From a town with a population of 1,450 people in western Kansas, a group of high schoolers wants to “conquer the tiny house world.”
“We know this is a multimillion dollar business,” a student in Brent Kerr’s construction and entrepreneurship class at Ness City High School told members of the Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday. “If you do some Googling, you’ll find out it’s a pretty big deal.”
The students brought the 330-square-foot tiny house they began building at the beginning of the school year to Topeka this week and parked it on Jackson Avenue just east of the Statehouse. The trip took 5½ hours because they pulled the 12,500-lb. house on a trailer along K-4 highway rather than Interstate 70.
“I’d much rather go out and do it than sit at your desk and take notes all day,” sophomore Kris Liggett, 16, said when asked what he enjoyed most about the yearlong project. “You’re never going to forget about making a tiny house.”
Liggett said he and his classmates had to use a variety of academic subjects during the construction process. The students also have to use communication and social media marketing skills because they want to sell the house for $59,900.
“We try to run it like a business, like any other day at work,” Kerr said. “Everything about the house is student-built. They’ve done it all.
“They’re using construction skills. They’re also doing math, they’re writing about this, they’re talking about this in front of lots of people. So they’ve gained some skills that you get in the English classroom, the math classroom, the science classroom. They talk about sustainability with their project.”
The students told the board members their tiny home is much more energy efficient than the average home, using only 900 kilowatt-hours per month.
“I think this is the epitome of how we take standards and cross them through the curriculum,” said board member Sally Cauble, R-Liberal, whose district encompasses Ness City Unified School District 303. “I think it’s great.”
Luis Gomez, 17, a sophomore at Ness City High School, said he learned most through the mistakes he and his classmates made throughout the project.
“We had to take a wall down again and put it back on,” he said. “There were other parts we had to tear down. With that experience, we learned how to get better at it, so I think the best thing was the experience of learning.”
The students have entered their tiny house in several entrepreneurship competitions, which has sharpened their sales pitch, commonly known as an “elevator pitch.”
Kerr said the house was inspected by licensed electricians and plumbers to ensure the students’ work met the proper requirements. He said $24,000 worth of materials were used to build the structure, and the profits will be put back into the next house the class will build during the 2017-18 school year.
According to an November 2016 Topeka Capital-Journal article, Topeka and Shawnee County regulations require a permanent foundation for residences, effectively making living in a tiny home on wheels illegal in the capital city. There are additional provisions regarding connections to sewer, water and electric utilities. In some constructions, there are minimums on the size of bathrooms and living rooms.