Senior architecture and design students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are collaborating to build a tiny house that will have a big impact on the community, hopefully for years to come.
Thirteen students are constructing a tiny house — just 200 square feet of living space — behind Fletcher Hall for a design-build elective course. When finished, the house will be donated to Habitat for Humanity and given to a person who lost their RV or trailer home in the August floods.
“The people we are trying to help are people that have already lived in a small house and want a small footprint or maybe the mobility of tiny house,” said architecture professor Geoff Gjertson, who is heading the project.
Gjertson said a tiny house project was originally slated to begin in the fall, but those plans fell through. Because he is on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity, he was able to pitch the idea for the spring and have it adopted.
Students from different disciplines, including architecture, industrial design and interior design, have come together to create the home.
“It’s a really good feeling just to know we’re putting all this time and energy into it and it’s actually going to be built,” said Monique Moliere, 23, an interior design major.
Justin Segura, 25, an industrial design major, said working in a team with others majoring in related architectural and design fields is a rare opportunity and gives students the kind of real world experience they wouldn’t be able to get in a classroom.
“It feels like an accomplishment that I think all of us have been wanting to experience from the beginning,” said Francisco Farrera, 22, an architecture major.
Farrera said construction will not be completed by the end of the semester, but the class will be offered in the summer for other students to contribute.
Moliere also appreciates the chance to put what she's learned in class into practice.
“I really like that it’s real hands-on and we’re actually building something,” Moliere said. “A lot of our classes are hands-on but only to model size, so it’s really interesting to see all the real-world experience with this project.”
Gjertson said schematics for the tiny house have been compiled from architecture students’ past projects, such as the Beausoleil solar home built in 2009.
He said the students are using structurally insulated panels on the walls of the 200-square-foot house. They also plan to install solar panels on the roof to keep the future resident’s utility bill tiny, as well.
“It’s pretty neat that they’re so into it and so dedicated to it,” Gjertson said of his students enthusiasm for the project.
Although this project involves the construction aspect, some senior architecture students are also helping to design tiny houses for a new Arnaudville-based company, Tee Tiny Houses.
Cherie Hebert, a founder of the tiny house company and CEO and partner at BBR Creative in Lafayette, said she reached out to UL-Lafayette when she had one-dimensional plans on paper but wanted them redone digitally for marketing purposes.
“I knew that UL students are trained in 3-D rendering, and they know how to use the latest technology,” Hebert said.
Gjertson put her in touch with a few interested students, including Farrera. She also decided she’d like to name the models after the student who designs them, starting with “the Francisco.”
“This type of architecture actually leaves a physical mark in the world,” Farrera said. “You actually built something that now exists because you helped create it.”
Hebert said she has offered to share her construction space with UL-Lafayette and Habitat for Humanity so everyone involved can work together to make as many homes as possible.
“I really like the idea of students being out there and my team and their team having the opportunity to learn from one another,” Hebert said. “I really do want to support the public-private, nonprofit collaborative kind of thing as part of the business.”