Tiny Home, Big Life: Sparty's Cabin

Debra Levantrosser's experience in implementing lean manufacturing at companies for two decades might be one reason she thinks a lot about living small. Or, maybe, it might be the food truck she owns and runs ...

Sparty's Cabin
MSU Provost, June Yovatt, passes the key to Sparty's Cabin to Debra Levantrosser.

Debra Levantrosser’s experience in implementing lean manufacturing at companies for two decades might be one reason she thinks a lot about living small. Or, it might be the food truck she owns and runs.

“I am already well-versed on the intricacies of small water tanks, being in a confined space and taking care not to overextend the electrical capabilities,” she said. Levantrosser placed the winning bid for Sparty’s Cabin – a tiny home built by students in the MSU Chapter of the US Green Building Coalition to learn about the tiny home movement.

Students in the School of Planning Design and Construction (SPDC) -- landscape architecture, interior design, urban planning, and construction management -- and in the Department of Forestry gained valuable, hands-on experience working alongside faculty and volunteer industry experts on the planning, design and construction processes for this project.

"The Tiny House movement is fundamentally about a cultural change—how to live a rich life without being encumbered or held back by possessions," says Dr. Pat Crawford, associate director of SPDC and advisor to the student group.

Sparty’s Cabin was built over six weeks during the spring semester 2016, with the help of more than 100 people from across campus and the community. This sustainable project included materials from the MSU Sustainable Wood Recovery Program and the MSU Shadows Collection, and featured MSU-made custom countertops, shelving and a ladder. In addition to MSU lumber, other materials were selected for their sustainable qualities, including double-pane windows, a composting toilet, recycled newspaper insulation, and a structural roof and wall system for reduced air leakage.

The structure was built on a trailer, allowing it to be easily transported from place to place. Sparty’s Cabin includes traditional hookups for sewer, water and electricity; however, it can be retrofitted in the future to go off the grid, which could be accomplished by capturing rainwater and using 100 percent solar power energy.

Sparty’s Cabin was used as an educational tool to spread awareness to the local community about the alternative, sustainable lifestyle known as the Tiny House Movement. These types of houses offer the practicality of living in a space smaller than 1,000 square feet, allowing for a minimalist lifestyle, with the added advantage of being on wheels and, thus, mobile. The spirit of the Tiny House Movement is about filling life with experiences, not things. It is about stories that can be told and experiences that can be shared with friends and family.

Sparty’s Cabin, MSU’s first tiny home, was recently auctioned off by MSU’s Surplus Store; Debra Levantrosser, an MSU alumna, was the highest bidder. The structure encompasses 177 square feet of space that sleeps three and features both an upstairs (sleeping loft and storage) and a downstairs (great room/kitchen, bathroom and bedroom).

More photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/144302764@N06/sets/72157678069855540/


This article was published in In the Field, a yearly magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. To view past issues of In the Field, visit www.canr.msu.edu/inthefield. For more information, email Holly Whetstone, editor, at whetst11@msu.edu or call 517-355-0123.

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