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High school students build tiny houses!

With drills at the ready and hammers in hand, trades students have spending the last 10 months constructing two brand new tiny houses, which will soon be up for sale.

The work was carried out through Ara Institute, where a variety of NZ high schoolers have this year achieved something truly awesome!

17-year-old Louie Whitelaw from Christchurch Boys’ High School has worked hard on the houses and is looking forward to seeing them completed.

“At the start I had no idea what I was doing…it was all pretty challenging to be honest, but I learnt a lot. The highlights have been working with my mates, and gaining skills which I can take into the future,” Whitelaw says.

Head of Department Careers and Transition from Christchurch Boys’ High School told school news more about Whitelaw and the programme:

“Louie is a Yr. 13 student, final year of school in NZ, who chose to do a programme whereby he attends school Mon, Tues and Wed and attends the local Polytechnic all day on Thursdays and Fridays. It is a relatively new delivery option available to all our senior students which is proving popular.

“The aim is to give students a tertiary experience in an area of interest whilst still at school to see if that is the path they wish to continue with. Louie enrolled on the Introduction to Building and Construction and absolutely loved it. At school he continued to study English, Maths, Food Technology as well as some Life Skills modules. The year has proved very successful for him and he has signed up for a Building Apprenticeship starting early next year.”

Whitelaw is one of 15 carpentry students from Ara’s Dual Enrolment programme who worked on the project for two days a week at Ara’s Woolston Campus, while attending secondary school. His Ara classmates come from Christchurch Boys’ High School, Shirley Boys’ High SchoolPapanui High SchoolMairehau High SchoolHagley CollegeLinwood CollegeSt Bede’s College and Burnside High School.

Cooke thinks the Dual Enrolment programme is great for students who want to explore the idea of a career in trades. “The learnings from this are going to set them up for the next stage of their career. For the majority of these guys, they’re either going into jobs in the industry after school, or they’re going into a pre-trade course. The outcome has been really good.”

Carpentry tutor Mick Cooke is excited about the growing housing trend and says he’s wanted to build a tiny house for a few years. “I think tiny houses are great. I’d love one! Imagine getting one of these as a bach somewhere like Motunau or Cheviot, it would be ideal for a weekend getaway.”

Transportable and compact, the tiny houses are 7.2m high and 2.5m wide, with a floor space of approximately 23m2. “There’s plenty of room,” Cooke says. “There is a bathroom, a storeroom big enough to fit laundry appliances, a kitchen and living area and stairs up to a mezzanine floor where the bed will go.”

While already cheaper to heat than traditional homes, the insulation in the houses keeps heating costs down – made out of a combination of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS), OSB board, and polystyrene.

The houses are relatively energy efficient with sustainable aspects incorporated throughout the design. “We have Low Emissivity (Low-E) glass which has a special invisible coating bonded to the glass inside the double glazing. This coating reduces heat loss from the home by essentially acting like a ‘heat mirror’, that reflects heat back into your home. The double glazed units are also tinted. We’ll hopefully have a composting toilet, or there’s potential to put in an incinerating toilet, depending what the client chooses,” Cooke says.

For those looking to downsize, get a start on the property ladder or live a more minimalist lifestyle, the two tiny houses will be up for sale to the public around the end of the year and Cooke says they are already creating a big buzz.


Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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5 years ago

Great article, shame about the 19th century picture of a student using a bowsaw. We want to encourage students into construction, not put them off with Dickensian notions.

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