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      'Tiny House' offers big benefits to save energy and money

      We often say that bigger is better, but a tiny house movement sweeping the country is proving otherwise.

      Fairfield has several tiny houses, most of them about the size of a typical college dorm room. Wednesday, students in the Sustainable Living program at Maharishi University started construction on the newest one -- a 12-foot-by-20-foot home designed by student Heather Caldwell.

      "A lot of people believe that - in the tiny house movement - that we just consume too much, we're living in spaces that are way too big, we don't need that much space," Caldwell said. "And so these people are building tiny houses to live in them. The thing that I'm interested in once I graduate is not only building tiny houses, but building a community, tiny house communities. So there's a tiny house movement right now where a lot of people individually are building tiny houses and pretty soon we'll see more tiny communities popping up and that's what I'm majoring in."

      The building course is new at Maharishi University, but they plan to teach it for a long time.

      "It's a global movement, people are doing it everywhere and the idea is to downsize and simplify and to lower your energy demands and to be able to live off of renewable energy," said Professor Mark Stimson, of Maharishi's Sustainable Living Program. "One of the greatest things is -- well, two things -- to become self-reliant. It used to be in the old days in this country everybody knew how to build their own house, but since then we've gotten kind of specialized in all that. So this is sort of going back to that era of self reliance. And then the greatest part also is just the idea of living mortgage-free. If you can save a few thousand dollars or just salvage materials from places, you can build a very comfortable, snug home for very little money and not have to pay a mortgage for 20 or 30 years."

      Heather designed every element of her tiny house and will be moving on with two kids, four cats and a dog.

      "I didn't believe it at first," said Heather's daughter, Ellie. "It's one of those projects our parents say they're going to do and then they don't do. But it's happening, so it's fun"

      Caldwell said one of the most challenging aspects is utilizing the small space available to make a fully functioning home.

      "One of the big keys to tiny houses is finding multiple uses for the same spot," she said. "Like the reading nook in the tiny house is also a guest bed and it also houses the dining room table which slips out from underneath and that's our dining room table."

      Heather's family hopes to move in in late June and will live in the tiny house for a year. On top of being smaller and more energy-efficient, Heather's house is also being designed to be entirely off the grid, with solar-powered windows, composting and mud plaster.

      To learn more on Heather's house and to see progress over the next few weeks, visit her blog by clicking here.

      To learn more about the Sustainable Living program at MUM, click here.