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Hampshire College student to build tiny house for refugees

  • Production images of Rody Lipson's proposed tiny house. Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏—Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏

  • Production images of Rody Lipson's proposed tiny house. Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏—Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏

  • Production images of Rody Lipson's proposed tiny house. Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏—Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏

  • Production images of Rody Lipson's proposed tiny house. Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏—Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏

  • Production images of Rody Lipson's proposed tiny house. Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏—Courtesy of Rody Lipson‏



For the Gazette
Sunday, April 30, 2017

AMHERST – Some college students write a thesis or finish up course requirements their senior year. For his senior project at Hampshire College, Rody Lipson plans to build a tiny house for Syrian refugees.

“I chose that particular group, because when I started conceptualizing the project, Trump had just started banning refugees,” Lipson said.

“It was the political climate, and recognizing that these are a group (of people) that could really use our compassion and not our suspicion,” he continued.

Senior projects are a major focus of students’ last year at Hampshire College, Lipson explained. About a month and a half ago, at the beginning of spring semester, Lipson began to put his project to build a tiny house in motion.

“I think it’s important for people in position of privilege who can help people to use that privilege to help people,” Lipson stated.

Through online fundraising and donations, Lipson raised about $8,000 for the project. He hopes to reach $10,000 through grants and possibly more fundraising.

Lipson seeks to begin construction over the summer. To build the frame, he will enlist some help from 10 to 14 students and professionals from Yestermorrow Design Build School. The school is based in Vermont, but they will work this summer from New London, Connecticut. Lipson plans to finish the project before he graduates in December.

An architecture and sustainable design major, Lipson designed the tiny house himself. For the most part, he will also build the home himself, with help from others along the way. This is the largest structure Lipson has ever built.

“Trying to fit everything into a small space and still make it comfortable is a little bit of a puzzle,” Lipson said. But he expects the greatest challenges to come later, during the building process.

The tiny house will be mobile, resting upon a flatbed utility trailer. Lipson plans to make the house environmentally-friendly, equipped with solar panels and a composting toilet.

According to Lipson, the house will be 100 percent off the grid; solar panels will provide all power for lights, a water pump and a few electrical outlets.

The tiny house will not require any trailer hook-ups. Water will be stored in a large jug, which will be filtered and brought to the kitchen sink and bathroom by a water pump. The water jug will need to be refilled periodically with a hose, or other water source.

Once construction is completed, Lipson will register the tiny house as a Recreational Vehicle, which will be a much simpler process than registering it as a house, he said.

Ascentria Care Alliance in Westfield has agreed to match Lipson with Syrian refugees who are in need of a home, once he completes the project.

Depending on the size of the trailer he purchases, Lipson’s tiny house will be in the ballpark of 160 square feet. It will include a loft with a bed, a bathroom with a toilet and shower, a kitchen and a seating area with a fold-out couch.

“It’s really important for people to send the message to these communities that they are welcome, because that’s not the message they’re getting from the government,” Lipson said.