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Students Learn
Construction Skills,
Build Frame for Tiny House
Students in the Sustainable Living Program will graduate with a very practical skill: the knowledge and ability to build their own tiny house and live in it mortgage-free, thanks to a recently completed course taught by Mark Stimson. 

During the course, which covered much of what an architecture student would learn in the first semester of an architecture program, the students learned the elements of building, the principles of structure, and the drafting skills necessary to create a plan for a house, as well as the ability to wield a range of tools.

Each student drafted a complete plan for his or her own house, including floor plans, elevations (side views), and structure diagrams. In addition, the class as a whole built the frame of a tiny house.

Mr. Stimson said that he would be moving their tiny house to his property in Texas, where it will be completed and be part of his new desert retreat and ecology station project.

He said that there’s a nationwide tiny-house movement, and that while specifications vary, such houses are often 100–200 square feet and typically include all amenities.

“The goals of the tiny-house movement include building your own house, living mortgage-free, simplifying your lifestyle, and lowering your energy and environmental footprints,” Mr. Stimson said.

Early in the course the students took a tour of tiny houses that have been built in Jefferson County.

The course is part of the building-and-built-environment track of the Sustainable Living Program. “Hands-on courses like this one are a big part of the track,” Mr. Stimson said. “It’s important for the students to learn these skills.”

He said that in earlier times, before the 19th century, people were more self-sufficient and typically built their own houses. That began changing in the last 200 years, as housing construction evolved into a series of specialties, such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.

“People have lost self-sufficiency and self-reliance,” he said. “Part of the goal of the tiny house movement, and the Sustainable Living Program, is to regain that self-reliance so that people can build for themselves.”

He said that building a tiny house is a good place to start, because it’s easier to build.

The students found the course to be challenging, Mr. Stimson said, because they had to learn specialized math skills, and new concepts and terminology.

“For the most part, they came through with flying colors,” he said.

Nearly 30 students signed up for the course, so the course was divided into two sections, and half of those who signed up will be taking the course during the May block.


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