February 20, 2024

It didn’t exist yet, but there was reason to believe it would work. Everyone was in lockdown to stop the pandemic. Most of them without a balcony, terrace or field. Until then, TINI was just an idea; a graphic representation of prefabricated houses on a web page that had three heads: the architects Pilar Cano-Lasso and Ignacio de la Vega, and the consultant Ricardo de Zulueta. Enough to appear in all architecture publications and consolidate itself as an optimized alternative —in time, space and processes— to traditional construction.

They started thinking about it in 2018. At first, their dream house was going to have wheels; It would be smaller and focused on country tourism, but with amenities. Today, offices for the garden, painting studios, guest houses, cellars and first and second homes come out of the Plasencia warehouse where the modules are manufactured. With the sound of a saw as background music, the couple of architects tells how they are made and where they will go. They are all built with local materials and only take 60 days to be ready.

The biggest project they’ve ever faced is being put together on another ship. There appears the skeleton of the Menorca house, a 300-square-meter project commissioned by an architect for which they are building 10 modules that will be mounted staggered on a rock. Another much smaller project, with its interior made of compact branches, rests on a piece of land north of Madrid to be installed in Mundaka (Bizkaia).

A TINI module in its warehouse in Plasencia (Cáceres).
A TINI module in its warehouse in Plasencia (Cáceres).Juan Millas

The objective is that they are personalized houses, that replace self-promotion and where the process and the final price are more controlled. TINI starts with two standard models of 23 square meters (from 44,600 euros) and 34 (from 51,900). From there, they combine them to build larger spaces. “We have the system. And we adapt to whatever, aesthetically and functionally”, explains Ignacio de la Vega. This customization also implies the assumption of the regulations of the region, which changes according to the autonomous community: in the north, the roof has to be inclined; in Menorca, the finish must be white.

Because there are not only aesthetic differences depending on the environment; also in terms of permits. According to Ricardo de Zulueta, “the current construction is going to disappear. There are many things in the process that don’t make sense, ”he says, referring to the bureaucratic entanglements. “We want to integrate the product and the services related to it. Making a very simple process for the end customer”. It is about reducing to zero the process involved in building your home, which involves looking for a plot, requesting permits, finding an architect, supervising the design, finding a builder and a surveyor. “Buying a house is so difficult that people choose to buy a flat.”

They speak from experience. The three partners are thirty-somethings. The couple of architects from TINI have bought a plot to build their own project. “With what this house and the land cost, in Madrid you only buy a small apartment, with a poor quality of life,” says De la Vega. “It’s a problem for young people, because you don’t have the means to buy,” adds Cano.

His bet aims to solve that problem. That of people between 30 and 40 years old who are looking for housing on the outskirts of the city. “There we have a very important gap. Helping this type of client is our responsibility”, says De Zulueta.

One of TINI's pilot projects located in the north of Madrid.
One of TINI’s pilot projects located in the north of Madrid. Juan Millas

Pilar Pascual is 57 years old, was born in Santander and grew up in Aranda de Duero. The TINI house that she owns on a plot in Barajas de Melo (Cuenca) is her refuge in the middle of nature. Her module is self-sufficient and is powered by solar panels.

All TINI operating machinery has the philosophy of minimal impact on the natural environment. “Something that is closely linked to the manufacture and size of the homes. Having a super-studied process makes you consume and waste less”, explains the architect. The structure is optimized to be as light as possible. “Not only for transportation, but to use as little material as possible in the construction,” adds her partner. These architects insulate the houses with only 16 centimeters of five materials, one of them used in cold rooms. On the contrary, De la Vega mentions and criticizes the excessive constructions complemented with energy efficiency techniques. “It’s doing something very unecological and putting everything into it and then trying to neutralize it,” she explains.

“There has to be a reflection on the amount of space necessary to live; our consumption of resources has to decrease”, settles the architect. The philosophy of the company fits with its public. This way of life pushed Pilar Pascual to invest in this type of construction. “With much less we can be happy. All you need is a bathroom, a good bed, a kitchen and two closets”, says this client, who is in a stage of discovery. “I have spent my first 50 years accumulating things. The next 50 I want to get rid of all that, that’s my goal. And this is proof that it can be done”.

Stacked beams with which the structures of TINI prefabricated houses are built.
Stacked beams with which the structures of TINI prefabricated houses are built. Juan Millas

Sustainability, green and ecological things began to be distorted a long time ago by the excesses of marketing towards the most aware public. “People forget the basics. Everything sustainable was already invented, but it has gone to sophisticated technologies when there is nothing more sustainable than having a tree that provides shade in summer and lets the sun’s rays through in winter”, he recalls.

During the talk in a small office on one of their ships, the three partners recall the path they have taken. Since the delivery of the first project, they have installed 13, representing a total of 40 modules. The first year they created a single installation worth about 70,000 euros. Its goal this year is to close with sales of four million euros. “Sometimes we don’t believe it,” admits De Zulueta, who remembers his beginnings just before confinement. “We didn’t have a penny.” They set up the company with 3,000 euros. Now they have just closed their first two facilities abroad: in Sweden and Switzerland.

The context is very favorable. The covid has valued the natural environment, space and teleworking. “Traditional construction technologies have been developed, but no one has redefined what construction is. No one has started from scratch to find a more efficient process”, sums up the consultant. They Yes.

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