18 OSU architecture students to build tiny house

Roseanne McKeeJ-C Correspondent
18 OSU architecture students to build tiny house

Hank Benson, third generation owner of Benson Lumber in Pawhuska, is helping a group of 18 third-year architectural students at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater with their design/build studio class by providing all of the materials they need to build a tiny house.

According to information provided by OSU, the financial crisis of 2007-2010 prompted an interest in smaller homes in the U.S. Although the average family size had decreased over the years, the average size of single family homes had increased by 40 percent from 1,780 sq. ft. in 1978 to 2,479 sq. ft. by 2007.

Publication of the book The Not So Big House by English-born American-based architect Sarah Susenka, and published in 1997, also brought attention to the tiny house concept. Advocates say that tiny houses of 1,000 sq. ft or less are more affordable and requires less maintenance than larger homes.

Microstructures, a subset of the tiny house movement, are livable spaces of no more than 150 sq. ft. They differ from RVs because they are equipped with scaled-down home amenities such as a full kitchen. The OSU house falls into the category of microstructure.

The OSU design class assignment changes from year to year, but it is a one-semester project. The idea to build a tiny house came from the tiny houses Benson has been building in Pawhuska. One such tiny house is currently for sale across the street from Benson Lumber on Lynn Ave. for $15,500.

Benson, a 1978 OSU graduate himself, approached the university’s school of architecture with the idea of sponsoring the construction of a tiny house designed by students.

The process begins with a design competition, Instructor Stan Carroll explained. The 18 students will divide into six teams. “Each team of three kids will design a tiny house; it has to function as a house, but otherwise, they’re pretty free to express themselves.”

“A winner will be chosen out of those six teams in about four weeks from now. And then after that the entire class of 18 will get together and will construct the winning entry,” Carroll said.

The competition is an opportunity for Benson to see the students’ designs, Carroll said.

“Hank sees this as an opportunity for fresh ideas and hopefully he’ll incorporate some of these ideas. Who knows what venture he’ll take on. He’s a pretty resourceful guy,” Carroll said.

“The key is to keep it kind of loose and open and not restrict them too much. It has to be a livable house of about 150 square feet up to maybe 200 sq. ft. maximum – one or two stories maximum.

“One of the requirements is that it be very light weight; any of the parts should not weigh more than 30 lbs. so that a person can move them around.”

According to Carroll, the house does not need to be portable, but it will need to be movable.

“One idea is a flat-pack approach where you build it in assemblies, like wall assemblies and then you assemble it on-site. This approach is where you store all compressed into walls and then you take it out and start setting those walls up with attachment methods on the site to make the construction at the site quick and simple,” he said.

As for the budget, “[w]e said $10,000 is our budget for purely materials without labor included.” The students will provide all of the labor.

Another design requirement is that 30 percent of the building materials be from recycled materials.

“There probably won’t be any cost for the recycled materials. Hank has a lot of recycled materials out back that the students will look at,” Carroll said. “They can also find recycled materials from other sources.”

“Benson Lumber has been very gracious to donate all the materials and they will own the house in the end. Since they donated all the materials, they’ll get the house as their takeaway.”