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No small feat: High School students build tiny houses at Ara

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

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 Ara 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.

17-year-old Louis 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.

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 School, Papanui High School, Mairehau High School, Hagley College, Linwood College, St 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.”

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