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Using a Micro-House as a Starting Point to Create an Affordable House

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Construction Session 1: Sustainable Practices

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Paper Authors


Edwin R. Schmeckpeper P.E. Norwich University

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Edwin Schmeckpeper, P.E., Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction Management at Norwich University, the first private school in the United States to offer engineering courses. Norwich University was the model used by Senator Justin Morrill for the land-grant colleges created by the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act. Prior to joining the faculty at Norwich University, Dr. Schmeckpeper taught at a land-grant college, the University of Idaho, and worked as an engineer in design offices and at construction sites.

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John Edward Patterson Norwich University

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This paper shows how teams of students from the University’s Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Management programs are using lessons from the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Competition to develop a regionally derived, solar powered, affordable housing model. Student teams are working to design a series of micro-houses (approximately 300-400 SF each) that can stand alone or be combined with other modules to create a larger, integrated structure. This process is similar to how families in New England would first construct what is known as a half-Cape, and as the family grew, the house would be enlarged into a Full Cape, and then enlarged further with dormers and shed additions. One of the basic principles used in the project was that the entire house does not need to be constructed at once: additional room modules could be added to the house over time.

The core of micro-house was designed to contain basic amenities, such as kitchen and bathrooms, and to be large enough to meet the needs of two people. The outside walls of the core micro-house are designed so that additional rooms can be readily attached. These subsequent additions can be designed to be more flexible and less expensive to manufacture than the core, and can vary depending on the needs of the occupants.

This project will serve to demonstrate how houses could be constructed in stages from micro-houses, with the micro-houses being combined, over time, to create a larger house. The design teams will explore non-conventional structural framing for the micro-houses and optimize the mechanical and electrical integration process by designing standardized, modular systems. In order to reduce costs, the project teams will also integrate the photovoltaic systems into the building structure, and consider innovations such as the use of DC current to eliminate the dc to ac conversion losses.

The student teams are constructing the first core micro-house module during 2015-2016 school year. Lessons from the construction of the first micro-house will be incorporated into the construction of subsequent versions.

Schmeckpeper, E. R., & Patterson, J. E. (2016, June), Using a Micro-House as a Starting Point to Create an Affordable House Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27122

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