Designs of tiny homes earn big recognition for students

Designs by Peyton Smyth (left) and Madison Seip (right).
By Barbara Gutierrez

Designs by Peyton Smyth (left) and Madison Seip (right).

Designs of tiny homes earn big recognition for students

By Barbara Gutierrez
Two University of Miami School of Architecture students recently won honorable mentions in the Center for Architecture Sarasota’s “Less is More” competition.

Cozy, energy efficient, mobile. These are some of the descriptions of what has become a growing trend in real estate: Tiny houses. 

An increasing number of Americans are leaving behind large homes to live in these miniature structures that range between 100 to 600 square feet. Many are in a price range well below $100,000.  

Television shows like “Tiny House Nation,” “Tiny House Big Living” and “Tiny House Builders” have popularized the trend of people who want to downsize, live in a structure with low maintenance, and lower carbon footprint. 

Madison Seip
Seip

“I think people are realizing that the size does not matter as long as you have all that you need in a home,” said Madison Seip, a fifth year School of Architecture student at the University of Miami. “You don’t need all that space, and it is more expensive to heat or cool.” 

Seip and Peyton Smyth, a third-year graduate student of architecture, recently received honorable mentions for their designs of tiny homes from the Center for Architecture Sarasota in the “Less is More” Tiny House competition.   

These projects were part of an upper-level architecture studio titled “Wood and Everything After,” which was funded by a USDA and U.S. Forestry Wood Innovation Grant awarded to the Littoral Urbanism Lab meant to disseminate knowledge about wood within the U.S. Forestry Region Eight, said Christopher Meyer, assistant professor in the School of Architecture.  

Both students were challenged to design a tiny home, no more than 600 square feet, with the goal of promoting small, flexible, affordable, and sustainable alternatives to traditional housing. 

As they planned their projects, the students were also asked to consider the logistics of the construction. 

“I asked the students to think of where the materials came from and how they got from the harvesting through the process of industrialization to the building site,” said Meyer. “It is important for architecture students to think about not only what the building will look like but what are those processes of construction.” 

Seip’s project, called “Beyond These Walls,” created two small interior spaces or pods built underneath a large wooden canopy structure, which provides shade and expands the use of the house. 

She used wood because it provides strength to the structure and is a more environmentally friendly material since it can be recycled easily, she said. One section of her structure housed the living space, kitchen, and bathroom, while the other accommodated two bedrooms and two closets. The area between the pods created a wide breezeway that allowed the residents a cool place to enjoy nature.  

One of the advantages of tiny homes is that many can be moved easily. So, those who work from home have the option of moving their residence to any location. 

Peyton Smyth
Smyth

Smyth kept that in mind when designing his tiny home or “climate refuge,” in which he proposed a prefabricated CLT (cross laminated timber) “living bar”—a thick wall with all the components for living programmed into it—measuring 40 feet long and 13.5 feet high yielding 320 square feet of living space. The domicile is meant to provide temporary refuge to someone displaced by a natural disaster or homelessness. 

“Smyth’s project is a challenge to tradition in that he is providing an extreme approach to dwelling,” said Meyer. “He gave us one wall and a roof. It is a minimalist approach and not meant for everybody.” 

A Murphy bed, a table, and other essential pieces of furniture fold out from the wall, which also features storage cabinets on top. Smyth’s design features a thatched roof that slants, allowing for the collection of rainwater which filters into an underground cistern.  

“I think the tiny home movement has taken off because a lot of people come to realize that the phenomenon of ‘the more you own, the more it owns you’ holds some weight,” Smyth pointed out. “So a lot of people are interested in the idea of living off the grid.”  

The house—like many tiny homes—has space to install solar panels that feed into a stored battery pack.

Meyer is excited that the students were recognized.  

“My hope is that whenever students enter competitions and win, they gain confidence in their successes so they can go out and create change in a productive, constructive, and progressive way,” said Meyer. 

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