Upper School for Boys

Tiny House Project

The Annie Wright Upper School for Boys launched a 6-month project in January 2018 to build a tiny house for a community in Seattle. This project, part of their Architecture & Design course, introduces them to the design-build process as planning and construction begin for the new Upper School for Boys building on campus. More importantly, this project helps them engage in the community and turn their learning into meaningful action.

The boys began by studying the factors that lead to homelessness and elements of the homeless experience. After exploring priorities for shelter, they visited Nickelsville Georgetown Tiny House Village in Seattle to learn about the community and gain some understanding of needs and best practices before they began the design-build process.

Incorporating this research, as well as a study of built tiny homes and several exercises in empathy and the relationship between emotions and architecture, they developed a design including dimensions, elevations, layout, interior elements, storage and more. In February the boys traveled to the Seattle office of Mithun architects to get feedback on their renderings. Incorporating suggestions from the professionals, the boys revised their original plans.
Building began in March, supervised by Romano along with two community volunteers, contractor Tyler Kolbo and retired Boeing employee Karl Stromvall.
Along with five hours per week of class time, the boys had five additional six-hour build days. A typical build day involved goal-setting and then dividing into groups to work on particular elements, for example walls, windows, roofing and siding. Romano, Kolbo and Stromvall taught the necessary skills on site, and along the way the students learned how to use a range of tools from measuring tapes to nail guns to blow torches.
The process had its challenges and surprises. One student got temporarily stuck to the roofing material while working on the roof. Another morning the school security team found a homeless person actually sleeping in the partly finished tiny house in the school parking lot. There were many highlights as well, including experiencing the changing of the seasons while working long hours outside and watching the structure develop into a home. The roof crew regularly burst into song.
“In building, the boys had the opportunity to slow down and think about their actions,” said Romano. “We like to say ‘measure twice, cut once.’ That might be a good life lesson for boys.”

In the News

See coverage of this project from King5 and South South Magazine.

GRAY Magazine highlighted the USB tiny house project in an article about how the design community is addressing homelessness. 


Annie Wright Schools
827 North Tacoma Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98403

Translate this page:

Founded in Tacoma, Washington, in 1884, Annie Wright Schools serve students from age three through high school. Annie Wright Lower  and Middle Schools offer coed programs in Preschool through Grade 8, while separate Upper Schools for girls  and boys offer day and boarding options in Grades 9 through 12. Annie Wright is proud to be an International Baccalaureate World School.