Design Student Builds Sustainable Tiny House on Wheels

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Marisa Charpentier

Compliments: The Daily Texan

Design sophomore Joel Weber is building his own, eco-friendly home. His time abroad in Nicaragua inspired him to seek more sustainable ways to live.


Wood paneling surrounds the fewer than 150-square-foot home. The unfinished structure sits atop an 18-by-7.5-foot trailer with no roof and no air conditioning. This is just the start of Joel Weber’s new living space, but he has big plans for his tiny home.

For Weber, a transfer student and design sophomore, the decision to lead a more sustainable life started with a one-way ticket to Nicaragua. In 2012, Weber moved to Central America — not knowing when he would be back.

“I wanted to get away from the culture here because it was weighing me down,” Weber said. “I wanted to experience a new language, a new culture and new perspectives.”

While living with people he met on the beaches and local families, Weber gained an appreciation for the culture’s way of life.

“They were so happy with so little, and I was so happy with so little,” Weber said. “Modern necessities, that we would just call standard, a lot of people do not have.”

After spending three months abroad, Weber returned to the U.S. with a new outlook. He soon stumbled across a community of people building “tiny homes,” or small, sustainable living spaces that can be driven from place to place on trailers. When Weber got accepted to UT, he thought living small would be the most efficient way to combat housing prices.

Weber’s tiny house is still in progress back home in Dallas, but he said he hopes to have it finished and moved to Austin by the end of the year. According to Weber’s friend, speech/language pathology senior Erika Lovfald, Weber is constantly sketching ideas for the home.

“I didn’t know it was possible to make that, and then he showed me his plans, and I saw how efficient it was,” Lovfald said. “It definitely beats paying so much to live in West Campus.”

The tiny home will include such features as a loft, a guest loft, a propane stove and an energy-efficient water heater. After acquiring the proper funds, Weber plans to add solar panels and possibly a garden on the roof as well. He also plans to harvest rainwater and recycle his own water. Weber said every aspect of a tiny home should have two purposes in order to preserve space.

“You have to think, ‘How can I make a bookshelf a ladder?’” Weber said. “How can I make windows vents as well?”

Weber said small objects often inspire his design. He turned a bowl from World Market into a sink and used items he found in the trash. He recently found tree branches that he plans to use as a railing for the loft bed. The building process has not been without obstacles. Weber has to make sure the home meets living regulations and register the home with the city. He said, each time he has had his doubts about the project, people encourage him to keep working.

Before coming to UT, Weber worked as a lifeguard and nanny for friend Julie Riekse. Riekse is one of several people who donated to Weber’s project.

“The tiny house reflects who Joel is,” Riekse said. “He is taking care of his own basic needs in a creative way while caring for the environment.”

According to Weber, his passion for design spurs from his desire to leave places better than he found them.

“I love to be designing objects and spaces that give back more to the Earth than they take away,” Weber said. “It’s an honor to be a part of the beginning of this movement. I feel like it’s going to leave lasting effects on us as a society.”

Source: The Daily Texan

Kasl Family on Tiny House Nation

tiny-house-tiny-homeby Terry Salmela

Compliments: Kanabec County Times

Imagine moving from a 1,900 square foot home in Shakopee to a 207 sq. ft. tiny house where you homeschool two children on your aunt and uncle’s farm in southern Kanabec County. Well, Ryan and Kim Kasl are doing just that in their tiny house that ended up being built and featured as an episode on the new FYI TV channel show called “Tiny House Nation.”

Kasl Tiny House featured on Tiny House Nation Terry SalmelaAccording to the TV show, tiny houses are a nationwide trend as a way for owners to achieve financial independence, a simpler life style or to just make an extreme downsize.

“A tiny house is a chance to live out our family values that we want our children to have and not just to teach and talk about them. It also helps us to achieve another family goal of being a close family,” Kim said.

“We want to put our resources into experiences rather than into stuff,” Ryan added.

