Ideas @ Work: #1 Tiny House

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CAD rendering of Norwich University's CASA initiative tiny house design.
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Sometimes a big problem requires a small solution. Enter the CASA initiative, a 334-square-foot tiny house with a small $40,000 price tag, solar power included. Norwich University faculty and students developed the house to address Vermont’s affordable-housing crisis. Nearly 12 percent of Vermonters live below the poverty level, and median household income in the state barely tops $54,000. That leaves many low-income residents priced out of the traditional housing market. Those who can, often turn to mobile homes, which cost around $39,900 on average and are typically financed with car loans. But, unlike traditional houses, mobile homes depreciate in value over time.

Seeking to provide an alternative, the Norwich School of Architecture + Art faculty launched the Creating Affordable Sustainable Architecture (CASA) initiative last year. Sparked by a $20,000 seed grant from TD Bank, architecture faculty Tolya Stonorov, Danny Sagan, Cara Armstrong, and Matt Lutz worked on the initial design over the summer. Last fall, CASA principal investigator and civil engineering professor Ed Schmeckpeper began designing and assembling the build-out with Norwich engineering and construction management students. This spring, junior and senior architecture students in a design/build studio led by Professor Stonorov will complete the project.

With clean lines and a gabled roof, the nearly 14- by 28-foot home offers a modernist, minimalist take on a classic Vermont farmhouse. Sliding glass doors open from its small front porch onto a high-ceilinged living room/kitchen/dining area. Beyond lies a bathroom, bedroom, and storage space. The tiny home can accommodate two adults and a child. Solar panels supply the home’s electricity needs, while even more high-powered engineering lies under the roof. Starting next year, the CASA initiative team plans to develop additional units that can “plug” into the starter house, enabling households with growing families and incomes to expand.

Stonorov says CASA’s ultimate goal is to create a house that is not just beautiful, practical, and affordable—but widely available. The CASA team aims to partner with organizations that share the goal of bringing innovative, sustainable housing to income-eligible Vermonters. “This project will fail to fulfill its mission if we only produce one.”

Photo illustration courtesy Tolya Stonorov
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