If you’re in the market for a home that’s environmentally friendly, and your budget and need for personal space is minimal, the Kennewick School District may have the place for you.
Two tiny houses built by students at Tri-Tech Skills Center are to join the desks, textbooks, vehicles and other items the Kennewick School District declared as surplus for sale.
One of the houses requires only a minimum bid of $7,000, but was built as a prototype and needs work to make it livable, said construction trades instructor Tony Milewski.
Students are still working on the other. When complete, it will come with all the comforts of home — albeit in less than 200 square feet — running on solar power and propane. Minimum bid? $22,000.
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It’s got everything a house needs. Anything else would be extra.
Israel Lopez, Tri-Tech student
“I’m so proud of them,” Milewski said of his students’ work on the more complete model. “Even though it isn’t finished, it’s looking pretty cool.”
The course teaches students the basics of home construction, from roofing and plumbing to how to install cabinetry and a refrigerator. There’s also a goal to have them take those skills a step further, to meet the needs of their communities in the years to come.
“It’s new and interesting,” said senior Israel Lopez, 19, who primarily attends Phoenix High School. “It’s a change of pace.”
Tiny houses are part of a movement encouraging a minimalist lifestyle — environmentally and personally. Energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, primarily solar, mean the homes can be sited almost anywhere. Their small size, generally only a couple hundred square feet, pushes people to live with less.
Construction trades students built the prototype model a few years ago as part of the Imagine Tomorrow engineering competition at Washington State University. It is also less than 200 square feet and sits on a trailer. The project was picked as the advisers’ favorite in the competition.
But when Tri-Tech and the school district tried to sell the prototype after the competition, the state Department of Labor & Industries barred them, saying the structure had to be inspected first. Eventually, they were told the only way the prototype model could be sold as a home would be strip it down to its frame and start over.
Milewski opted against that — if a buyer puts several thousand dollars into it, it would be ready to live in. It could also serve as a coffee kiosk or an artist’s studio. The structure is expected to go up for sale in the coming weeks.
Each of the two tiny houses has just under 200 square feet of living space. It will have a dining nook, kitchen and toilet and shower area. Sleeping quarters are in a loft space.
In the meantime, Milewski tasked his students with another tiny house project. This time he had to work more closely with the state, a process of painstaking review and inspection.
“We have to have it inspected, we have to have it documented,” Milewski said. “Even the eaves. If you’re too wide, you can’t take it down the highway without a special permit.”
It also might be difficult to find a place to park the trailer-bound tiny house. Some communities have rules and codes limiting where they can be located or how long they can remain in one place.
But logistically, the tiny house can go anywhere. Its two solar panels take a few days to charge an installed battery, but it will power the house for almost two months when starting fully charged. Propane provides heat and powers the small water heater. The toilet will be reminiscent of those used in campers — it must be emptied manually, with no external attachment to a septic system or sewer.
The future owner won’t be able to take possession until after the Benton-Franklin Fair this summer, as it will be on display during the event.
Offers for the houses will be by sealed bid. Those interested may contact the school district at 509-222-5000.
And sure, it’s small, but the students working on it can see how it could be great for someone just wanting a basic home.
“It’s an all-in-one kind of thing,” said senior Cassie Smith, 18, who primarily attends Kennewick High School.
The construction trades class is also working on two full-size homes with Habitat for Humanity. Cassie and Israel said the tiny house project has given them the opportunity to work on everything required in a new home, something that can help any future homeowner.
Both want to be electricians, but the project has inspired them to look beyond home construction. Cassie has helped work on a project that proposes installing solar panels on the windmills already generating renewable energy. The move could power tens of thousands of additional homes.
For now, though, they’re content to finish sprucing up the tiny red house sitting outside their classroom at Tri-Tech.
“It’s got everything a house needs,” Israel said. “Anything else would be extra.”