Design Project Description - Spring 2018

tiny house 1 floating tiny house tiny house in desert

Nature and Scope of the Project

The nature of projects in this course varies from year to year. This year, students will design tiny houses subject to a number of constraints.

A tiny house is a small dwelling with typically no more than 400 ft2 and built for affordability, minimalism, portability, small environmental footprint, or a host of other reasons.

The students will work for the duration of the term in teams of 4 or 5 students, with each team designing a tiny house that meets both a set of general constraints and some differentiating attributes.

The general constraints that all designs must satisfy are:

In addition, each team must select one of the following differentiating attributes:

The instructor is open to the students' ideas, and teams may propose their own differentiating attributes.

tiny house 2 open tiny house


The term-long design project had the following objectives:

  1. To gain practice with the sustainable building design process;
  2. To gain advanced design experience by including specific social and economic constraints into engineering design;
  3. To develop experience working within a team that includes diverse talents;
  4. To present and defend a sustainable design in front of a professional review board.


Students group themselves in teams of 4 or 5 students, and proceeds with the corresponding sustainable design project under the supervision of the instructor and one assigned teaching assistant.

Each team will report twice to a Review Board, once at mid-term and again at the end of the term. The Review Board will consist of two engineering professors, two architects well versed in green design, and one energy expert.

tiny house 3 tiny house 4


Week 1
Week 2
Weeks 3-5
Week 6
Weeks 7-9
Week 10
Week 11
tiny house in snow tiny house zero energy floating egg


1st report 2nd report
Background info on location
(climate, materials, water availability)
5% -
Targets and limitations
(energy, materials, water, cost)
5% -
(at least three distinct design ideas)
15% -
Selection of most hopeful design
(criteria involved in decision)
5% -
Specifications & constraints
(initial, then revised)
20% 5%
Creativity in the design
(first in broad lines, later in details)
25% 25%
Key numbers
Feasibility of the ideas
15% -
Energy analysis:
from sourcing to utilization
- 15%
Other analyses, as pertinent:
ex. water, materials
- 5%
Verification that all specs
and constraints are met
- 5%
Floor plans and computer rendering
of external and internal aspects
- 15%
Quantitative estimation of
environmental benefits and impacts
- 10%
Economic analysis - 5%
Quality of oral presentation
(including ability to answer questions)
10% 10%
Quality of written report - 5%
TOTAL 100% 100%

Past Projects

2016 - Technology for Promoting Environmentally Conscious Behavior

2017 - Re-purposing the Sacred Heart Church Buildings in Southbridge, Massachusetts