Tue, Dec 31, 2013 02:24 PM
A new take on the American Dream?
POULTNEY - 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 "upstairs" and a 300-watt
solar powered electrical system.
This semester, his class went one better, constructing a
70-square-foot "living system" that can be towed on a standard 5 X
8-foot trailer. The pod-shaped tiny house includes indoor plumbing
in the form of a composting toilet, a rainwater collection system,
and a single 120-watt solar panel to provide
The class has dubbed the structure OTIS (Optimal Traveling
The class of 16 students challenged itself to design and build a
living space with enough room for one person, that could be easily
towed behind a typical 4-cylinder vehicle, and could provide its
own water and electricity.
Environmental sustainability is the foundation of the college
curriculum, and 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
millennial generation," he said. "Lots of writing on the
millennials suggests that our suburban growth model perpetuated
over the last 50-60 years is starting to come to and end. They
(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 very low maintenance and very mobile suggests
a different set of priorities."
"It's got its own solar system to power itself, and a bath and
kitchen are independently supplied by rainwater," said senior Mike
Magnotta. "At the end of the day, you just need the environment to
sustain yourself. You're not tied down to a piece of land and be
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. Sophomore Kellin Banks was charged
with managing the water systems.
"How to turn something that most people don't want to think about
into and turn it into a valuable resource - that was an interesting
challenge," she said.