THIMBY at AASHE: Tiny House in My Backyard
By: Laney Siegner and Ian Bolliger, THIMBY
Tiny House in My Backyard is an interdisciplinary collaboration of UC Berkeley graduate students designing and building a zero-net-energy tiny house on the Berkeley Global Campus. The tiny house is a pilot project demonstrating the union between affordable and sustainable housing. The house will be compact– less than 400 square feet – with the basic amenities for home comfort, but with a focus on energy and resource efficiency, and simplified living.
A few weeks ago, THIMBY team members Laney Siegner and Ian Bolliger travelled to Minneapolis, MN for the 10th annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference & Expo (October 25-28). The THIMBY delegation was part of a larger group of Berkeley students and staff organized by the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) to attend the conference.
AASHE 2015 kicked off with an opening keynote address from Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College and champion of sustainability science, in a large auditorium in the Minneapolis Convention Center filled with over 2,000 campus officials, students, and other sustainability activists. Throughout the four days, the conference continuously provided a great atmosphere to engage in conversation and resource sharing with diverse university stakeholders.
THIMBY presented a case study on Monday afternoon titled “Zero Net Energy Tiny Houses: A Campus Sustainable Housing Solution.” It was standing room only in a packed space of over 80 people, with some seated on the floor and others lining the walls at the back of the room. The presentation included a brief history of the THIMBY team, but focused on benefits and challenges relevant to other universities interested in promoting a student-run tiny house design/build team on their campus. The intent was to frame our project as a transferrable platform for hands-on, interdisciplinary, community-oriented sustainability education. We highlighted examples from our current work on plumbing system schematics and structural design drawings to showcase some preliminary outcomes of our systems integration efforts.
Attendees asked many great questions at the end of the presentation, suggesting strong interest in carrying the tiny house team idea back to their respective campuses. While all in attendance had heard of the tiny house movement (who hasn’t, unless you’ve been living under a rock?) few had lived in a tiny house or built their own, confirming our hypothesis that while enthusiasm for tiny houses is high, actual application and scaling of tiny houses remains limited. However, there were at least 2 other presentations on tiny houses at the conference: one from a student who’d built and currently lives in a tiny house near the Green Mountain College campus in VT, and another a poster presentation from a group at Randolph college building tiny houses on campus using straw bale and cob construction. We have a sneaking suspicion that there will be a growing number of presentations at future AASHE conferences on completed zero net energy tiny house projects on college campuses… and, of course, THIMBY plans to be one of them!
Following the presentation, we were free to enjoy the rest of the conference and the great city of Minneapolis at a beautiful time of year—leaf season and fall in the Midwest! We returned with contacts from across the country interested in or already pursuing campus tiny house projects, as well as renewed enthusiasm for the high level of interest in tiny house design that we saw in virtually all conference-goers. The completion of the house is just one step in the journey, however. We hope to build off of our experience at AASHE to expand upon the educational arm of THIMBY. We’re excited to kick off our student run “DeCal” course on sustainable design this spring and are looking forward to a host of workshops and community discussions that are in the works. Stay tuned!