by Joyce Helens, President, St. Cloud Technical & Community College
May 23, 2015
In the United States, bigger has always been better. Bigger means we have more disposable income. Bigger means status. Nowhere is this seen more than in the housing market.
I recall an immigrant telling me the story of how, in his home country, he was shown a picture of a high-rise building and was told that this was the typical single family residence in the U.S. He was told that everything was bigger in America. And for decades it was.
Americans purchased "starter homes" planning on that next larger place. In the 1970s the average home was 1,660 square feet, but by 2007 it was 2,521 square feet, according to U.S. census data.
And then the recession hit. Many people lost the means to own any home much less a super-sized one. Living more simply became the "unexpected opportunity" of the downturn, and the need to shed debt. This is when interest in affordable housing spurred widespread interest in "tiny house" living that some call not just a movement but a revolution.
Next fall, St. Cloud Technical & Community College programs in construction, plumbing, electrical and architectural design will be part of that revolution.
Today no matter where you look, tiny house living is in front of you. Popular TV shows such as "Tiny House Nation" showcase creative small space living around the country. Tiny house magazines and books provide construction guides, building plans and sustainable "green" construction. They also offer tips on living more simply, something one must seriously think about before moving into a "tiny home," which by definition is anywhere from 65 to 400 square feet.
Blogs like Tiny House Talk say the message behind the Tiny House movement is that living more consciously leads to better decisions for a healthier lifestyle. So along with house plans and materials lists, it is not uncommon to get tips on how to downsize and still get our needs met, how to make smarter purchasing and consumption decisions, declutter our lives and increase our resources (money and time).
Tiny homes have both a creative simplicity and efficiency that appeal to a lot of people today wanting a little more freedom, a little more time, and a little more peace of mind.
Researching and deciding to join the tiny house movement for SCTCC was a decision based on our own decluttering and continuous improvement processes for sustainability. In a time of diminishing resources, building multiple large homes was daunting and becoming impractical and unaffordable. Yet, building something people will live in gives students real-life experience. The idea of building one or two tiny houses that students could create on campus was appealing, but there is still lots of work to do.
Faculty continue to research tiny house partners for collaboration on the project, both within and outside the college. Our energy technician students, for example, may want to contribute their talents to making the tiny house run on solar energy. The process for design selection still has to be worked out and whether students will build one or two models, perhaps in a competition. Other decisions are square footage, and whether the tiny houses will be built permanently on moveable trailers as many are.
This is where you come in.
We would like to hear your ideas for the SCTCC tiny house project. What tiny house models have you looked at and liked? What features should our tiny houses have? How tiny should our tiny house be? Should they be on wheels permanently or off loaded onto a site?
What are your thoughts about simplifying life and trying the efficiencies of living in a smaller space? Would you be able to do it?
Contact us through our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sctcc. Watch for tiny house updates, contests, discussions on tiny living and planning the celebration auction of the inaugural SCTCC tiny house next spring! As they say in the tiny house movement, "Live small to have it all."
This is the opinion of Joyce Helens, president of St. Cloud Technical & Community College. To A Higher Degree is published the fourth Sunday of the month and rotates among the presidents of the four largest Central Minnesota higher education institutions.