Northwestern Students Design an Off-Grid Tiny House
At the beginning of 2009, a group of six undergraduate engineering students at Northwestern University were introduced to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and the Small House Movement. Inspired by Tumbleweed’s designs and realizing its potential for promoting environmental sustainability, they began conceptualizing their version of the next generation of tiny homes.
Through the support of Northwestern University, the staff at the Segal Design Institute, and the greater Evanston community, the students combined innovations from various fields of architecture and green design to create plans for an off-grid home that works to balance comfort and sustainability. The tiny house collects its own solar energy and water to reduce its environmental impact. Fitted with a rainwater catchment and solar panel system, the 128ft2 footprint provides enough power and potable water to sustain a single tenant year-round in the Midwest climate.
Notable attributes of the house include a stand-alone photovoltaic system with a battery bank, a water storage system that fits underneath the house, an active solar water heating system, and dual-purpose awnings for both shade and rainwater collection. The house is equipped with additional features to reduce energy and water consumption, such as incorporating DC powered loads, a shower with an efficient, low-flow showerhead, a non-electric composting toilet, and a woodstove to heat the home.
Currently, the team is focused on upcoming construction efforts and generating additional funding. The Northwestern Tiny House Project has received support from the Breed Fund for Design, the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge, as well as private donations. View their website at www.tinyurl.com/nutinyhouse for more detailed information about the project as well as how you can help.
The metal roof went on and it's spectacular – charcoal gray. They'll be adding the faschia and soffits on Monday. We've been sleeping in it every time we go down to my parent's property and it makes going there a dream. Every morning, I wake up, get the newspaper, make a cup of tea and sit on my little couch and ENJOY. Yes, every minute is a complete pleasure. I can't wait to get my pictures up, the table made and the final paneling done.
We paid an electrician and a plumber to come and complete some of the tasks. Another guy came to install glass into the door. We lucked out here because Kevin had a window that was the perfect size for the opening. He gave us the window for $45. Bargoon.
I painted the door yellow and it looks pretty good. It's not as bold a yellow as I'd wanted, but apparently they don't make the bold colour choice in an exterior paint. If I'm still indifferent to the colour, I'll repaint. Life is too short not to be bold.
We've been sleeping in the tiny house (I need to give it a name) for a few nights. We've only been using camp mats but it works. The one thing I hadn't anticipated (duh) was how often I need to climb down the ladder in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Unless you have a strong bladder, it might be better to opt for a model with a bedroom downstairs. Some nights we've slept downstairs and that's been fine too. One night our 18 year old slept downstairs and we slept up; there's plenty of room for our 20 year old if he ever chooses to stay with us. The beach makes everything worth the effort. Swimming in Lake Huron is amazing. (Side note -- we swam in August. It's now November, we're not swimming this week!)
The kitchen drawers were installed, I just have to put the pine drawer fronts and knobs on. We're still waiting for the shelves, but that can happen in September when the students can do it. I moved my Value Village dishes onto the existing shelves and that made it feel like home. I'll pick up a piece of memory foam so we can retire the camp mats. My hip bones will thank me.
In one of the pictures below, you'll see how this house was tarped for months before the metal roof got installed.
We've cut back a lot of the branches so that there won't be too many problems. Still, they're oak trees, so the acorns falling on the roof creates quite a noise.
The picture of my folks on the grass shows how lovely the property is; to the left of us, is a bank that leads to a large sandy beach. The little house is parked about 250 feet away from this area. That's the only downside; we don't have a view of the lake from our wee house. We'd have driven the house closer to the bank, but there were just too many trees in the way.
Putting the battens on has made a world of difference in how the tiny house looks. I love it now. It's gorgeous.
Bob has made some ingenious shelves in one of the bathroom walls. He's an excellent cabinet maker, and my cupboards are better than what I have in my house.
The tiny house moved to my parent's property. Another teacher drove it down and he was masterful. He pulled that 8.6 foot wide baby into a 9 foot laneway while we stopped traffic. He made one correction then backed it the rest of the way into its new home. I just stood there mouth agape.
Today we primed the door and the underbody of the trailer (boy, should that have been done before this time.)
My husband stayed at the property to meet with the guys who will finish the electrical and the plumbing. Another guy is putting in the glass into the door. Next week, someone else will do the roofing.
It's all coming together which means I can finally sleep. I've lost weight because of the stress - the kind where you're so nauseous you can't eat. I'm not sure why I thought the sky was falling, but I did.
We've still got miles to go, but they're short miles now. Before they were the miles that stretched into infinity. We need to panel the ceiling and do some finishing touches to the kitchen cupboards. All the battens need caulking, but this is all doable. Only the caulking and painting needs to be done this summer. Everything else can wait.
Having the tiny house in our driveway means there've been a lot of visitors. Everyone in the neighbourhood wants a tour. Normally I'd love this, but right now we're on a serious deadline, and I'm feeling resentful of the time it eats up. This is hardly the way to convince people this is a great thing to do. I'll try to smell the roses when we get it moved to its next home.
Well, torrential rains – the most rainfall in a short period our area has ever had prevented us from driving down to Sarnia. The plus side is it gave us two more days to get work done. Now we've got an exterior door actually hanging in place and the cupboard doors are on too. Bob built all of these. The exterior door was built from exterior plywood with 2 inch foam sandwiched in between. A window opening has been cut and we'll need to install a window later on. For now, it's got plastic stapled in place.
The windows have been stellar.