Student-designed house displayed at museum
    The Tiny House on a trailer
    Photo courtesy of CasitaDesign.

    At 5 a.m. yesterday, McCormick sophomore Molly Baker and junior Randy Waymire moved a house.

    But it’s no ordinary house – the little abode generates its own energy with rooftop solar panels and clean water through a rainwater collection system. Complete with a kitchen area, shower, toilet and living space, the self-sustainable house inhabits 128 square feet, a space smaller than a Bobb-McCulloch double.

    Tiny House – which started as a Segal Design Institute class project in 2010 by students who have since graduated – will be on display at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago through June 7. MSI is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere.

    Yesterday, co-project managers Baker and Waymire, a project sponsor and the rest of their team, named CasitaDesign, drove Tiny House via trailer from the Englehart Hall parking lot to MSI in Chicago.

    The team performed the transport at 5 a.m. to avoid traffic. The moving process required some disassembling, and upon arrival at the museum, reassembling of house parts and a paint touchup, Baker said. The rainwater collection awnings, though heavy, are removable so the house can be made slim enough to fit in the highway lane.

    “If we left the awnings on, the house may also act like an umbrella in a windstorm and the house might take flight – who knows what would happen,” Baker said. “Or they would probably just fall off. We’re hoping no other damages happen to the house, like cracks in the drywall. We [were] a little worried.”

    Tiny House now stands alongside MSI’s “Smart Home: Green + Wired” exhibit. One of Chicago’s greenest houses, the stylish, three-story Smart Home boasts sustainable building materials, energy efficient appliances and organic landscaping.

    The two dwellings are complements to each other, as both demonstrate and encourage sustainable living, Baker said.

    “The Smart House is huge, the tiny house is small,” Baker said. “The Smart House is professionally designed and built and ours is a student initiative. But I think we are essentially trying to get the same ideas across.”

    Initially a two-quarter class assignment for the DSGN 298-398 course sequence, the original designers of Tiny House were passionate about their design and decided to continue the project by building a prototype after the course ended, Baker said. Now, though they continue to help with the house, the original group has graduated and have handed Tiny House down to a new set of students.

    The concrete presence of an actual house, rather than a two-dimensional design sketch, is meant to ask people to rethink their use of space and resources, Baker said.

    The hope is that viewers will “see different elements of the house that might inspire them to come up with ideas for their own living situations,” Baker said. “Even if you don’t want to actually live in the Tiny House, we always say when people walk into the house, ‘Hey you could walk out with some other kind of idea, like using more efficient lighting, or downsize just a little bit because saving space is important.’ Little ideas are important, too.”

    The Northwestern Tiny House is part of a growing nationwide trend of minuscule living. The “small house” or “tiny house” movement aims to teach footprint minimization, in both the spatial and ecological sense. While new single-family Midwestern homes average approximately 2,200 square feet, tiny houses typically measure less than 400 square feet in floor space.

    Baker realized the magnitude of the tiny house movement in March when the team displayed the house in front of the Ford Engineering Design Center for a week. Baker said one visitor, who had been developing a tiny house of her own, journeyed from Kentucky just to take a look.

    “I can’t even tell you how many people came to visit the tiny house who were already thinking of building ones or were in the process of building ones themselves,” Baker said. “There were people who came from all over to see the house.”


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