Student-built tiny homes destined to house Austin area homeless

Ben Bigelow

Gabriela Campagnol

Michael O'Brien

Shannon Van Zandt

[Environmental design] ( and [construction science] ( students from Texas A&M are teaming up this semester to build two “tiny houses” — a broad term generally referring to residences 300 square feet or less — that will be donated to [Community First Village] ( , a master-planned development providing affordable, sustainable housing for disabled, chronically homeless people in the Austin area.

Tiny house living is part of a social and economic [movement] ( in which devotees are downsizing their living space. Advocates cite the advantages of tiny homes’ sustainability, lower cost and simplified lifestyle.

The new student-built homes will be built based on winning entries from a fall 2014 tiny home design contest sponsored by Texas A&M’s [Center for Housing and Urban Development] ( . Competitors submitted home designs, construction schedules and a materials list priced under $8000.

The winning home designs were selected by a jury of design experts for their creativity, effective use of space and compliance with contest rules specifying construction on a 6.9 x 18 foot trailer, and an overall size not exceeding 14 feet high, 8.5 feet wide or 18 feet long.

This semester, students will refine the designs and build the two tiny homes at the College of Architecture’s [Automated Fabrication & Design Lab] ( as part of a spring 2015 class led by Ben Bigelow, assistant professor of construction science, Gabriela Campagnol, assistant professor of architecture, Michael O’Brien, professor of architecture, and Shannon Van Zandt, director of the Center for Housing and Urban Development.

Because Community First Village has communal facilities for cooking and bathing, the homes will not include kitchens or bathrooms, leaving space for other amenities.

One of the homes offers 120-square feet of living space replete with multipurpose shelves and storage compartments throughout the bedroom and main living area. The design allows natural light to filter throughout the home during the day and provides for lighting to illuminate the space at night. A semi-opaque pocket door divides the bedroom from the living area, providing privacy while allowing light to pass through.

The design also incorporates a large window seat that can also be used as a second sleeping space.

Students who compiled the winning entry for this first-place home — Hillary Brown and Shellie Hudspeth, both environmental design students, Michael Chavoya, an urban and regional planning student, and Martin Montgomery, a construction science student — placed a $8,077 value on the required building materials and allowed 59 days for construction.

The second tiny home to be built this semester is 150-square feet. It features a raised bed covering a large storage space. The living area includes shelving, a fold-down table, closet, drawers and space for a small couch, television, microwave and small refrigerator.

The second place winner, which includes a 27-day construction schedule and an estimated materials cost of $7,737, was created by environmental design students Amy Brodeur and Hannah Galbraith, construction science students Abraham Espinoza and Eddie Mata, and Celso Rojas, a [Master of Architecture] ( student.

posted January 29, 2015