Tiny house, huge impact

The tiny house movement has been a revolution for people wanting to downsize everything from square footage, mortgage payment and their environmental impact. The increased popularity of tiny houses caught the attention of Scott Greenhalgh, an assistant professor in technology at UNI. What could be a more innovative and educational project for 14 technology and engineering education students than to help design, implement, build and finish UNI’s first very own tiny house?

“The construction of a tiny house provides a fantastic opportunity for real life application of technology and engineering education concepts,” said one of the students who worked on the project, Ryan Anderson. “I would absolutely consider a tiny house project once I begin teaching. The scale of the project allows students to go through the whole process of building a house while ensuring a project could be completed during the school year and without the high cost. It is a great opportunity for students in multiple classes and departments to work on the house in different ways as well.”

Tiny House Build
Tiny House Final
Not only is it cheaper to build, but also 68 percent of people living in tiny homes live mortgage free and 55 percent have more savings than the average American.

The technology and engineering students worked alongside interior design students for six hours a week in one semester to maximize the small space, design solutions to put multiple functions for each space, and improve the efficiency of the home. The interior design students designed both the kitchen and main storage wall. This specific project is designed as a solution to homelessness so the design includes specific capabilities for a couple or a parent and child to be able to live there.

“Although the tiny house is only 148 square feet, the project is the result of almost two-dozen people coming together as a team,” said Scott Greenhalgh. “We included as many recycled materials as we could. Most of the built-in furniture was repurposed from a variety of sources including a desk, entertainment center and used slab interior doors. The kitchen counters are recycled from the old Waverly Jr. High gym floor, and several other materials came from the Habitat for Humanity Renew Store. I think one of the most impressive features was the arched roof and 8 foot skylight built by the students.”

Most tiny homes cost about $23,000 for an average of 186 square feet, where as the average cost of a standard-sized house of 2,100 square feet is approximately $272,000 plus interest on loans. Not only is it cheaper to build, but also 68 percent of people living in tiny homes live mortgage free and 55 percent have more savings than the average American.

The plan for the tiny house is still up in the air. Greenhalgh hopes that this experimental semester with building the tiny house will act as a springboard for the future and, and hopefully an appropriate place will be found for the tiny house in the Cedar Falls community. He also hopes the students experience and knowledge has expanded from this project.

“I took away that setting up a challenge and committing to it is the best thing I could be doing as a teacher,” said Greenhalgh. “I was a little uncertain that the project may demand too much from the students, but I believe it allowed them to come together and work as a team on a project. My hope for students in the program is for them to feel they are challenged in new and different ways to discover capabilities they did not know they had. I think this project strengthened the program and the collegiate experiences for the students.”

The tiny house will be on display for an open house during the arts and crafts fair on Sunday, June 26, at the Sturgis Falls Celebration in Cedar Falls.