Being closer as a family is just one of the reasons the Kasls were interested in a tiny house. They wanted to get out of debt by selling their existing house, paying off their mortgage and paying off college debt. So, as a family they decided to live a simpler life style by downsizing.

The Kasls grew up in Cambridge, got married and moved to Shakopee where Ryan is a special education teacher. Ryan is now completing his second master’s degree in special education administration at the University of Minnesota. He anticipates that in the future he will have to move to different communities to set up special education programs. So, he would like to take his family and home along and not have to sell and buy houses.

Kim Sully Story and Ryan Kasls on tiny house porch Tiny House NationThey began exploring tiny houses by attending a couple of tiny house group meetings in Minneapolis. It was there that they learned that the Tiny House Nation TV reality show was looking for families to film for the show. Their dream became a reality after they applied for and were chosen for one of eight show episodes.

“We went through two huge experiences at once,” said Ryan. “One was to build the house and the other was going through the TV production process. It was fun filming for several full days for a month. It worked out great since I had time while taking a graduate course this summer. The kids really liked having a microphone on them.”

Kim added, “We were supposed to show doubt when filmed, but that was hard to do because we were so grateful and happy.” While filming, the TV crew stayed in Mora.

One of the greatest challenges was to help their children (Sully age 6 and Story age 4) to pare down their toys and get comfortable about moving into a smaller home. The TV production crew did a great job of making the move fun and special for the children. The crew inserted a round window in the loft between the children’s beds, built a kiddie catwalk with a full railing, added books and a place for their dog. They brought the children to see the house in progress several times so that they understood what was going on and in an effort to increase their enthusiasm for the neat things that they would have in the tiny house.

Another challenge for the show hosts Zach Giffin and John Weisbarth was to deliver a home that would withstand harsh Minnesota winters. It was built using a Tumbleweed blueprint that they greatly modified for a $30,000 budget. The New York production company obtained the building materials from Oslin Lumber Company in Mora.

The house was built for them by their uncle Patrick Mattson from Stanchfield along with help from his Nicholas Construction Company crew and the TV production company.

On the TV show Pat said that he wanted to do the best that he could because he wanted the best for his niece. “I think it’s neat, something different,” he said.

The house was built on wheels so that when Ryan moves for his job they can take their home with them. It is now located on a farm owned by Kim’s aunt and uncle, Ron and Julie Johnson, between Brunswick and Braham. The next location for the Kasl’s tiny house will be at an R.V. park in Shakopee.

Source: Kanabec County Times

Five Examples of Shipping Container Homes

Tiny-House-Building-SystemsBy Christine Walsh

Compliments: Jetson Green

A home made of shipping containers can be as big or as small as you want it to be. And if you have the desire to downsize to a tiny house, a shipping container lends itself very well to the purpose. With the right type of insulation, flooring, and perhaps choosing one of the high cube containers, which has a higher ceiling, such a tiny home can be quite cozy indeed. Below you will find the top 5 shipping container homes made from a single unit, which can easily be called tiny homes.

1. Tiny Homes Made by New Generation Builders


The Florida-based company, New Generation Builders, specializes in transforming recycled 8 by 20-foot shipping containers into tiny homes or offices. They built the home pictured above for a North Carolina couple. It is made from a single 8 by 20-foot shipping container, and it is equipped with a full kitchen, and a bathroom with an indoor and outdoor shower and toilet. The bathroom is located at one end of the shipping container and separated from the main living area by a 30-inch pocket door. The rest of the shipping container is taken up by the main living area (which also doubles as a bedroom) and a fully equipped kitchen. More details

2. Sunset Idea House


This tiny home was designed and made by Seattle-based company HyBrid. It offers a modest 192 square-foot home, yet with enough room to sleep up to four people. It is made from a used 24-foot shipping container with a galley kitchen, micro bathroom, and large openings, which nicely blend the indoor and outdoor spaces. This home is also solar-powered, which makes it that much more sustainable. More details

