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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane’s URBANBuild students build ‘Tiny Homes,’ combatting homelessness

Courtesy of @urbanbuild.tulane on Instagram

Tulane University’s URBANBuild program offers architecture students the opportunity to develop and build housing to help underserved communities. For the first time in 19 years, URBANBuild has now created a “Tiny Home,” measured at just 355 square feet. 

In fall 2023, students began competing to have their designs chosen for the development process. The students created a home under 360 square feet, one-fourth of a typical New Orleans lot, that still maintained a high standard of living.

“The homes are always a little inventive,” Noah Lion, a senior URBANBuild student, said. “They try to be contemporary and creative while still fitting in with the context with the New Orleans architectural history.”

Lion, whose design was selected to be built, went to great lengths to reflect New Orleans culture in his home. The result, entitled “Tiny Porch Home,” features a spacious and central front porch. 

“Porch culture is huge. People like to sit out on their front porch and interact with the street, and it’s beautiful weather for a lot of the year,” Lion said. “That was really important for me in my design to continue that culture.”

Courtesy of @urbanbuild.tulane on Instagram

The design of the home centers the porch, which is accessible from the kitchen, living room and bedroom. 

One of the most important considerations for Lion was having a generously sized kitchen in the home. 

“I really emphasized having a big kitchen because people love to cook down here too,” Lion said. “Rather than cramping the kitchen in a tiny home, I allowed the kitchen counter to extend across almost the whole space.”

Another notable feature of the home is its flat-pack design, meaning that it is made of panels that are fabricated in a factory and then assembled together to construct the home. 

“Part of the idea behind the tiny home was making it into a flat pack, like a prefabricated home, so that you could build it in pieces and then put it back together really quickly,” Brendan Cook, a senior URBANBuild student, said. 

URBANBuild students began assembling the panels by using the prefabrication design in Tulane’s Small Center earlier in the spring semester. Once the home was built, construction crews disassembled it and transported it to the lot in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Construction is ongoing, aiming to finish before graduation on May 18.

Beyond being a unique learning opportunity for Tulane students, URBANBuild also aims to benefit the greater New Orleans community. 

Courtesy of @urbanbuild.tulane on Instagram

Upon completion of construction, Louvis Services, a nonprofit that serves unhoused people, will buy the home and use it to house a person in need.

“You don’t need a full-size house. Especially for someone just getting back on their feet. All you really need is a roof over your head. A safe place that you can sleep at night,” Lion said. 

URBANBuild students advocate for tiny homes as a solution for homelessness in New Orleans and the rest of the country. 

“Tiny homes foster a better use of space since multiple homes can be placed on a standard-sized lot as opposed to a single house on a lot,” Isabel Baum, a senior URBANBuild student, said. “This aspect contributes greatly to increasing density in communities, which in return can help to house low-income individuals and shelter people living on the streets.”

Students hope to see tiny homes replicated beyond the single unit in the future and continue to shelter unhoused people. 

“As long as there are people who feel that that’s important, then hopefully the funding can come through and people can get off the streets,” Lion said.

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