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Interior rendering of ZeNETH's design. The tiny house will feature a sleeping loft, kitchen and a washer/dryer unit. // Photo courtesy of Project ZeNETH

Grace McCarthy

Western's first tiny house is on schedule for completion by summer 2019, the first in a growing program that has organizers looking for volunteers across campus and majors.

Project Zero Net Energy Tiny House (ZeNETH), a student-led venture housed by the Institute for Energy Studies, is building a tiny house to offer a potential solution for affordable housing while implementing sustainable practices.

Senior Kellen Lynch is the project manager of ZeNETH.

“I believe we should be compelled to innovate and change things all around us if we’re seeing issues,” Lynch said. “But doing it in a mindful way, not just going out and reshuffling the world based on our image.”

ZeNETH team members presented their funding proposal to Western's Sustainable Action Fund on Friday, May 11.

The SAF Grant Program provides funding to student-driven programs that promote educational and sustainable projects which benefit the campus, according to the Western Sustainability website.

Receiving grant approval would finance an expected $41,000 to $45,000 cost of building materials, which would pay for almost all of the house, except for parts like the sink and bed, Lynch said.

Many parts of the project are ready to move forward, Lynch said, but ZeNETH is waiting on approval from on-campus offices.

Exterior rendering of ZeNETH's zero net energy house. The house will produce as much energy over a year's time. // Photo courtesy of Project ZeNETH

He said ZeNETH has received positive feedback from these offices, but nothing is guaranteed.

As the project progresses, ZeNETH is working to make the team more diverse and include majors from all over Western.

“One of the harder parts of this project, and more rewarding parts at the same time, is making our project team representative of the student body at Western,” Lynch said.

Lynch wanted the project to be something everyone could identify with, and he said he is excited to watch people of different backgrounds and skill sets become part of the team.

The team has exponentially grown from less than 15 members in March to around 22 members, Lynch said.

Political science, sociology and energy policy majors are just a few of the many represented on the team.

Lynch presented updates on ZeNETH at the Huxley College Speaker Series on April 5.

Junior Molly Gross first met Lynch at the speaker series and began working as student engagement lead for ZeNETH one week later.

Gross said she is reaching out to Western's community to get different departments involved.

She said she is preparing Instagram posts about ZeNETH to take over OurWestern's account for the month of June. OurWestern is an Instagram and Snapchat account where Western students, staff or faculty can apply to run the posts for one month.

Gross said her experience on this project will give her skills that will be valuable after graduation.

“It’s a lot of teamwork and a lot of just getting the work done because you care about it, not because you want the grade or because you’re getting paid,” Gross said.

The design is getting closer to its final stages, but there are still many little changes being made, senior Noah Lanphear, the design lead, said.

"We’re just going the extra mile,"

senior Kellen Lynch.

He said the initial designs focused on making the house net zero, meaning the house would produce as much energy as it receives from the solar grid.

Now, more focus is being made on the experience and aesthetic of the home, Lanphear said.

The design team is brainstorming with sustainability methods that push the standards of what exist now, Lanphear said. Mushrooms, known as mycelium, are being considered as insulation, he said.

"Tiny houses aren’t a new idea," Lanphear said. "We’re not trying to say we came up with the tiny house concept. We’re trying to come up with our own idea of what smaller, more efficient, more sustainable living can look like.”

Lynch encourages anyone and everyone to bring their skills to the project.

"We’re not special people," Lynch said. "We’re just going the extra mile."


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