Second tiny house sited in December, providing home for holiday season

Norwich University’s students and faculty used their civic-mindedness and creativity to leave a lasting holiday gift in Barre, Vermont before the winter break. The stylish, ecologically efficient tiny home they built, LIFT 2.0, stands as an example of affordable housing’s future and marks a step toward resolving local homelessness.

LIFT 2.0 was sited Dec. 17 in a “Home for the Holidays” ceremony attended by students and faculty from Norwich’s School of Architecture+Art and Design+Build Collaborative and Norwich’s partners in the project — Downstreet Housing & Community Development and Washington County Mental Health Services. The LIFT 2.0 house was made possible through a $20,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, TD Bank’s charitable giving arm..

The first LIFT house was sited and occupied in January 2020. Tolya Stonorov, an associate professor of architecture and practicing architect, and Danny Sagan, an associate architecture professor and practicing architect, and Mark Atwood, a civil engineering lecturer, led the team behind that project.

The LIFT houses may offer hope in Washington County, which the nonprofit Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness ranked second among Vermont counties for the number of chronically homeless households on its 2020 Point-in-Time Report.

Both houses, occupying about 300 square feet each, stand on land donated by former Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon and his wife, Karen. In 2019, the TD Charitable Foundation gave $200,000 to start the Design+Build Collaborative, which enables interdisciplinary teams of architecture, construction management, engineering and nursing students from Norwich’s College of Professional Schools to develop housing projects.  

“We all brought the same goal; we all brought a slightly different lens to look at the problem,” Norwich School of Architecture+Art Director Cara Armstrong said, “And I think together (the team) came up with a great solution.”

The projects may offer hope in Washington County, which the nonprofit Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness’ 2020 Point-in-Time Report ranked second among Vermont counties in chronically homeless households (37) behind only Chittenden County (49). The report showed 184 chronically homeless households statewide.

The coalition’s one-day count, a local snapshot from Jan. 20, 2020, suggested statewide homelessness climbed. The coalition counted 1,110 Vermonters experiencing literal homelessness, up 21 persons from a year earlier. In all, the group counted 821 homeless households, up 49 from a year earlier; 114 people were counted; the number, which doesn’t include people at risk of homelessness, doubled up or couch surfing, was static from a year earlier.

Act and conceive

Norwich’s Design+Build Collaborative calls on students to “act as well as conceive” to create solutions for local, regional and global challenges. The collaborative has developed seven different affordable housing prototypes since 2011.

lift siting 2020
Norwich University faculty and staff stand with representatives from Washington County Mental Health Services and Downstreet Housing & Community Development outside LIFT 2.0 in Barre, Vermont, on Dec. 17, 2020. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

In a Dec. 22 video, Norwich University’s faculty, staff and partners shared their sense of accomplishment and purpose in seeing LIFT 2.0, built during fall 2019 and summer 2020, ready to occupy.

“I call this the project of the willing,” Washington County Mental Health Services Executive Director Mary Moulton said, “because they came forward with student and design ideas and they made it happen.”

Adam Sevi, an associate professor of civil engineering at Norwich, said his team built the second LIFT house from the inside out, placing sheetrock first and following with utility hookups, insulation and sheathing. Construction management students, he said, had suggested this method to speed work and contain costs.

Ben Carlson, a junior in Norwich’s School of Architecture+Art, said he was glad to see the LIFT house done.

“When we shipped it off, it was just a box with some sheathing on the outside,” he said in the video, “and to see it actually on the site, ready to be a home is incredible.”

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

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