Vicki May Thayer School of Engineering Hanover, NH
Solomon Diamond and Rafe Steinhauer
Problem Statement and Significance: In 2018, Professor Vicki May began a project to construct a living space in the form of a tiny house for Dartmouth’s Organic Farm. Her aim was to create an experiential learning opportunity for her students, and she received a $45,000 grant from the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) to complete the project. However, due to permitting problems, this original plan was unable to come to fruition. Since then, iterations on how to complete the project and uses for the structure have been discussed, with the most recent application coming forth in spring 2020 as a tiny research station (TRS) for researchers on the Second College Grant (SCG). However, the project was again interrupted in March 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and a halt on non-essential work left the project unfinished. Construction of an 8 ft x 20 ft building shell was completed, however, $18,000 remained to finish the project with an open-ended, flexible application for the structure.
Value Proposition: Researchers at the SCG lack a dedicated research space. Their current combined research and living space, a building called the Town Office, is crowded and inefficient when the usual 3-10 of them are working there during the summer months. The tiny research station will provide a dedicated lab space to the researchers entirely separate from their living space. It is designed to specifically accommodate their sampling processes and allow more efficient and comfortable work. Additionally, the mobility of the station will give them the opportunity to work in locations where they are conducting field research, which will be particularly useful when they are dealing with time-sensitive samples.
The DCAL grant funding this project was intended to provide an experiential learning opportunity to those involved in the design and construction of the tiny house. To further this goal beyond ourselves, we have designed the station to operate as a living lab: a space where students can learn about modeling, prototyping, and refining solutions in the context of a space that is in active use. We are sharing the knowledge we have gained from completing the project in an educational, easily-accessible format on our own project website, something that is rare for the green building industry. We also designed the building in such a way as to facilitate future hands-on learning and engagement. The documentation of our design, analysis, and construction experiences will provide a foundation for future student projects related to buildings, energy analysis, and sustainable design. While Dartmouth students have been involved in large-scale construction and sustainable design projects before, this is the first occupied building designed and constructed by students, and the first of its kind (that we know of) that will continue to evolve as future students take advantage of its experimental and adaptable nature.
In order to optimize use of the station, it will be located in Hanover during the winter months when the researchers have no use for it. This relocation allows students to easily access, study, and alter the station, supporting our living lab goals. The building conditions and energy use and production will be monitored, with the option to easily add monitors in the future. Although data for energy use within buildings is already available for analysis, our tiny research station is unique in its potential for experimentation. Students and professors will have the opportunity to physically alter the building and to see how these alterations may impact energy efficiency and use, as well as have the ability to add monitors, try different heating systems and scenarios, and to test different use cases. The building will evolve with students' and professors' interests while being managed and maintained by Tim McNamara of FO&M.
Deliverables: The deliverables for this project are broken up into three sections: the building, the website, and the handoff plan. For finishing construction of the building, we prioritized innovation in sustainable design and building, while also creating a space that fits the needs of the ecologists and lends itself to future building and educational opportunities at Dartmouth. The website presents a well-documented and informative account of all the design and construction of the station up to this point, with the ability to display monitoring data once it becomes available through the station’s use. It also became apparent as the project progressed that due to delays in construction caused by COVID-19 safety measures, we needed a handoff plan to ensure the completion of our goals and continuation of the project.
Level of Access
Restricted: Campus/Dartmouth Community Only Access
Dartmouth Digital Commons Citation
Doherty, Emma; Hart, Bradley; Lipson, Jack; Moura, Andrew; Neiswander, Grace; and Shimizu, Soon-Young, "Tiny Research Station" (2021). ENGS 89/90 Reports. 37.
Available to Dartmouth community via local IP address.