A New American Dream?
When it comes to building a living space, how small can you go? Three years ago, professor Lucas Brown’s students in Green Mountain College’s Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) class built a custom-designed tiny house, a 96-square-foot structure with a sleeping loft and 300-watt solar powered electrical system. This semester, the class of 16 students challenged itself to go even smaller, designing and building a 70 square-foot living system that can be towed on a standard 5×8-foot trailer. The tiny, pod-shaped house includes a composting toilet, rainwater collection system with a 120-watt solar panel for electricity, dubbed OTIS (Optimal Traveling Independent Space).
REED students are interested in finding ways to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and leave a smaller ecological footprint. But Brown thinks there is something more at work behind his students’ enthusiasm for the project. “The appeal of living a more nomadic lifestyle represents a new take on the American Dream, especially among students in this generation,” he said. “The students aren’t interested in being tied down with rent or a mortgage right after college. Something about having their own living space which is low maintenance and mobile suggests a different set of priorities.” Senior Mike Magnotta said, “You just need the environment to sustain yourself. You’re not tied down and stuck somewhere. You can really go anywhere and do anything.”
Students broke into teams to study and develop water, energy, heat and building envelope systems.