A Stanford graduate spent $68,000 building an off-the-grid tiny house in the Malaysian jungle. Look how she did it.

The tiny house offers a panoramic view over the Malaysian jungle.

The tiny house offers a panoramic view over the Malaysian jungle.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

  • A Stanford graduate moved to the outskirts of Malaysia’s capital and built a tiny house in three weeks.

  • Atiqah Nadiah Zailani, the homeowner, spent about $68,000 building the house.

  • Atiqah relied on friends, volunteers and professionals to complete the construction.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani grew up in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur. In Malaysia’s capital, most people live in high-rise buildings, bungalows or traditional houses – but Atiqah found herself dreaming of a very different lifestyle.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani, a Malaysian who graduated from Stanford's undergraduate and graduate programs.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani, a Malaysian who graduated from Stanford’s undergraduate and graduate programs.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah said she was inspired by the Western camping culture and the tiny home movement

But building a tiny house in Malaysia is not easy.

“It’s not a very popular concept,” said Atiqah, who… graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Stanford University in 2009, Insider told. “I was interested if it was possible to have a self-sufficient house in the Malaysian context,” she added.

In July 2016, Atiqah purchased 43,000 square meters of land in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. And in September 2017, she gathered a dozen of her friends and started building the house.

With a budget of 300,000 Malaysian ringgit (about $68,000), Atiqah decided she would build a small 49-square-meter loft-style house with a balcony. Insider viewed a detailed breakdown of Atiqah’s budget statement for the project.

From the very beginning, Atiqah faced a series of obstacles, including time constraints and lack of construction experience.

Steel beams for the tiny house.

Steel beams for the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Because Atiqah works as an advisor to governments, she often flies in and out of Malaysia. This meant she had only three weeks between work assignments to build the house.

Complicating the situation further was the fact that the small house movement in Malaysia is on the rise.

“In America, tools are easily accessible. You go to Home Depot and it will be there,” she said. “But in Malaysia, the market isn’t quite suitable for self-sufficient homes, so I had to work a little harder to find the right products.”

Luckily she came epic housea Malaysian organization that trains people in building houses.

Construction began with pile driving to reinforce the jungle soil that forms the foundation of her home. It took two dozen volunteers to erect the scaffolding.

The early stages of the construction of the tiny house.

The early stages of the construction of the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah’s house was built on top of a hill, making it difficult to transport materials and dangerous to build a three-story scaffolding.

“I’ve watched a million YouTube videos of other people’s tiny houses and the truth is that the house is defined by the land you put it on,” Atiqah said. “We built it on a sloped hill, which needs more structure and a solid foundation to sit safely.”

Atiqah called for more volunteers. About 30 people showed up to reinforce the structure, which was a mix of steel beams and wood. Atiqah said the materials were “very expensive” costing 16,800 and 15,300 Malaysian ringgit ($3,800 and $3,400), respectively.

The materials were sawn and lifted up by ladders to form the outer shell of the house.

The beams of the tiny house.

The beams of the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The beams were installed in less than a day.

“I think you don’t know how heavy construction work is until you actually have to do it,” Atiqah said. “I have a whole new appreciation for construction workers — it takes so much energy, strength and stamina.”

Atiqah turned to professional builders to get the roof beams up.

Part of the exterior has been completed.

Part of the exterior has been completed.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The professional fees, including the design, construction and management of the project, amounted to 18,800 Malaysian ringgit ($4,200).

The wall panels were ready the next day.

Some friends who helped build the tiny house.

Some friends who helped build the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The wall panels are made of steel and wood. But each material had its own challenge – the wooden planks broke easily when cut and the cutting blade barely touched the steel.

The floorboards were handled and nailed together with the help of professionals.

Volunteers helped her put together the facade of the house.

The front of the tiny house.

The front of the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The sloping roof made working on the gabled facades complicated.

“It was the first time I put together things bigger than a small box,” Atiqah said. “I think everything was new and challenging for me.”

After Atiqah and her team installed window frames and gutter, reinforced the walls and cleaned the veranda, most of the construction was completed.

Atiqah said installing solar panels was easy compared to the rest of the house’s construction.

Solar panels on the roof.

Solar panels on the roof.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah worked with Solar NRJ, an engineering company engaged in installing and maintaining solar panels, to obtain the materials. She said that while it was difficult to buy parts to make a solar-powered electrical system for her home, putting the system together was a breeze.

“It was just a matter of generating power when the sun is out and storing it when it’s most needed at night,” she said. “The challenge was to find really good batteries. I resorted to using those clunky batteries similar to the ones in your car.”

Atiqah equipped the house with an off-grid rainwater harvesting system.

Meraki House, a small house just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Meraki House, a small house just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The system for installing a water collection system was simple, Atiqah said, and consisted of five parts: the gutter, water tank, water pump, filtration and faucet.

“Rainwater harvesting parts are not really available in Malaysia,” she said. “I had to do a lot of research to find one. But they are not very expensive to hang.”

One of the most striking features of Atiqah’s house is the high glass windows.

The tiny house offers a panoramic view over the Malaysian jungle.

The tiny house offers a panoramic view over the Malaysian jungle.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The glass windows cost a total of 13,200 ringgit from Malaysia (nearly $3,000).

“That’s where I splurged,” Atiqah said. “I knew I wanted floor-to-ceiling glass windows because I appreciate those things, but for someone else they could make it really cheap if it was concrete instead of glass.”

Her favorite part of the house is the balcony, which offers a view of the Malaysian jungle.

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah said the tropical weather left her no choice but to build the house on the south, to avoid facing the sun.

But the decision came with some unexpected benefits.

“The view is great because it’s quite remote,” Atiqah said. “We have one of the darkest skies in Malaysia, so we get an amazing starry sky. And my friends and I sat out on the balcony and watched the stars.”

Atiqah is busy furnishing the house – it is still sparsely furnished, with few appliances.

The interior of the small house.

The interior of the small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Because she travels a lot, Atiqah said that designing and furnishing the interior takes time.

“I was looking for a compost toilet and because I wanted a nice one, I had to get it from abroad,” she said.

She hired professionals to fix up the house’s plumbing, electrical wiring, and pest control.

Atiqah said that while tiny houses are still not mainstream in Malaysia, some local residents have reached out to her in hopes of building their own tiny houses.

The living room in the tiny house.

The living room in the tiny house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

While news reports of small homeowners in Malaysia have surfaced over the years, Atiqah said they are “very few in number”.

“There is some interest, but it is small,” she said. “There are people who are really interested, but not in the same way as in America, Australia or even New Zealand.”

Atiqah said the house has some imperfections due to her lack of experience, but it was all worth it.

Inside the little house.

Inside the little house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

“I wanted me and my friends to each have a hand in it,” she said. “So I know who built that wall, and it’s a little skewed — but it’s great.”

Read the original article Insider

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