To design and develop an off-grid “tiny house” that is a showcase for sustainable design.
Space is a resource. Despite designers’ attempts to achieve a balance between nature and architecture, their best efforts result in nothing more than substitutions. However, the reality is that centuries of natural selection have created an environment impossible for humans to recreate. Every square inch of a home is a lost square inch for the surrounding biosphere. Therefore, a reduction of space is the first step towards sustainable living.
Human impact does not end at the walls of a home. The sewer, water, and power lines, power plants, and wastewater facilities are all parts of the ecological footprint. An off-grid home is not just a reduction in consumption, but also a commitment to personal responsibility for natural resources.
In 1997, social activist Jay Schafer founded the Tumbleweed
Tiny House Company, a business that plans and constructs small homes. His line
of Tiny Houses range in size between 65 to 140 total square feet, significantly
smaller than the average 2,000+ square-foot house and substantially more
environmentally friendly. Jay himself lives in one of his designs, a testament
to a person’s ability to comfortably inhabit limited spaces.
Inspired by Jay’s actions, our team, a group of six dedicated individuals, has made it our mission to improve upon the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses by incorporating their efficient use of space with interdisciplinary innovations in the area of materials, electricity, and plumbing for ultimate sustainability.
Previously serving as our DESIGN 298/398 course sequence project, we have been conducting research in the field of environmental conservation and designing a 130 square-foot home for a single person that contains all the amenities for comfortable living and that generates its own inputs and outputs, promoting an independently sustainable system. It’s our goal to construct a prototype of this home on Northwestern’s campus in Spring 2011. Through our model use of renewable materials and energy efficiency, we will provide ecological awareness to the Northwestern community. In addition, our design will reach supporters of the Tiny House movement through our association with Jay Schafer, who actively promotes Tiny Houses through his company and online blog. By developing an example of an off-grid home, we aim to inspire the public to take steps in changing their own living arrangement to encourage the conservation of the environment without sacrificing comfort.