U.C. Berkeley Tiny Home

Tiny House in My Backyard is an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students that worked together to design and build affordable, off-grid, 100% solar-powered tiny houses. Sabrina Werts, an English/Public Health Major and Public Policy Minor, took on the role as the Communications Director for the project.

U.C. Berkeley Tiny Home Collage

The planning phase of the project started 2 years ago, the team reached out to many businesses for sponsors, including Pella Doors and windows of Northern California in the process.

The team was victorious in the SMUD 2016 Tiny House Competition in Sacramento, taking 2nd place overall in the competition and winning individual awards for water conservation, sustainability, craftsmanship and home life.

Tiny Home Interior According to Werts, the team’s founders heard about the SMUD Tiny House Competition through an email sent to students in an interdisciplinary energy course at the University of California, Berkeley.  “We started to assemble a group of interested students, THIMBY wasn’t an assignment of any sort — it’s the result of a student-led effort to build an affordable, sustainable tiny home,” said Werts.  

While the construction of THIMBY started in May of 2016, the initial planning started in the fall of 2014 where the team put together preliminary designs for the tiny home and finding sponsors for the project.

“Members of our team reached out to companies, both local and national, on their own, and had great success getting support,” said Werts. “Once people heard our story, they were generally eager to help.”

The total project costs were approximately 45K, but the team was able to gather close to 15K of donations and discounts from sponsors (www.calthimby.org).

Pella provided discounted windows and a sliding patio door for the project.

Exterior View of Tiny Home “We loved working with Pella,” said Werts. “We wanted THIMBY to feel like an extension of the outdoors and Pella worked with us to find exactly what we’d envisioned, and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”

At the SMUD competition, Werts said that people often commented that the doors made the home feel “more spacious” and “like you were practically outside.”  

Although the team had several successes, they didn’t come without challenges along the way.  “There just wasn’t enough time to accomplish some of the things we’d planned on-like painting the walls in the bathroom,” said Werts. “We [also] had a brief scare with our electrical system, so we decided to scrap our original insulation plan and go with a new product.”  Werts said each challenge was handled well by the team, and they were very happy with the THIMBY end results.

The homes at the SMUD Tiny House Competition in Sacramento were judged based on four categories: Energy, Communications, Architecture, and Home Life.

The U.C. Berkeley team won awards for Conservation, Sustainability, Craftsmanship, and Home Life. 

-Megan Newendorp, Pella Norcal 

Learn more at www.calthimby.org and www.smud.org 

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