Student confident tiny home will keep mom warm even in winter

If you've walked through Carleton's campus in Ottawa, you may have seen him: A young man working away on a wooden structure just outside the architecture building. He's building a tiny house, but it isn't for him — it's for his mother to live in year-round in Edmonton.

Ben Hayward plans for mom in Edmonton to live in 180-square-foot home year-round

Carleton University architecture student Ben Hayward poses outside the tiny house he's building in Ottawa, which will eventually be used by his mother in Edmonton. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

The tiny house tucked away just outside the architecture school at Carleton University in Ottawa — and recently featured on HGTV — occupies just 180 square feet.

Its exterior is scale-like, with overlapping diamond-shaped shingles that look like they're made of aluminum.

Inside, there's a full-size shower, a full-size sink, a bed that comes out of the ceiling with the touch of a button, and a more traditional pull-out couch.

"Most people don't even know [the bed is] in there. It really just blends completely into the ceiling when the bed is in its up position. And you can actually stop it part way and engage bunk bed mode, where you can pull out the couch, have some guests over," said the tiny home's builder, Carleton architecture student Ben Hayward.

"It gets a little cramped in that situation, but you at least have the option," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Made for mom

The heating system hasn't been installed yet, but warmth will eventually radiate from the walls and the floors. And everything is carefully insulated, including the triple-glazed windows.

"It uses an innovative strategy to try and heat itself throughout a Canadian winter," he said. "It's going to work off a solar array and work on a very low-power heating system."

The plan is for Hayward's mother, who lives in Edmonton, to live inside the tiny mobile home year-round.

Here's a view of the tiny home's kitchen area. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"We've pulled out all stops to make this as efficient as possible," Hayward said. 

TV helped

When HGTV signed on to cover Hayward's project, it helped him out in two ways, he said.

It gave him a platform to share ideas about sustainable building strategies and digital fabrication construction technology, and it caused companies to take notice and sponsor him by donating some building materials.

"That really just started snowballing once we had HGTV on board," he said.

Here's the shower, complete with a stylish privacy screen. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"An insulation company that wouldn't take out a TV ad would happily sponsor this project that's going to be directly targeting some architecture students."

The HGTV episode featuring Hayward aired Nov. 15.

Listen to Ottawa Morning's entire interview with Hayward below.

We drop by Carleton University Campus to hear what it's like when your 180 square foot school project gets on HGTV. 5:41
The mobile tiny house is being built outside Carleton's Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)
The top of this seat can be flipped over, converting it into a table. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)
Seating is hidden everywhere. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning


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