Tiny Houses

OTIS tiny house offers a new take on the American Dream

OTIS tiny house offers a new t...
OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College
OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College
View 18 Images
OTIS can be towed by a car on a standard-sized 1.5 x 2.5 m (5 x 8 ft) open-bed utility trailer
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OTIS can be towed by a car on a standard-sized 1.5 x 2.5 m (5 x 8 ft) open-bed utility trailer
Inside, the snug home contains a composting toilet, rainwater collection system, and a rudimentary sink
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Inside, the snug home contains a composting toilet, rainwater collection system, and a rudimentary sink
A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
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A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS
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The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS
A small Fastco wood-burning stove is also on board and should be ample for heating and making simple meals
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A small Fastco wood-burning stove is also on board and should be ample for heating and making simple meals
OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College
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OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College
OTIS measures 6.5 sq m (70 sq ft)
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OTIS measures 6.5 sq m (70 sq ft)
A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
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A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
The total cost of OTIS (not including labor) comes to between US$8,000 and $10,000
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The total cost of OTIS (not including labor) comes to between US$8,000 and $10,000
A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
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A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts
"The appeal of living a more nomadic lifestyle represents a new take on the American Dream, especially among students in this millennial generation," explains Professor Brown
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"The appeal of living a more nomadic lifestyle represents a new take on the American Dream, especially among students in this millennial generation," explains Professor Brown
OTIS can be towed by a car on a standard-sized 1.5 x 2.5 m (5 x 8 ft) open-bed utility trailer
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OTIS can be towed by a car on a standard-sized 1.5 x 2.5 m (5 x 8 ft) open-bed utility trailer
The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS
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The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS
A 120 W solar panel is affixed to the front of the dwelling and provides all electricity needs
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A 120 W solar panel is affixed to the front of the dwelling and provides all electricity needs
OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College’s Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) class
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OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was created by students at Green Mountain College’s Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) class
Inside, the snug home contains a compostable indoor toilet, rainwater collection system, and a rudimentary sink
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Inside, the snug home contains a compostable indoor toilet, rainwater collection system, and a rudimentary sink
A 120 W solar panel is affixed to the front of the dwelling and provides all electricity needs
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A 120 W solar panel is affixed to the front of the dwelling and provides all electricity needs
The total cost of OTIS (not including labor) comes to between US$8,000 and $10,000
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The total cost of OTIS (not including labor) comes to between US$8,000 and $10,000
View gallery - 18 images

Students at Vermont's Green Mountain College Renewable Energy and Ecological Design class have produced an off-grid tiny house that's billed as a new take on the American Dream. While that may seem a stretch, an American Dream centered around a sustainable home with a small footprint would certainly be a step in the right direction, environmentally-speaking.

OTIS (or the Optimal Traveling Independent Space) was produced as part of a semester-long Green Mountain College class taught by Professor Lucas Brown. It measures 6.5 sq m (70 sq ft), and can be towed by a car on a standard-sized 1.5 x 2.5 m (5 x 8 ft) open-bed utility trailer, underlying its practical modern nomad appeal.

"The appeal of living a more nomadic lifestyle represents a new take on the American Dream, especially among students in this millennial generation," explains Prof. Brown. "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."

The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS
The pod shape was inspired by nature, and the students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS

Brown also told Gizmag that his students applied biomimicry principles to the design of OTIS. The students drew inspiration from hollow bird bones, dragonfly wing patterns, and multifunctional skin membranes to create a lightweight, aerodynamic, and durable structure. A computer-based software digital design tool was used to create a model, and then a CNC machine fabricated many of the parts.

Inside, the snug home contains a bed, desk, composting indoor toilet, rainwater collection system, a rudimentary sink, and a small Fastco wood-burning stove. A 120 W solar panel is affixed to the front of the dwelling and serves all electricity needs.

The total cost of OTIS (not including labor) comes to between US$8,000 and $10,000.

