News Home & Design These Digitally Fabricated Tiny Homes Take Just Weeks to Build Atomic Tiny Homes' innovative tech balances creativity with efficiency. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published July 21, 2023 09:49AM EDT Tiny House Expedition News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Once upon a time, tiny houses as we know them were mainly rustic, do-it-yourself affairs that were mostly cobbled together by their owners. But the tiny house movement and tiny house building industry have evolved and matured significantly since those early years, and now we have a dizzying range of diversity, from low-budget, handcrafted little dwellings made with salvaged materials to tiny smarthomes and other high-end deluxe builds with sticker prices to match. But this isn't all superfluous stuff to artificially jack up prices; some of these new developments in the burgeoning tiny living industry are actually quite interesting. Case in point is the story behind Pennsylvania-based Atomic Tiny Homes, a company launched by sibling duo Daniel McPhillips and Chloe Rich back at the start of the pandemic. Prior to 2020, the pair were doing large-scale scenery for live entertainment events. However, that all changed with the ensuing pandemic-related lockdowns, and the two and their team of professionals had to pivot quickly to find other opportunities. Fortunately, the pair were able to translate their skill set from the live entertainment industry into optimizing the construction process behind tiny houses, using computer-aided fabrication tools. Instead of months, Atomic can deliver a finished tiny house within weeks. We get a glimpse of just how the process works via Tiny House Expedition: As Chloe explains, the use of computer-aided design and digital fabrication tools makes their approach more efficient: "What's interesting about the way we build is that it's not a typical home build. We've taken a lot of the technology that we've used on the live event side, and brought that into home building. And while we are building to the ANSI 119.5 standards, it's going above and beyond that in a lot of places. We're bringing a lot of new ways of connecting pieces within the home; we're building everything off of our CNC machine. Everything gets cut on a CNC machine and it is then connected together—sort of like puzzle pieces, and we're able to get really tight tolerances, whereas you couldn't do that in another way of building the home." Tiny House Expedition According to their team, about 80% of the materials of their tiny homes—from the wall panels, and decking to the ZIP System Insulated R-sheathing boards—are cut using a CNC machine. CNC stands for computer numerical control. These machines are controlled by a computer and afford efficiency, accuracy, and consistency unlike one could achieve with manual processes. Tiny House Expedition Even the studs are cut using the CNC machine, complete with integrated openings for running electrical wires, and they are made with thick plywood, which allows them to have tighter tolerances than conventional stick-framing with dimensional lumber. All the parts are labeled and organized on the shop floor, ready for assembly. This approach means less construction waste and reduced assembly time from months to only five weeks or so. Tiny House Expedition. What's also interesting is that Atomic has partnered with tiny house advocate and entrepreneur Abby Shank. Shank is also the CEO of Tiny Estates, a Pennsylvania-based tiny house community that rents lots to tiny homeowners and also offers short-term rentals and an inventory of models available for sale. As Daniel recounts, a few years ago, the Atomic team went to visit Tiny Estates to get a feel of what building tiny houses might entail, with Abby eventually convincing them to come on board: "We decided to build ten together with [Abby Shank], which was the first ten that we built last year to get us going as starting inventory. Then we started getting some clients in, and we just found very quickly that the technology and the building practices that we've been using on live entertainment [projects]—utilizing CNC, utilizing plywood, very high tolerances—translated over to tiny living really, really well, because you are being very specific about the space, and found that we could do it very efficiently. The timelines that we heard about over and over again—that it's too long to wait for a tiny house—[made us think] how could we build a product that we could [deliver] in six weeks. And that we could scale up and then it started getting really exciting." Tiny House Expedition Atomic can either design a custom build, or one can buy a pre-built model via their dealer, Endeavor, which now has an inventory of homes that are move-in ready. To get an idea of what they might look like on the inside, take a look at this 40-foot long, 3-bedroom tiny house with an all-metal exterior. Tiny House Expedition The interior of the approximately 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) space is nicely done; here we see the entry and the staircase with integrated storage. Tiny House Expedition The main bedroom is to the left, and has two large closets near the pocket door, as well as lots of storage all around the bed. Tiny House Expedition The kitchen is compact, but has enough space to cook meals and store food. Tiny House Expedition Here is the bathroom. Tiny House Expedition The living room is next, with the loft situated overhead. Tiny House Expedition At the other end of the house, we have the other ground-floor bedroom, lit with lots of windows. This room can also be transformed into a home office or guest room by eliminating one of the windows and installing a Murphy bed. Tiny House Expedition According to the company, the starting price for one of their tiny homes is $104,000—though they are working now on another more affordable model. It is indeed an exciting convergence of digital fabrication with tiny house charm; to find out more, visit Atomic Tiny Homes, Endeavor, and Tiny Estates.