University of St Andrews


Megan Carras

Photo of Megan Carras


Supervisor:  Dr Sharon Leahy


Research Title

‘Tiny house, big impact’: are tiny homes the cure for consumerism? Exploring the Tiny house movement in the United States


The primary objective of this PhD research is to assess the Tiny House movement in order to understand the extent to which this phenomenon represents a challenge to consumerism. The very act of avoiding consumption has in itself become revolutionary, with those advocating Tiny Houses (U.S.) as a challenge to contemporary consumerist society. This project will explore and explain the evolution of this movement to assess the extent to which small-space living is desirable, sustainable, and practicable. Ultimately, the aimof this project is to explore whether such a movement actually challenges mainstream ideas around sustainable housing and consumption.

The theoretical orientation for this PhD study will be rooted in transitions management (Loorbach, 2007; Meadowcroft, 2009), phenomenology (Schutz, 1967; Husserl, 1989; Moran, 2000), and social practice theory (Brauchler & Postill, 2010). Bringing these theories together is a particular novelty of this project, and will allow for a sophisticated understanding in sustainable housing, consumption and small-space living. The research will thus involve a three-phase ethnography to redress the lack of academic scholarship in the area of small-space living.

Given the apparent popularity of this movement and the lack of academic scholarship, there is considerable potential to generate significant impact. Aided by involvement with the Centre for Housing Research, where there is an established database of networks, findings can be disseminated to a wide audience with the potential to influence the work in policy and practice. In both the UK and the U.S., there are no existing policies which deal explicitly with small-space living, and given the preoccupation with issues of low carbon buildings and the Code for Sustainable Homes, it seems more important than ever to be intervening and informing these developments.  


I became a PhD student in September 2015 at the University of St Andrews, having received an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London (2014), an MA in Environmental Management from Harvard University (2012), and a BA in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia. Additionally, I have worked within the environmental field doing environmental outreach and education with several environmental NGOs. I currently hold a position on the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews.

  • MSc dissertation title: Optimising climate change communication efforts via social media campaigning utilising an environmental psychology approach (analysis of NGO social media campaigns including EDF,, and Sierra Club).
  • MA dissertation title: Corporate behavior and decision-making involved in the implementation of a corporate ecosystem valuation (CEV) resource.