Source: Green Mountain College


View gallery - 18 images
19 comments
EddieG
I've been sold on the tiny house concept for years. And I know all those college kids had fun with this project. But let's get real. Most people live in urban or suburban areas. The housing and zoning codes would not allow people to live in structures like this. We don't need new ideas. We don't need new tech. It is primarily our legal system that prevents the tiny house from going mainstream.
John Driggers
Eddie has the key point. It's very difficult to live in a tiny house legally. Where municipalities have endorsed the concept, the result is still very expensive housing--maximizing the developer's per sq foot profits. We have legislated/regulated our societies in a way that makes inexpensive smaller homes difficult, if not impossible. The idea that if you have no fixed address, you're undesirable and a vagrant still exists.
Rt1583
I will be really impressed when someone designs one of these micro houses in such a way that it has the same interior volume as Jack Colts trailer in Loaded Weapon.
Vince Pack
One way around the size/permanence issue would be a subdivision built entirely on the concept of the tiny house. I can't believe they aren't springing up all over. I think one problem still facing the tiny house market is cost. Talented, high end architects design these structures, then they end up costing as much as a traditional "starter home". If these people would publish designs that could be built for under (or around) $20,000, I think there would be significant adoption of the concept. Urban adoption will not likely happen since most dense urban areas have property valued at astronomical levels. Suburbs, however, offer a target rich environment - especially ones that have access to good transit systems. I really wish this movement would take off. The concept is solid as a rock.
Justin Schetrompf
As Grad of Prescott College and ECOSA(Eco-Design degree). I dig it. I have been playing with the basic trailer as a platform. Could be a fun contest, small teams or solo. Nice work! Connect ability would be great for groups or small families. Again, nice idea.
Solarman
NIce concept! I would recommend placing the solar panel on the top of the home where the panel will produce the most power. The current placement will most likely reduce production by 50%. There are solar panels available (ours, for example) that would mold to the curved roof design.
James Smith
As someone who has lived in a 25' sailboat and a 28' motor home, these concepts already exist, are affordable and practical. Minimalist living does not have to mean crude or deprived. It only takes some ingenuity and a willingness to free oneself of lot of possessions.
see3d
How does a 70 sq ft house fit on a 40 sq ft trailer?
Bruce Warren
Another cute project from college kids who have never lived a real life. Price with labor and delivery would be about $20,000... totally absurd. You can buy a 25ft used live-aboard sailboat for that price and have twice the space. Did any project team member try renting a little camper trailer without a shower, TV, or AC power and live it it for a few days during a Polar Vortex or 90 degree heat wave? OTIS is no better than a big tent with a nice cot, a porta-potti, and an iPhone for entertainment. There are pickup truck bed campers with more room than the OTIS. For 4 years, I owned a 13' Casita camper trailer about the size of the OTIS. Rounded fiberglass shell that never leaks (All that cute OTIS artwork will start leaking at the seams after a few hot/cold spells, or a few trips down a bumpy road). The Casita has a flush toiler, stand up shower, water heater, stove, fridge, propane cylinders, air conditioning, double bed, dining table for two, TV, closet, and more. Cost $12,000 and any car can tow it. Fun to live in for a few weeks. But, like OTIS, you have to own your own land to have a place to park it that does not cost $300 a month in an RV park. I do not understand the continuous stream of tiny wacko houses that no one ever actually lives in before they exclaim all its virtues. Nowhere on Green Mountain College property would the OTIS be allowed to park while being lived in. How about a story of a guy or gal that has actually lived in a tiny eco-house for a year or two? A Motel 6 room will seem like a palace after such an eco-house experiment.
Colin Tress
Bruce, you're missing a few key points. One is that you don't assume that we've considered many of the things you talk about. The students working on this project were under a number of constraints, not the least of which were time and money. We are not offering this design as the final be-all-end-all mobile tiny house. Instead it was a chance to explore a number of different technologies and building strategies. The cost of OTIS reflects what it would cost a small group or talented individual to build one. It was never our intent to market this as an optimized finished project, but instead to make the plans available for anyone interested in building one or wanted to make their own changes. It's an evolving design. Given that, we appreciate feedback and constructive criticism. Maybe we could learn something from you. Instead you chose to make a number of erroneous assumptions about us and deliver your criticisms in an extremely disrespectful tone. Grow up.