Tiny houses are the newest internet trend reflecting the growing desire for people to live a smaller, more simple life. They’re designed to be more environmentally friendly by reducing the excessive resource consumption we’ve all grown accustomed to.

One of the leaders in this movement is Jay Shafer, the founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, that provides pre-fabricated homes and building plans for tiny houses. These tiny homes range anywhere from 65 to 837 total square feet. This is where Northwestern Tiny House team got the idea to build a fully functional and completely independent home that’s less than 130 square feet in total.

Their goal was to improve upon the Tumbleweed design by incorporating the efficient use of space with new innovations with the materials used to build it, the electricity, and plumbing. Solar panels, water tanks, and rainwater catchment systems were all put in place in improve the overall living situation in the home as well as the impact on the environment it would make.

“We designed the house with the motto that the greenest square foot is the one you don’t build,” said Kaycee Overcash, a recent graduate of Northwestern University and co-project manager of the Tiny House Project.


Production Process

The Northwestern Tiny House began as a simple class project for DSGN 298-398 now called DSGN 384-1,2. The first step was to help the students understand the project’s scope by defining exactly what constituted a “tiny” house and then deciding what improvements each team member could bring to the tiny house movement.

The tiny house team eventually decided to build a 130 square foot mobile tiny home even with the challenges presented for the utility systems. The team thought that making the tiny homes mobile offered greater opportunities for community education.

The team designing the tiny homes was divided into three different sub-teams: materials and layout, electricity, and plumbing. They worked individually on their sections of the house after agreeing upon the best layout for maintaining comfort and versatility.

The classroom phase of this project was finished back in June of 2010. With the help of additional students in Northwestern’s chapter of Engineers for Sustainable World and multiple grants and company sponsorships, the team started construction in the spring of 2011 and was completed that same fall.

Once completed the Northwestern Tiny House was chosen for display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, one of their major goals when the project was first beginning. The tiny home is also displayed at the Evanston Green Living Festival and the Northwestern’s Evanston campus.


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