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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Think ‘tiny’: Aggies to provide small-scale houses to homeless people

Above is a rendering of one of the ‘tiny houses’ A&M students will donate to the Community First! Villiage.
PROVIDED Above is a rendering of one of the ‘tiny houses’ A&M students will donate to the Community First! Villiage.

For people without a place to live, a new construction project at Texas A&M could soon provide tiny homes.
Environmental design and construction science students have started work on two “tiny homes,” which will be donated to the Community First! Village in Austin at the end of the semester.
Tiny homes, usually under 500 square feet, are part of a movement that boasts environmental and economic sustainability. Ben Bigelow, assistant professor of construction science, said there are several benefits to the small dwellings.
“From an environmental standpoint you are drastically reducing your impact.” Bigelow said. “It’s a couple hundred square feet versus a couple thousand square feet. You’re reducing the footprint and the building materials that are required, and once it’s in place, the energy that’s required.”
The houses are based on two winning designs from a contest sponsored by the Center for Housing and Urban Development. Designs had to be 140 to 150 square feet and cost less than $8,000 to build. The first-place entry was submitted by environmental design seniors Hillary Brown and Shellie Hudspeth, urban and regional planning senior Michael Chavoya and construction science junior Martin Montgomery.
The second place home was designed by environmental design senior Amy Brodeur and junior Hannah Galbraith, construction science majors Abraham Espinoza, Class of 2014, and Eduardo Mata, Class of 2014, and architecture graduate student Celso Rojas.
Bigelow said the purpose of the contest was to pave the way for a class he leads to build these homes.
“The contest was to sort of expedite the class this semester, where students are completing their designs and will build a couple of tiny houses,” Bigelow said. “For the construction students, it’s to get a feel for the design process. For the design students, it’s for them to get a feel for constructability and pre-construction, estimating and scheduling things. For all the students to have to go out and see what it entails to deliver and actual project, versus what they’ve done in school, which tends to be theoretical.”
Bigelow said he saw an opportunity with the concept of tiny homes, and the Community First! Village allows for the constructed houses to eventually be used for a charitable cause.
“I was intrigued by the tiny house concept and I liked the tiny house idea,” Bigelow said. “I went looking for places we might be able to give a tiny house to, where they would be put to good use and for a good cause. After talking to them, it seemed to be a natural fit.”
Brodeur, who worked on the second place entry, said helping design a structure that will actually be built is both meaningful and educational.
“Being an architecture student, we’re working in all these programs, we’re visualizing what we’re making, but this is the first time that anything I’ve helped design has been built in real life,” Brodeur said. “Not only that, but someone who once was homeless will be able to call it home. So it’s just doubly rewarding”
Brodeur said most of the essential elements of her team’s house are featured in shelving on one wall of the building.
“The main feature of our design is we have one wall that essentially houses all the different things you need to live,” Brodeur said. “For instance, one portion of it, the kitchen table folds down, which doubles as an office space, and right next to it you have an entertainment area. Behind the cover, you have a TV, a mini fridge, storage for days. Alongside that is the wardrobe and the closet area. Everything is packed nice and neatly.”
After construction is complete, the houses will be displayed in campus parking lots for a short time before being donated to the Community First! Village, where they will house members of the Austin homeless population.
Shannon Van Zandt, director of the Center for Housing and Urban Development, said the contest and eventual donation of the houses meets the mission of CHUD by improving the quality of life for people in cities.
“The tiny house competition really focuses on an underserved population or a group of people that are not well served by cities and cause problems in cities,” Van Zandt said. “It allows us to consider housing options, and how housing can form a foundation for the homeless population to fulfill their full potential in terms of addressing their needs. Housing gives them a platform from which to address their other issues”
The construction process on the tiny homes is set to begin in March.

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