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."

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.

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