16 Students Design Beautiful Tiny House

Lovely, graceful design. And so great, that this professor stresses hands-on, cooperative learning.

See below, for questions I had about the project.

This student-designed portable home may be the most beautiful tiny house we’ve seen

January 27, 2014

by Holly Richmond

grist, via Gail

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:

REED Green Mountain College

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.

REED Green Mountain College

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.


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1 Response to 16 Students Design Beautiful Tiny House

  1. rose day says:

    Ann, these tiny homes offer bang for the buck but in reality the concept serves a marginal section
    of the populace as there often is very little room for children in this paradigm which works beautifully for unencumbered free spirits.

    There is a tale, sad but true, of a family in Texas that retrofitted a bus for living purposes and
    the family did NOT live happily ever after. (“Less is more” is an oft quoted adage yet as often as not “Less REALLY IS less”.)

    I intend no denigration of the ‘small abode’ movement which offers phenomenal groundwork for
    sustainable living but the occasional reality check proves useful as the happy medium appears to abide in that wide-open space between ‘McHut’ and ‘McMansion’.

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