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Tiny House: Living Building Challenge

The Temple Tiny House project is a student-designed and student-constructed sustainable building located at the university’s urban garden site on main campus. The 175 square foot net-zero structure features a high performance thermal envelope, vegetated roof, rainwater harvesting system, off-grid photovoltaic system, a thermal energy collection system and a composting toilet.

About the project

Designed as an interdisciplinary project, the Temple Tiny House proved to be one of the most collaborative projects on campus, and involved the participation of a diverse group of faculty members, students, and administrative staff from around the university. With an overall goal of creating a small-scale sustainable showpiece for the university, the project facilitates interaction with and demonstration of its systems and provides co-curricular and community engagement opportunities.

The project is Petal Certified under the the Living Building Challenge making it the first certified project in the city of Philadelphia. Since its completion in spring 2017, the Temple Tiny House continues to offer educational opportunities to students and the larger Philadelphia community and serves as a food access programming and demonstration space for the student-run Temple Community Garden. Completion of the project was made possible through the efforts of many project partners (click for list of project partners).

Image from the Official Tiny House Project Brochure

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Student Design Charrette

The university hosted a student design charrette at Tyler School of Architecture in January 2015. Thirty-five students from 18 different disciplines came out to participate in the one-day event.

The objective of the competition was to design a sustainable tiny house that would be sited at Temple Community Garden located at Broad and Diamond. Each interdisciplinary team consisted of five students. Faculty and staff mentors and Temple Community Garden representatives were available during the charrette to address questions. The winning design was selected by a jury. Video coverage (above) was provided by the Klein College of Media and Communication during the event.

Learn more in our piece, Tiny House: Student Design Charrette.

Tiny House Design Course

The success of the design charrette led to the creation of an interdisciplinary design course to further develop the winning Tiny House design. Led by Architecture professors Robert Shuman and Timothy McDonald and held during the 2016 spring semester, the three-credit Architecture Special Topics course was developed to take the winning conceptual design from the January 2015 charrette through construction documentation in preparation for summer construction. The design of the net-zero structure would emphasize the use of sustainable materials and systems. Presentation of final designs was filmed by the School of Media and Communication

Landscape Architecture Design Charrette

The university hosted a student site design charrette at Tyler School of Architecture. The interactive design day was open to all Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students. Eight students helped develop conceptual landscape designs for the Temple Community Garden site in preparation for the tiny house summer build. The charrette was led by Landscape Architecture professor Kate Benisek and a representative of Temple Community Garden helped provide feedback during the charrette.

Tiny House Build Course

The tiny house, an accessory use shed for the Temple Community Garden site, was constructed through a three-credit Summer II Architecture Seminar course. Led by Architecture professor Robert Shuman, the 175SF net-zero structure was completed in spring 2017 and features: high performance thermal envelope construction with cork siding, 50SF green roof, rainwater harvesting, solar photovoltaic system, thermal energy collection and storage and composting sanitary plumbing systems.

Engineering Senior Design

Engineering Senior Design

The College of Engineering dedicated a multidisciplinary team of engineering students to the Tiny House project using the Senior Design course structure. During Senior Design I, the four person team collaborated with students in the design course to design the structural and building systems. The team had a chance to work with local companies to design the solar and green roof systems for the building. The team also worked with Temple Facilities Management on zoning and permitting issues. The team dedicated time during the summer build course to address questions and design changes and tested system design and performance during their Fall 2016 Senior Design II. The engineering team was supported by lead engineering faculty advisor Dr. Robert Ryan.

Green Roof Workshop

The construction of the green roof provided a learning experience through a hands-on workshop conducted by GRASS. Students learned about the benefits of green roofs and were given the opportunity to help install the 50sf tiny house green roof tray system.

Landscape Architecture Design Course

Students developed schematic level site designs through a Fall 2016 studio course that explored the development of graphic techniques and introduced students to the landscape design process using a small scale project.

Landscape Architecture Design Course

Tiny House Dedication

The tiny house officially opened on April 7, 2017, with a tiny ribbon cutting and dedication event. Watch Temple Update’s piece by Joselyn Castro below.

Video by Joselyn Castro

Tiny House Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Tiny House Site Plantings

The tiny house plantings were completed in October 2017 through student volunteer efforts.

Tiny House Site Plantings

Living Building Challenge

The project was Petal Certified in April 2019 under the rigorous performance building standard, the Living Building Challenge. Two architecture graduate students, one engineering undergraduate student and the president of the Temple Community Garden student group completed the certification application over the course of three semesters. Out of the eleven imperatives submitted, twelve were achieved, including:

  • 01: Limits to Growth (Place Petal)
  • 02: Urban Agriculture (Place Petal)
  • 03: Habitat Exchange (Place Petal)
  • 04: Human-Powered Living (Place Petal)
  • 06: Net Positive Energy (Energy Petal)
  • 15: Human Scale + Humane Places (Equity Petal)
  • 16: Universal Access to Nature & Place (Equity Petal)
  • 17: Equitable Investment (Equity Petal)
  • 18: Just Organizations (Equity Petal)
  • 19: Beauty + Spirit (Beauty Petal)
  • 20: Inspiration + Education (Beauty Petal)
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