Think big, live small

David Wallach wants future homeowners to think small ... small as in a dwelling less than 600 square feet that is designed with the modern conveniences of a much larger home.

He hopes municipal governments and builders change their conception that a house has to be bigger than 600 square feet. If that happens, more affordable tiny homes could be built in communities.

Operating out of a small factory at 6320 20th Ave., Wallach, a builder and CEO of Big Dog Tiny Home, builds tiny houses on wheels that can be 420 square feet or slightly smaller.

The houses feature custom-built cabinetry, loft bedrooms, kitchens with full-sized appliances and an efficient bathroom with shower. They also have dual purpose features — for example, a kitchen cabinet can double as a staircase to a loft bedroom.

Wallach said all of the appliances and material are from local companies.

Wally Walls

The tiny houses are built with light, but strong walls made from light gauge steel panels containing graphite-infused expanded polystyrene made by Wally Walls, Wallach’s manufacturing company located in Kenosha’s Uptown neighborhood.

Wally Walls are insulated panels that can be installed in structures without the use of cranes and can help builders reduce their construction schedule and building costs.

Wally Walls are already used in some commercial and multi-family housing units in Chicago and other areas, Wallach said.

“The walls are stronger than conventional framing and have a load strength that is twice that of a stud,” he said. He said the walls exceed the new International Residential Code.

While he is marketing Wally Walls to architects, engineers and developers, he foresees Big Dog Tiny Homes, a relatively new venture, to be a growing business. Wallach has already begun talks with the city of Chicago and Kenosha to produce housing and commercial structures with the Wally Walls.

Practical housing

Wallach believes tiny homes are a practical response to soaring housing costs and could be the right dwelling for downsizing baby boomers, millennials who do not need much space and even for communities to provide housing for the homeless.

His dream is to some day build a community of tiny houses. Wallach began creating Wally Walls in June 2016. Shortly afterward he came up with the plan to build the tiny houses.

On Wednesday, workers were putting finishing interior touches to one ready to ship to a Google employee in California.

Next up for the construction crew is a house that has already been sold to someone in Illinois.

Prices for some units can start at $45,000 to construct.

Wallach said the homes are not to be confused with mobile homes, manufactured housing or recreational vehicles.

He said the homes are better built and more energy efficient because the walls, with their graphite filling, are better insulated, thereby reducing heating and cooling costs.

They are healthier too, he said, because mold does not grow on the steel or the filling.

John Nunan