Executive Summary

Our Mission

“To build a sustainable home by improving upon

the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses’ efficient use of

space with innovations in the areas of materials,

electricity, and plumbing

                                                    – Team CASITA


The Tiny House movement has introduced the idea of space as a resource to the forefront of the sustainability debate. The movement focuses on reducing the size of living spaces in order to reduce carbon footprint. A design of a 128 sq. ft home off grid home combines this concept of space as a resource with green engineering principles.

Materials and Structure

The layout design brings together all the elements in the electrical and plumbing systems. Main considerations were the solar panel placement, water tank placement, and rainwater catchment system. Load bearing structural walls are not used; instead beams support the structure and weight of the home. The materials used in the home have low-embodied energy and are environmentally friendly. 


A stand-alone photovoltaic system with battery bank generates and stores electricity for the home. Solar radiation area is limited due to the physical constraints of the home. Thus, the system incorporates the industry’s most efficient solar panels with MPPT charge controllers, as well as various other techniques to optimize efficiency. The roof-mounted panels generate enough power to sustain one to two individuals in the Chicago area, yearlong. The battery bank is sized to provide power to the home for three days if no solar energy is available.


The home’s plumbing system is designed to provide enough water for one user.  The home collects and filters rainwater for daily hygienic needs.  Designed for the Chicago climate, water is stored safely and supplies water year round if used at a normal pace. A composting toilet produces only biological nutrients for its surroundings. 


Constructing a full scale structure of the design at Northwestern University will provide the community with a physical model to increase awareness and facilitate ingenuity. The home will be built during the 2010-2011 school year. The principles and key design elements of the house  is intended to be adopted and incorporated by future student groups and projects.

To download a PDF file of our original full report, including calculations and appendices,
see attachment below.

*Please note that current designs are subject to change. The design in this report is not necessarily the final decisions.*
Kimberly Huang,
Jan 16, 2011, 1:57 PM