NOMAD makes off-grid capable tiny homes for the eco-conscious minimalist. Here’s what you need to know about the company.
UPDATE: According to a representative from Nomad, the original Micro Home that had a sloped roof is no longer produced; the stairs no longer go above the kitchen area and the loft ceiling is flat and 48″ high. With respect to usable area, the loft is 120 square feet, and can accommodate a queen-size bed with side tables and closet areas, so not that small. The entire unit is 300 square feet.
As always, it’s best to reach out to the company directly to discuss design specifics. Models and materials are regularly updated, so while we strive to be as accurate as we can at the time of writing, things change fast!
What makes NOMAD Micro Homes green?
NOMAD Micro Homes have a smaller footprint than most homes and offer off-grid features such as rainwater collection, solar energy, and grey water treatment systems.
The NOMAD homes can work with municipal sewer, septic field, or composting toiler set-ups, or you can opt for the NOMAD H20 treatment system to be fully off-grid. This system is government approved in some places in Canada and the U.S., allowing you to drain grey and black water directly into a natural watercourse or sandpit. They also offer a water purification system and have several options for renewable energy generation and back-up batteries and generators (propane powered, unfortunately).
They also offer triple glazing as an optional upgrade, and the homes are built with a 3D-printed steel frame, engineered wood panel, pre-finished flashing and roof fascia. The designs include Ikea cabinetry as standard, have stainless steel and fiberglass sinks, a fiberglass shower base, and LED lighting.
These homes have R23 insulation in the walls and R28 insulation in the floors and roof, although they don’t specify what kind of insulation is used in the panels (I’ve reached out to them with questions about material specifications and am awaiting a response). They do note, however, that the outer insulated panel system is a continuous layer of insulation, with thermal bridging eliminated between the exterior and interior (this can be a problem with steel frame homes).
While the NOMAD cubes appear very straightforward, don’t let this deceive you. There’s a reason why they cost a lot less than a conventional home.
You’ll need to figure out quite a few things yourself, including your foundation, interior wall finishes, roofing membrane, appliances, shower door or curtain, loft access (to make the home code complaint, potentially), electrical service and plumbing hookups and hot water system. The homes are designed to work as an accessory dwelling unit sharing hot water and such with a nearby home, or as independent homes that are self-sufficient. Kitchen cabinetry is such that your Cube can accommodate a full-height 24″-wide fridge, stove, and range hood vent. There is also a wall-mounted exhaust fan in the bathroom, but you’ll need to figure out your own ERV/HRV.
These homes are designed to rest on five cast-in-place concrete piers, or screw piles, but you can also use a conventional foundation such as a slab, stone, treated timber or concrete foundation. You’ll need to determine the relevant building permit codes and such before committing to one of these models as NOMAD don’t offer help with that. After you’ve paid a deposit, NOMAD can provide the drawings and such you’ll need for a permit application.
Some other downsides are pretty obvious. The stairs up to the loft space might look lovely but they’re likely impractical for anyone who isn’t quite spry and steady on their feet. And, speaking of feet, as the stairs are open and rise over the top of the food prep area, you’ll need to be really on top of your housekeeping. Up in the loft space, space is at a premium, so taller folks may not be able to stand up
What else is great about NOMAD Micro Homes?
Once you’ve committed to purchasing a NOMAD, the process is alarmingly simple. You can order your components with just a few clicks, fill out a purchase agreement form and pay via PayPal or other method online. You then have the option of getting your cube shipped to you on semi-trailers, flat-bed truck, or in shipping containers, or heading to the warehouse in Vancouver, BC, to pick up your home yourself. You can get your cube shipped overseas too if required, and the micro home can be assembled within days.
Each cube weighs around 5,000 lbs, and the homes can be unscrewed, stacked, moved, and reassembled, making them a great option if you think you might need to relocate at a later date.
The NOMAD Cube has an optional exterior deck that wraps around two sides of the home. This can be fitted out with storage lockers (which you’ll probably need, let’s be honest), and with sun shades to help reduce cooling costs if your home is south facing and not shielded in another way.
Both the Micro and the Cube designs from NOMAD Micro Homes offer DIY assembly and incorporate living area, kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area with a closet in a functional, light, flat-pack kit that can be shipped anywhere in the world. All you need is a drill, two adults, and a decent level of DIY know-how. The base model costs just $25,000, with optional add-ons to make your NOMAD off-grid ready.
You can choose a standard NOMAD design or work with the company to create a modular design of your own. The NOMAD Connect system (each Connect costs about $4,500) means you can pretty easily add a bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom module as needed.
The NOMAD Grid-Tie option includes a solar mount system with four 280 Watt mono solar panels, micro inverters to tie into the power grid, an A/C cable, and end cap, and costs $3,500. The fully off-grid add-on option costs $25,000 and includes solar panels and a propane generator. There’s also a back-up option costing $7,500 which includes a 4.0 kW inverter/charger power panel, battery cable set, and 24VDC, 220AH, AGM battery bank.
The NOMAD designs have smart interiors that make the most of the limited space, fitting a bed beneath a slanted roof for instance, and running the stairs above the kitchen sink (though this isn’t without problems). The bathroom even squeezes in a shower, and storage units act as seating.
NOMAD Micro Homes are the brainchild of Ian Lorne Kent. Kent has more than 35 years of experience designing family and commercial developments and his dream for NOMAD was to design a home with a small footprint that also felt airy, open, and efficient. Lead Product Developer, Nolan March, is a Certified Inter-Provincial Red Seal Carpenter with over 11 years of experience. What isn’t clear is whether anyone at the company has significant experience with green building practices.
All in all, NOMAD look like a pretty decent option for a basic tiny home you can quickly put together yourself in your backyard or on a rural lot and make fully off-grid. The ‘build-it-yourself’ design means it’s quite a bit cheaper than other tiny homes.
I’d also be quite wary of using this type of model to make a larger prefabricated home. Prefab homes that are designed specifically as larger spaces (such as those from Unity Homes, Living Homes, Deltec, and Mandala Homes) are typically more energy efficient and make more efficient use of materials.