KCC builds small home to show sustainability

PUHI — There’s living green, and then there’s actually living green.

Justin Carvalho, carpentry instructor and coordinator at Kauai Community College, has been working with his students in the Carpentry and Facilities Engineering program to construct a house based on renewable energy and sustainability using alternative materials.

This house isn’t a five-bedroom mansion in Kilauea by any means, but the 10-by-12 structure will use the land and its resources to make the house a home.

“The rough framing is up, the side panels are up and most of the roof is up as well,” Carvalho said.

“We’re going to power the tiny house with our hydro-electric station that produces DC energy which will charge our battery bank, then we’ll use an inverter to convert from DC to AC energy. From there we’ll run the power line underneath the ground to our tiny house, about 120 feet of line.”

The tiny house project began last summer as part of a five-day build open to the public to participate in a sustainability project. Fast forward nearly a year, and the project has turned into a reality.

“The idea of the project is to incorporate a number of green building design concepts and to challenge the public to think about how we can live with more sustainability in the future,” Carvalho said.

Carvalho said that if you were to live in a tiny house such as the structure they’re building at KCC, you would have to make different decisions about how you live your life concerning energy usage and even things like using the bathroom.

The tiny house will have a compost toilet, a full bathroom with shower, a kitchen and a sitting area on the bottom floor.

A ladder will be built connecting the bottom floor to the top floor to put in two beds and be a place for storage.

As for the roof, Carvalho and his students are going green.

“The next stage for the roof is we’re going to put a green roof on it. And when I say green roof, I mean that it’s going to be a garden roof,” he said.

“It’s going to have a pond liner with dirt and then we’ll put in some grass and local plants. Literally a garden: a no-maintenance garden.”

When asked if he would put an asking price for rent on the house, Carvalho laughed off the idea and noted that the house is purely for demonstration to prove a point that people can live a sustainable lifestyle on Kauai.

Including materials, Carvalho said they’re shooting to complete the project for about $20,000, which was funded by donations.

Carvalho hopes to have the project completed this summer but with only three weeks left of instruction, a more realistic timetable would be this fall.


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