Filmmakers bring tiny house documentary to Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Filmmakers bring tiny house documentary to Pittsburgh

click to enlarge A smiling man in a rain jacket stands in front of a tiny house and holes up a Massachusetts license plate that says "REUSE"
A screenshot from The Box Truck Film: Building A Reuseful Home
Fans of DIY and home makeover shows may recognize the name Derek "Deek" Diedricksen. The Massachusetts-based author and designer delighted viewers as the host of the HGTV show Tiny House Builders, and he has built a following as an expert in micro-structures like treehouses. He will continue to advocate for living small with the debut of The Box Truck Film: Building A Reuseful Home, a documentary he made with filmmaker Alex Eaves.

Diedricksen and Eaves will stop in Pittsburgh on Sat., Aug. 27 to host a screening of The Box Truck Film at Dormont's Hollywood Theater, along with a special event at Point Breeze nonprofit Construction Junction, which specializes in used and surplus building materials. According to a synopsis, the film chronicles the transformation of a 17-foot moving truck into a 98-square-foot tiny house and "mobile reuse education center." The house was built with "almost nothing but reused, repurposed, and dumpster-dived materials."

Watch the trailer below:

Eaves, a "reuse educator" and the owner of clothing brand Stay Vocal, says The Box Truck Film came about as he was traveling around the country doing speaking engagements for his first film, REUSE! Because You Can't Recycle The Planet.


"My vehicle at the time was a Pontiac Vibe and I was carrying my equipment, merchandise, and sometimes sleeping in it," Eaves tells Pittsburgh City Paper in an email. "At events, I would try to show people how I led a reuse lifestyle, but quickly realized that it would be much more impactful if I could show people in person how I lived with reuse in mind; from how I work to how I dress to how I sleep, et cetera."

While making REUSE!, Eaves says he connected with Diedricksen and the two began talking about the tiny house.

Eaves says the house was made with reclaimed, reused, and repurposed materials, starting with a converted U-Haul box truck.

"Everything from the floor to the insulation to the furniture to the nails were pre-owned," says Eaves, adding that the entire build took about nine months total.


Locals can see the house during the Reuse Box Truck Roadshow at Construction Junction, which will also include demonstrations from the Pittsburgh Glass Center, the Pennsylvania Resources Council, and other organizations, as well as food trucks and a mobile mocktail bar.

In an email, Construction Junction board member Mary Ann Bohrer says, "The whole reason for this event is to promote the value of reusing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills."

The tiny house movement has grown to prominence over the last decade and has been touted as a solution to combat a number of housing issues, including the environmental toll of construction and overdevelopment. It has gained attention thanks to reality television shows like Tiny House Builders, Tiny House Nation, and others.

However, the movement has seen its share of criticism, with experts saying the homes, which are often smaller than an average one-bedroom apartment, do little to actually address housing issues. A 2015 City Paper story called attention to how planned tiny houses in Pittsburgh, particularly in Garfield, went from being seen as a possible affordable housing solution to an exorbitant investment (one source said buyers were better off buying and renovating existing neglected properties).

Tiny house buyers have also reportedly abandoned their homes in search of larger dwellings, and because the structures are often not compliant with city building codes. For example, in 2016, a woman in West View could not find a place to park her mobile tiny house because zoning rules do not permit "homes on wheels," according to a TribLive story.


The backlash has apparently done little to faze Eaves, who still believes tiny houses are beneficial for a number of reasons.

"I would say, look at the housing crisis that is affecting so much of the U.S. right now," says Eaves. "Tiny houses are an affordable and effective solution to that problem. There are some fantastic tiny house communities across the U.S. proving it can be done. And when you're building those houses with reclaimed materials like we did, you're combating the problem of the materials shortage; not to mention also making a further positive impact on the planet."

The Reuse Box Truck Roadshow. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., Aug. 27. Construction Junction. 214 N. Lexington St., Homewood. Free. cjreuse.org/reuseboxtruckroadshow

The Box Truck Film: Building A Reuseful Home. 9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 27. Hollywood Theater. 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont. $10. hollywoodtheaterpgh.org

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