Despite the name of her project, “Tiny Girl, Tiny House,” twelfth-grader Emily Cain aims to dream big. A budding architect, Cain is currently working on the complete design and construction of her own “tiny house,” a literal small home that is part of a global, environmentally conscious movement.
According to census data, the typical American house size averages at about 2,600 square feet. Tiny houses, on the other hand, usually range between 100-400 square feet and are built on a mobile trailer. “They’re more about learning to live with less, essentially,” Cain said. “When I move into my tiny house, I’m going to have to cut back on a lot of what I own right now… So many people spend so much money on buying decorative things that don’t really have much use… The whole concept of tiny house is that tiny houses reduce your waste, which is something I find really appealing considering the current environmental problems.”
Cain first decided to pursue the construction of a tiny house after watching the documentary “TINY: A Story About Living Small.” The film chronicles the challenges and experiences of one man as he embarks on creating his own version of a tiny house. “It really inspired me, and I fell in love with tiny houses immediately,” Cain said.
From that point onward, Cain and her father, Darrell, together decided to work on building a tiny house that Emily would live in while in college and beyond. In November of 2015, after attending a workshop by Tumbleweed — the country’s largest manufacturer of tiny houses and tiny house designs — the pair purchased construction plans and began the design process.
Cain’s father, having a considerable amount of experience in construction and renovation, is a large contributor to the tiny house project. In reference to her father’s construction experience and assistance, Cain said, “He’s just really good at most things. This is one of them.”
Since the initial purchase of the house’s base trailer this past August, the father-daughter duo only work on the house together. When not building, the two share financial costs for all project materials. These range from wooden roof beams to prospective solar panel additions. The house itself is to be 20 feet long by eight feet wide. While there is much left to go before its completion, tiny house has made a considerable amount of progress since the beginning of physical construction last December. As of now Cain and her father have completed most of the house’s outer frame and have begun the roofing process. With no designated completion date Cain said, “We’re trying to get as much done [as possible] before I go to college.”
Cain plans to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute later in the fall to pursue a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree. Hoping to “create communities and cities that are environmentally friendly,” Cain later wishes to go in to Urban and Regional planning after her bachelor’s.
A close friend of Cain’s, twelfth-grader Dalia El-Shafie said, “She’s very aware of environmental stuff. She basically wants to save the planet… she’s a very kind, caring person, which sounds cliché, but I’ve literally never met anyone who’s kinder.”
As her for his daughter’s future in architecture, Darrell Cain said, “I think the sky is the limit. She’s very dedicated. She works really hard at what she wants. She has a unique eye. It’ll be really interesting to see what she does… She’s environmentally conscious. I think she’ll do a lot of good things in her career.”