UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Tiny houses, large legacy

Travis Hicks and his students build more than just structures – they are building a legacy. The associate professor in UNCG’s Department of Interior Architecture and director of the Center for Community-Engaged Design (CC-ED) is intentional about guiding students’ work that develops out of and enhances previous research.

“The work of the CC-ED allows for projects to continue over many years,” Hicks said. “Each IARC student has the potential to ‘set the table’ for the subsequent cohort of students.”

Interior Architecture MFA candidate Jessica Ocasio is one student building on the legacy left by alumni who started researching and designing tiny houses four to five years ago to address affordable housing in Greensboro.

Ocasio is designing three types of microdwelling communities to offer young adults more affordable housing options and works closely with Hicks as a student fellow with the CC-ED.

A native of Puerto Rico, Ocasio completed an internship with Tiny Houses Greensboro, where she designed a 288-square-foot tiny house for North Carolina’s very first tiny house community at 4120 Causey Street. The community is a permanent affordable housing option for those experiencing homelessness.

Hicks trains the next generation of designers to consider the needs of all communities, including those where resources are limited. The program promotes the sustainable use of resources and emphasizes the human component.

Ocasio is working on a tiny house village design for The Farm at Penny Lane in Pittsboro, affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill’s Center for Excellence in Community Health, which provides farm therapy for clients with mental disabilities.

In May, she plans to continue taking steps toward owning her own interior design firm with a focus on tiny houses.

Ocasio is laying the groundwork for future IARC students.

“Jessica’s work will benefit the work of future students who are interested in sustainability, reducing one’s footprint and designing for users of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Hicks said.  

By Elizabeth L. Harrison

Photography by Martin W. Kane