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Students in Weber Co. build tiny home; trend could help mitigate Utah’s growing population

Posted at 11:37 AM, May 27, 2021

OGDEN, Utah — A Utah high school project has caught the attention of home builders and buyers across the state and even the country.

From the carpet to the couch, to the interior design and indoor plumbing — all were built by high schoolers.

Isaiah Wood, a senior at Weber Innovation High School said he worked on the tiny home for class.

“We were out here each day with hammer and nails,” said Wood. “We had the whole tool bag.”

The newly finished tiny home first started as a flatbed trailer.

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The idea for students to work on this project started at the district level with Rod Belnap, the Weber School District Career and Technical Education Director.

Belnap said he watched the growing housing market and construction opportunities and realized it was something students could be a part of.

“The crux of it was looking at what opportunities were out there for schools,” said Belnap.

Ryan Ortega, the construction teacher at Weber Innovation High School, said they bought the trailer from Colorado and built the tiny home framing on top of it.

“The bottom line with what we’re doing, is to make sure my students are learning to do good skills,” said Ortega.

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A sentiment echoed by Maren Malan, who has taught interior design for 18 years.

Malan and her Bonneville High School Interior Design class collaborated with Ortega’s class.

“My students would come in and paint, tape and one thing turned into another and another,” said Malan.

A labor of love for both students and teachers, yet this class project is not just a good hands-on experience.

"A home like this would be great for folks to use on cabin property," said Belnap.

It could even become a solution to an ever-growing population—that's what Jared Wiberg, who's selling a tiny home in Cache Valley, believes.

"I would compare it to a small studio apartment," said Wiberg.

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Wiberg is turning two shipping containers into someone's next home, with nine-foot ceilings and a space that makes you forget what the exterior is made of.

"Even though it's a small space, it's designed to be a quality space," said Wiberg.

Wiberg said that you can stack as many shipping containers as you want for a comfortable and affordable place like a Lego set.

"This could be a really fast solution to a lot of the housing issues we're seeing occurring with the incredible growth we're seeing," said Wiberg.

Wiberg said he's listed the shipping container house in the $30,000 range because he's not looking to make money, just break even for building costs.

At Weber High Innovation, they spent $42,000 building their tiny home and had offers for about $49,000, but said if they were truly looking to make a buck with the current housing market, they could've listed the home for so much more.

"We've had four or five requests for customer tiny homes," said Belnap who is encouraged by the public reception of the student project.

Construction on a second tiny home made by students is already underway.