Lovely, graceful design. And so great, that this professor stresses hands-on, cooperative learning.
See below, for questions I had about the project.
January 27, 2014
Students in the Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) program at Vermont’s Green Mountain College just made us all look lazy by designing and building a tiny home that’s part wooden chestnut and part stained-glass cathedral:
Pretty spiffy, right? Treehugger explains:
Designed and constructed by sixteen students, the OTIS (which stands for Optimal Traveling Independent Space) is an aerodynamic, pod-shaped design, made to be towed on a standard 5 by 8 foot trailer and a four-cylinder vehicle. It has its own rainwater collection system that feeds into the indoor plumbing, in addition to the 120-watt solar panel system to provide electricity. To handle human waste, the OTIS uses a composting toilet.
Their professor, Lucas Brown, says today’s students aren’t into suburbia and mortgages as much as other generations, which makes a tiny, portable home more desirable. “You’re not tied down to a piece of land to be stuck somewhere,” one student explains. “You can really go anywhere and do anything.” (Ah, to be 22 again!) Check it out:
Nicely done, Green Mountain College. You crazy kids are giving us hope for the future!
Two comments in the comments section addressed my questions about the project:
• The apparent lack of insulation in the sidewalls is due to the use of Kalwall material and transparent angel hair insulation. In fact, it has about twice as much insulation (3″) in the shell as a typical travel trailer, and has 4″-5″ in the floor. The students opted to heat with biomass rather than fossil fuel, and chose to use the Fatsco Tiny Tot wood stove.
• Discussion as to how this structure is constructed would be more informed if there were a link to the plans for it. But the Reed web site is rather opaque as to communicating with either the builders or the faculty project managers. It may be that it is more an art & design project than a serious attempt to engineer an actually usable and durable living space.
I was not happy to hear about wood-burning for heat. Burning wood is fairly inefficient and releases all kinds of pollutants. Fuel storage is inconvenient, too. The resource is renewable only because few people use it; in areas where it is or was popular, forests have been wiped out. However, given the small volume of the space to be heated in this case maybe it doesn’t matter. People who use Fatsco stoves on boats often use charcoal briquets.
Conceivably a second-hand Airstream could be retrofitted with solar panels, rainwater collector, etc., but the smallest available Airstreams I know about are 12 feet long and I think wider than the OTIS.
This is an interesting project, but I wish more had been published about the details.