How little space could you call home?
Students at the Career and Technology Center are working on a small project that may have a big impact on the future of senior housing in Frederick County. The county and city have green-lighted the construction of a “tiny house” that is less than 600 square feet.
“They thought it would be a good learning experience for our students,” said Jim Thuman, the carpentry instructor at the school.
CTC students have built homes since 1978, but unlike previous projects, this one fits inside the classroom workshop.
Mark Lancaster, of Lancaster Craftsmen Builders, approached the school about creating a sample dwelling for seniors to “age in place.” The tiny house is a lifestyle alternative that would require less maintenance while keeping seniors close to their families and maintaining their independence, he said.
Lancaster serves on the Frederick County Housing Trust’s board and the housing board at CTC. He acted as the project liaison, designed the home and is continuing to help with permitting.
The tiny house being built by CTC students is not the typical HGTV trailer and loft microstructure. This one will sit on a foundation and be connected to water and power. It also is much wider than the remote cottages that have captured audiences’ attention.
This senior cottage, or senior bungalow, meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and could be lived in by a person with a walker or wheelchair.
The class has worked on the tiny house since October. On Feb. 14, the class climbed into white protective suits, gloves and safety glasses to install pink fiberglass insulation. Brad Garlowich, 16, laid a board across a strip of insulation to cut a straight line. He flipped up the piece over and fitted it between the wall’s studs.
“I’ve seen [tiny houses], but I didn’t think much of it,” Brad said. Working on the school’s project has made the ones on TV seem misleading, he said.
There are local regulations that limit how long a structure on wheels can sit on a property, as well as national livability standards. There is no zoning regulation that exclusively permits a tiny house structure, Lancaster said. The health department also has a say in livability of a structure.
The project has also been an opportunity to expose the students to green technology.
Glory Energy Solutions demonstrated for the students how to install foam insulation, which is very energy efficient for cooling and heating. The Frederick company’s owner, Tim Jones, has donated to the programs at the school for several years.
A crew showed two classes the chemistry, physics and mathematics behind foam insulation. “We’re able to turn that brief exposure into a real learning experience,” Jones said.
Because the house is designed to be energy efficient, its residents can keep living expenses low, Thuman said. “There’s still the assumption seniors will be on a fixed income.”
In fact, Lancaster said the structure could cost less then placing an aging relative in an advanced-care facility or senior-living community.
The tiny house the students built cost approximately $55,000, Thuman said. The school is not paying for labor, so a similar house completed by contractors would cost more. If a person decided to build one on their own, $55,000 is “the sticks and bricks” cost, Lancaster said.
The house includes a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet.
At 597 square feet, the tiny house could have been pared down even further with exemptions for fewer than two people living in the dwelling, Thuman said. However, the school is still unsure who will purchase the home and what their specific needs will be.
“We don’t want it to feel like a hotel room,” Lancaster said. There is space for the person to have a friend over and make small meals.
Beyond gaining the physical skills to build a home, students learn construction codes and current standards.
Because the house will be transported on a truck to a home show and its final destination, the house is “overbuilt,” Thuman said. There are extra strapping and reinforced areas to make sure the tiny house survives the moves.
Still to be built is a capped roof, which wouldn’t fit inside the school’s workshop.
Matt Seeback, 19, caulked the boards around the bedroom sliding-glass door window. One of his favorite portions of the class was learning how to install the windows.
“After the program, I’ll probably be going up to Pennsylvania to build a house for my grandmother,” Seeback said. He will use the skills he learned building the tiny house and other construction projects to build her a house.
People interested in seeing Frederick’s first tiny home can take a tour of the project at the annual Frederick County Building Industry Association Home Show on March 18 and 19.
“In order for people to accept it, they need to touch it,” Lancaster said.