Tiny House with Big Ideas

Dec 17, 2010, 12:35 ET from Green Mountain College

POULTNEY, Vt., Dec. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nineteen Green Mountain College students in assistant environmental studies professor Lucas Brown's design & build course unveiled a semester long-project Monday: a "tiny house" of their own design. The 8-foot by 12-foot house was built almost entirely from reclaimed materials and cost only $1927 to build. The final cost was just a few dollars over the class budget, funded by a $100 per student course fee.

"The $20 per square foot cost is pretty low compared to the $80-$200 per square foot cost of new construction," said senior Todd Sirak of Poultney.

The class expects to recoup its investment by selling the house in the spring. By then, the moveable structure will be equipped with a solar powered electrical system. Another design & build course next semester, which will be taught by GMC alumnus Khanti Munro of Solar Energy International, will focus on photovoltaics.

Brown points out that dabbling in real estate is peripheral to the real purpose of the project. The tiny house represents an excellent learning opportunity for students in the College's REED (Renewable Energy and EcoDesign) certificate program, open to Green Mountain College undergraduates in any academic major. "Excessive energy use and consumption of resources are prompting builders and architects to reexamine the whole built environment," he said. "This program is designed to help students get hands-on experience exploring the renewable energy and green building fields."

REED certification at Green Mountain requires enrollment in a 22-credit program students can complete along with their major program of study within four years.

Students collaborated on the tiny house design, visiting the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vt. for inspiration and ideas. Based on interviews with mock clients, student teams developed several designs. Through class discussion a consensus emerged on the final design—a rectangular building with one low corner that creates a curved roof. Rainwater running off the lower corner can be collected in a water catchment system, and used for domestic purposes. Inside, the sense of spaciousness is enhanced by a sloped back wall. A loft, furnishings and lighting fixtures were also designed and constructed by students. Two-inch blueboard was used for insulation, augmented by locally collected sheep wool added in the window casings. Construction began on Oct. 18 and was completed last week.

During the design and construction process, students adhered to sustainable building practices including use of reclaimed materials whenever possible. Some of the lumber and windows came from Re-New Building Materials and Salvage in Brattleboro, Vt. The threshold to the front door is slate from a local quarry. The door and windows were also recycled.

"This keeps perfectly good construction materials out of the waste stream," said senior Brandy Bunkley from Wall, N.J.

When students needed to purchase new products like hardware and metal roofing, they bought from local building supply companies.

"The sustainability aspects definitely carry over in supporting local business," said junior Jake Robinson of Newfield, N.J., who will be taking the photovoltaic course next semester. "I'm excited to see the final project when the house is off grid."

SOURCE Green Mountain College