Written by Sarah Elizabeth Clark Photographed by Osama Sultan
The sun is peeking through the clouds, brightening the atmosphere as Jackie Tejada stands at the doorway of what might be the most ambitious and impactful senior thesis project Woodbury University has seen yet. Jackie started at Woodbury University as an Architecture major with the goal to help aid the homelessness crisis in the greater Los Angeles area. However, after she took an Urban Studies course, Alternative Housing, she quickly realized that she needed to broaden her education to Interdisciplinary Studies in order to grasp how to help the community as a whole unit, not just solely the building sector. She beams as she welcomes me to what she has spent hundreds of hours building during the past 7 months – a tiny house.
When I first heard of the project, my first thought was that this would be some sort of intricate dollhouse or perhaps a model of a much larger project. However, her thesis project, “On-Campus, Off-Grid”, is The Tiny House, a cheery, compact, portable home which rests upon a trailer in the corner of the university’s parking lot.
A pleasant addition to the campus, The Tiny House is only 84 square-feet, its small area is cleverly utilized to present an entire living space that is much more efficient than the size of an average dormitory room. It is immediately impressive stepping into a self-sufficient house so perfectly condensed, and even more amazing to hear Jackie’s passion behind this project.
“I feel like it is my human social responsibility to share my knowledge.”
I was lucky enough to see Jackie putting the interior of the home together, excitedly showing all the areas it includes. The Tiny House has every basic amenity one could possibly need. When you enter the home, an area on the right greets you where one could have a small sitting area and chest for one’s clothes. Above it is the loft area for the bed, a cozy space tucked away. To the immediate left of the door is the wood-burning stove that doubles as a heater and next to that is the kitchen. It is equipped with a sink, counter space, and cabinet space below it. Solar panels power the mini-fridge, lights and any other electronics one might use. The bathroom is in the corner of the house, complete with a compostable toilet that can be picked up and moved to make room for a shower area.
All the water can be recycled continuously using a charcoal filter or water filtration stones. The entire cost of the house and furniture was roughly $7000, but Jackie explained how some of the added costs were due to building something like this for the first time and that there are ways one could easily cut back the costs by finding even more repurposed materials.
In the brief time I spent with her, one of Jackie’s strongest attributes that stood out to me was her willingness to learn and then turning that into a passion to educate her community. A main goal of Jackie’s for The Tiny House was getting as many repurposed items from the community as possible. This way, not only is the house sustainable, but it also keeps the money used to build it within the community and reduces unnecessary new material purchases. While cruelty-free is generally referred to protecting animal rights, Jackie uses the phrase “100% cruelty free living” as a new way to respect not only animals, but humans and the Earth as well. Jackie focuses on every level of cruelty-free from recycled water to solar panels that power the entire house, she believes that people need to live intentionally by considering the impact of all their actions.
She seeks to educate people to model this type of living and calls it her “form of resistance” in the world by lending her knowledge to others in order to positively influence the world.
The most important goal for Jackie’s project is to create an alternative, cheaper method of housing for Woodbury University students who need a place year-round. The Tiny House was partially inspired by a bill recently passed in California that requires all community colleges to have a designated area for students to be able to sleep in their car for the night, if needed. Jackie’s desire was to expand upon this concept and create a sustainable house in which someone might have all the necessities possible, but not have to rely on the school for any electricity, water, or heat. It is also built on a trailer so that it has mobility, such as when Woodbury University has filming going on around campus. The Tiny House is the perfect result of this desire and could address the housing need at community colleges, but also universities, such as Woodbury, or even broader communities to help address the homelessness crisis.
“Ultimately this project is meant to inspire others to take on big issues and to promote self-reliance.”
The Tiny House is just the beginning in Jackie’s forthcoming ambitions to strengthen her community. Her plans for the future include serving in the Peace Corps, obtaining a Master’s of Public Administration to create her own company to help others, and fighting to change laws so they will aide those at a disadvantage. It will be no surprise when she accomplishes all of this given her strong ambition and enduring passion to improve other’s lives. Given her strong ambition and enduring passion to improve other’s lives, it will be no surprise when she accomplishes all of these amazing goals.