Most people can’t deem it possible to live in a 160-square foot home, but for self-declared vagabond Heather Wade, Southern Utah University exercise science alumna, it will soon be a reality. Wade is part of a growing movement that is serious about smaller, simpler, debt-free ways of living.
And she found a way to build a foundation to a simpler life through SUU integrated engineering students, Erin Elder and Ryan Bingham, who have taken Wade on as a client building her first home, mortgage and debt free in only 160 square feet for their senior capstone project.
“These students may only be working with 160 square feet, but they are dealing with every part of the home, from plumbing to siding, these students are doing it all,” stated John Murray, professor of integrated engineering and the project supervisor.
When it comes to constructing a tiny house, it takes a village to erect its walls and raise its roof, especially for Elder and Bingham who are manufacturing an entire home in miniature sized quarters.
These students have seen help from fellow engineering students to Glen Longhurst, department chair of the Department of Integrated Engineering, and even Robert Eves, dean of the College of Science & Engineering, and who helped raise the home’s four walls. Donations have been given from local lumberyards, Home Depot and metal manufacturers to stay within the $15,000 budget.
“It has amazed me the help given with this project,” said Murray. “We have received donations from businesses and many people have come to the site to give their expertise on how to install a toilet or weld a trailer. It’s been great to see and feel that sense of community.”
Elder and Bingham have learned how to exactly build and construct every part of a house, both have now become experts in each area of home construction with the help of SUU professors and local businessman.
“Building this tiny home has done huge things for our resumes,” declared Elder “I am skilled as an electrician but now I know how to frame a house, put on a roof, install plumbing, I am much more well-rounded because of this project and my degree.”
The design concepts were first developed by Wade and Elder summer of 2013 and once plans were finalized, both began assembling everything needed for the tiny house and resources started piling up.
Construction began on the pint-sized house November 2013 after welding together a trailer and now with a skeleton of the home fabricated, Elder and Bingham are immersed in plumbing, electrical and siding facets of the home.
Once the home rolls off the lot, Wade will have a home on wheels that she can take anywhere that her job with the Red Cross requires her. With solar paneling on the roof and a composting toilet, the tiny home will leave Wade with no mortgage payments and very small utility bills. Something she said was mandatory for her future home.
“The idea of buying a home where half the rooms would be vacant and then I would just buy stuff to fill up the space was out of the question,” said Wade. “I want to be outside hiking and backpacking, not cleaning. Having this tiny house will give me that versatility.”
The two SUU students have put in thousands of hours researching and constructing their senior capstone project, estimating that each put in 30 hours a week for the tiny house project on top of their jobs and classes.
Hoping soon to be living large in the pint-sized home, Wade exclaimed, “There is no other person that I would trust building my home then Erin and Ryan. Double checking every detail, these students are amazing and I am excited for the first night I can sleep in my new home.”