VIU carpentry students learn by building tiny home

Carpentry student Emily Behm standing in front of the tiny home she and her classmates are building at the Cowichan Trades Centre

Carpentry student Emily Behm stands in front of the tiny home she and her classmates are building at the Cowichan Trades Centre in Duncan. 

Photo: Vancouver Island University

March 20, 2024 - 1:15pm

The home is being built at the Cowichan Trades Centre and will be delivered to a property in Saanich.

Carpentry students are gaining real-world experience and providing a home in the process.

The students are building a tiny home at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Cowichan’s Trades Centre.

Program instructor Andrew MacLeod said the project came about somewhat unexpectedly after another project fell through.

“The customer of this current tiny home project heard about our situation and asked if we would be interested in building a tiny home for him,” said MacLeod, who worked with the customer on the building plan. “It’s nice because we’re able to build it right here in an area that’s designated for the carpentry program and students are in their comfort zone.”

The project is a learning experience for the students so the labour is free, with the customer paying for the cost of the building materials as well as the cost of delivering the home to Saanich. Students began building in February with the project slated to be finished this month.

The building is 36 feet long and 12 feet wide. It has seven windows, a bedroom, bathroom, living area, sliding door and main front door. The students also built the supports to elevate the home off the ground during construction, so when it’s time to move the house, a flat-deck trailer fits under and the delivery truck simply drives away with it.

“At an off-campus jobsite, students, typically don’t get the opportunity to get to this stage; usually we only get as far as the framing for the roof, or possibly putting a window in, but never to the point of exterior finishing,” said MacLeod. “None of the interior finishing is done, but you have a structure that’s going to be watertight and you can customize what you want to do with the inside. It’s good for student morale to be part of a full project like this and they’re all eager to make it happen.”

Emily Behm, who enrolled in the carpentry program after working in an office job and deciding she didn’t want to work at a desk anymore, is enjoying the hands-on project.

“It’s been a great experience so far and we’ve done a lot of different things,” she said. “I’ve been interested in tiny homes for a while. With this project, I now know the steps involved and all the things to consider for me to go build my own tiny home at some point."

Getting to this stage of a build also gives students an introduction to Carpentry Level 2, which focuses largely on exterior finishing.

While this tiny house is a first for VIU’s program, interest from the greater community in future projects is already growing, said MacLeod

“The mayor of Duncan came by here and she’s very interested in what we’re doing,” he said. “I’ve also had other community folks stop by and ask about the possibility of us building a home like this for them.”

MacLeod hopes this tiny home is the first of many similar projects for the carpentry program. 

“I hope we can keep doing tiny home projects like this,” he said. “There’s certainly a lot of demand and affordable housing is exactly what’s needed.”



Eric Zimmer, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.618.7296 | E: | X: @VIUNews


The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun, Tla’amin, Snaw-naw-as and Qualicum First Nation on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live and share knowledge.

Tags: Carpentry | Cowichan Campus | Teaching and Learning

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