There is certainly no doubt that a governing body of building standards is needed in the tiny house industry. Since the modern tiny house movement began there has been a marked presence of DIYers that at first was endearing but later became an impediment. Because the mass of the movement was from a do-it-yourself perspective, there was an overwhelming concern by politicians and citizens alike. Even the RV industry took notice. Who was regulating these builds and what made them safe enough to be on the road or even parked next door to your house? A certification was needed; a certification that was attainable and relevant to the modern tiny house movement. Since the start of 2016 the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH, for short) has been trying to do just that.
While there is no real ABOUT section on the organizations website there is a brief one offered on the Tiny House Community website. It can be paraphrased to communicate this:
Started by Floridians Andrew Bennett of Trekker Trailers and Robin Forrest Butler of Sherwood in the Forrest and Tiny House of Hope, NOAH was built from the ashes of an earlier set of standards assembled by the Tiny House Community and the Tiny House Alliance. Simultaneously, the Tiny House Foundation, started by Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life, but no longer active, undertook a similar effort over the course of two years but without publication success. The standards developed by the Tiny House Alliance were later modified and adopted by the American Tiny House Association. However, there were disagreements from two different groups (those who wanted no standards and those who wanted to follow the RVIA), and the certification program was changed to simple Guidelines.
This poses the first question. Why is the only historical information about NOAH being displayed on a website run by the person whose standards were mitigated in an effort to create new standards? Is there a connection?
Again, there is no doubt that without national standards, tiny houses are a large unknown to municipalities, zoning directors, insurance agencies, RV park owners, community planners, etc. But what NOAH seems to be lacking at this point is an actual authority. Both the RVIA and ANSI are existing bodies that, while not fully recognizing tiny houses on wheels, do have an ongoing dialogue about them and have standards that cover them. But the first red flag from NOAH comes in the form of a YouTube video wherein one of the founders of NOAH (and host of the video) proudly mentions “we’re not throwing this out for the government to control us…we’re self-regulating”. What does that mean? “We’re self-regulating.” If there is no one to monitor the standards and be accountable for them, then couldn’t anyone come up with a certification?
NOAH certification – by their own admission – is a standard. The definition of standard is “an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations”. Who then decides who on the NOAH team is qualified to become the measure, the norm? NOAH is neither recognized by government agencies nor insurance agencies and according to their website has no formal training or continued requirements for its inspectors. Wouldn’t a true standard be a sort of flexible in that it would adjust according to the state of the industry through time?
- No real Director of NOAH
- Not a governmental recognized certification board
- Video inspections
Just a low level investigation of the group seems to suspicious and that doesn’t even begin to cover the other issues brought up in one recent Facebook thread: proof of liability insurance, public records due to non-profit status, resolve of who is in charge, etc. This poses the second question:
Who is running this tiny Ponzi scheme?
It’s current membership boasts 15 professional builders and advocates in 18 states but has not been able to be recognized by anyone other than their own body. The key point of NOAH though is that it welcomes both professional builders and DIYers alike, holding their build up to a microscope for safety and integrity. The most recognized certification body in the tiny house world right now – The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association – does not acknowledge DIYers. There is a reason for this. RVIA is a historically and governmentally recognized national trade association that is comprised of people who collectively manufacture 98% of the RVs available today. They don’t recognize the backyard builder because there are too many unknowns in the build process to insure the integrity of the home. If you are building your own tiny house or living in a non-RVIA certified one then you are greatly limiting yourself in regards to financing, insurance, DMV registration and future parking options. It is completely ridiculous to compare what NOAH is representing to what RVIA does, at this point.
Says Bennett on his YouTube video NOAH Certified Tiny House Program, (:36 seconds), “…what it is is an inspection program for tiny house builders and even DIYers” so their home can be safe and certifiable. Again, that is the crux. Other than the NOAH inspectors themselves (whom are not named on the website or identified in any way) there is no one truly recognizing the NOAH certification. “NOAH inspects each Tiny House on Wheels at specific phases of construction for compliance to the NOAH Standard, utilizing a proprietary inspection system.” One has to ask what the proprietary inspection system is and how does it help the tiny houser in his pursuit of integrity, insurability, and longevity? In fact, the NOAH website identifies that:
- NOAH Certification is not an unconditional approval of a Tiny House on Wheels builder, their product line(s) or particular model(s), manufacturing processes, business practices…
- NOAH is not a government agency or agent.
- NOAH Certification does not guarantee lending approval, insurance coverage or placement of Tiny Houses on Wheels.
So without truly defining their certification body the NOAH team discredits themselves and their actual certification ability. Yes, you can pay them money to be a member. Yes, they are a true non-profit (which is another topic altogether). Yes, they can look at your tiny house. But anyone can. That is the problem. Anyone can create a non-profit, build a website, ask people to join, and then say they are redefining an already accepted system.
The jury is out on this case. NOAH seems to have strong foundations and certainly its heart is in the right place. However, it is lacking true authority and at this time there seems to be no plan in place or rather no identifiable plan as to having the NOAH standards adopted by anyone other than bits of the tiny house community.
What do you think? Have you worked with NOAH in the past? Is your tiny home NOAH certified? Do you think it is a valuable resource for the tiny house community?