, and again, make sure that they that they stay safe doing what they're doing and that they keep others safe. That's Yeah, that's what drew me into this industry. Okay. Anything I can do?
Ethan Waldman 42:51
Nice. And actually that I had one, one last question popped into my head. Is there like, any kind of waiting list to start the certification process? Or if someone's like, Hey, I'm starting my DIY build, like in two weeks? Can I you know, like, I
Alex Ontiveros 43:10
want to get on board or not. As of right now. We are, we are ready, willing and able to take any one of those. Okay,
Ethan Waldman 43:17
cool. Good. You know, well, you heard it from Alex himself. So anyone who's listening, you know where to find him. We'll we'll post a link. We're not going to put your phone number on the show notes. But we'll put a link to Pacific West in the show notes and people can invite your information there. Absolutely. All right. Thanks so much, Alex. Not a problem. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much to Alex Ontiveros for being a guest on the show this week. You can find the show notes including a full transcript from this episode, and links to Pacific West at thetinyhouse.net/162. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/162. Well, that's all for this week's show. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
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