3. Tiny Prefab Home Made by InterModal Design


The company InterModal Design makes sturdy and durable prefabricated homes from used shipping containers that can be shipped almost anywhere in the world. The homes they offer lend themselves well to off-the grid living, and can easily become the main residence, guesthouse, or office space. The units feature a kitchen space, a living room that can double as a bedroom and a full bathroom. More details

4. Ecopods


The Canadian company Ecopods makes sustainable, fully recycled container homes. Each Ecopod is made from a standard 8’x20’ steel shipping container, and, though primarily designed as a temporary dwelling, one can easily use an Ecopod as a main residence. What’s more, all Ecopods are made to function off the grid. These homes are powered via an 80-watt solar panel and a 12-volt battery, which means that an Ecopod is ready to live in right after it is set up. To extend the livable area of the home, one of the 20-foot sidewalls of the Ecopod can be lowered by 2 hydraulic cylinders, powered by a solar-powered electric winch , to form a sturdy deck. The deck can be raised to secure the Ecopod when leaving the home for a longer period of time. More details

5. ShelterKraft Werks Shipping Container Homes


The Seattle-based home building company, ShelterKraft Werks, designs affordable homes made of recycled shipping containers. The base unit they offer is the CargoCottage, which is made from a single 8-foot by 20-foot shipping container. The house measures 160 square feet and features a two-person sleeping nook, a bathroom with shower, kitchen, and a dining/living area. The prefab homes they offer can also be fitted with optional, sustainable technologies, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro-generated electric power, as well as rainwater catchment and grey water reclamation systems, composting toilets, green roofs and rooftop garden installations. The units are made using eco-friendly building materials such as low-VOC paints and counter tops made of recycled fibers. More details

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Couple Takes Tiny House On the Road

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Amelia Robinson

Compliments: Dayton Daily News

Former Centerville resident Jenna Spesard, her boyfriend Guillaume Dutilh and their 1-year-old Australian Shepherd Salies have taken their house on the road.

Yeah, you read correctly.

The couple of two years set off last week in their newly finished, 132-square-foot Tumblewood Cypress home from Shelbyville, Ill., where Spesard’s parents Alan and Rebecca Spesard live.


At the start of an across the nation road trip, the pair swung by the Cox Media Group Ohio building and showed off the biggest and tiniest example of their new minimalist lifestyle. It took them a year to custom-build the home.

The stop was a homecoming of sorts for Spesard.

The 28-year-old spent her kindergarten to eighth-grade years in Centerville after her family moved here for her father’s job at Mound Industries. She still has friends in the area. Dutilh is originally from Pau in the South of France. He has lived in the U.S. about seven years.

Spesard and Dutilh are hauling their cozy home with a pickup at a maximum of 50 miles per hour.

They will travel the nation and Canada indefinitely, making upcoming stops in Boston; New York; and Montreal, Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.


The couple say a growing number of people are rejecting large homes and joining the tiny house movement.

“What we want to do is travel and live debt free,” Spesard said. She noted that many people who live in so-called tiny homes live in one place.

The average size of a new single-family house in the nation was 2,392 square feet in 2010, according to the United States Census.

Some tiny house are as small as 80 square feet.

Tiny homes are gaining attention. The new FYI network show Tiny House Nation features small houses and other living spaces.

Dutilh said he and Spesard are going against the grain of a society that pushes student loans and car loans.

“Our idea was to have a more free lifestyle and not be tied down,” the 30-year-old said.

He and Spesard said they were fed up with the cubical life.

The pair abandoned their 2,000 square feet apartments and jobs in Los Angeles.

She worked as an executive assistant at Dream Works Studio. He was was an engineer at Yamaha Motor Corporation.

“We want to live our dream lives,” Jenna Spesard said. “Why not take a risk and create a project around it.”

They spent $25,000 to $30,000 on their home, which they consider a drop in the buck compared to their rent in LA.

“You can make them cheaper,” Dutilh said.

Spesard said she and Dutilh wanted something more homey than a RV.

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