The prototype for what will eventually be a collection of tiny homes in Sherman Heights in which local artists will live and work is now being designed and built by local teens.
Students from Chula Vista's High Tech High School are hard at work constructing one of the tiny homes for artists in a parking lot in downtown’s East Village which will transform into a new art center called Space 4 Art.
The 9th grade students are working with architects and professional builders on the temporary tiny home. The framework is made entirely of wood and the home measures 16 by 20 feet. The ceiling is 16 feet high and a loft upstairs will increase the living space.
"A big thing of this is making a lot of windows, so [residents] feel that it's a bigger space with more natural light," said Regina Kruglyak, a teacher at High Tech High who is helping to oversee the project.
"We also want to make sure [residents] are not getting too much heat, because that will waste a lot of electricity. So we were very strategic in where the windows were placed," she added.
Every piece of furniture built into the home is modular and will serve at least two purposes.
"You would never have a piece of furniture in a tiny house that only does one thing," explained Kruglyak. "You would never just sleep in a bed. You would want a bed that flips up and turns into a desk, with probably a storage underneath."
Students have been working on the project since fall 2015. They collaborated in small groups to present their design for the tiny homes to teachers, architects, parents and even future residents.
For the students, seeing one of their designs become reality is motivating.
"It's cool that you're building something that's going to be used and not just built and be put there," said Enrique Dominguez, a freshman at High Tech High.
"We had a system where the students constructed the panels and another system where they put in the sheathing to keep all the walls structurally-sound," said Cynthia Viveros, a designer at Space 4 Art.
"It's not every day that you get to take a full week out of your high school and come and build a house for artists. It's very different. A very cool experience," added Dominguez.
The students are even creating some of the artwork that will hang on the walls. They're working together to make a mosaic mural.
"My group, we get along so well, and our artists are just great. So we've had a lot of fun designing the tiny homes for our artists," said Cayla Maltman, a High Tech High student.
The 9th graders are also becoming more aware that the choices they make in their day-to-day lives affect their surroundings.
"We've been learning how the tiny home movement is big for the environment because you're not using as much stuff as you are when you're living in a bigger home," said Maltman.
While students are learning about conservation and engineering principals, it's a different type of lesson that's leaving the strongest impression.
"I had to be more patient, work out things," said Dominguez. "I've learned how to cope with more people."
"It's a ton of teamwork. This whole project is a ton of teamwork," said Maltman.
The teachers also want their students to see how much money and time they would save by living with less.
"Our parents' generation- what they needed and what they were able to afford is very different than what we are able to afford these days," said Kruglyak. "I want to give these kids a future that's realistic, but also full of passion and excitement."
In a few weeks, the students and teachers will put the finishing touches on the framework and work on the home's interior design.
The plumbing and electricity for the prototype will all go in later, at the art center's future location in Sherman Heights. That's where builders will also put up the insulation and metal siding.
A Kickstarter fundraiser brought in $18,000 to pay for the building materials for this first tiny house. Among the donations was $10,000 from Qualcomm and $3,000 from The New Children's Museum. An anonymous donor pledged another $5,000 for the project. Space 4 Art is also applying for grants to cover the rest of the costs.
Space 4 Art is working with the City of San Diego Planning Department to obtain the necessary permits for the permanent building, and hope to break ground by the end of next year.
"We like to create spaces that get people together, that embody a sense of community," said Viveros.
Space 4 Art will host a grand opening for the tiny home prototype on June 10.
High Tech High is planning to build at least one more tiny home for the new art center. If you'd like to donate money, go to this website and mention that it's for the tiny home project.