While we were on site, we also had the opportunity to speak with the Co-Owner of D&J Quality Construction, Jim, about the building side of the project. Let’s dive in.
“The big question Jim and his crew have asked themselves and others during this project is, “What are we actually doing?”
The tiny house village is an “interesting concept,” according to Jim. “Think about it; where is there a place where you can go to land when you’re homeless? You can’t deal if you have uncertainty in your life. If you’re broke emotionally or monetarily, how do you dig out? What is the first thing you do if you can’t afford rent, have no job, no gas to get anywhere, no food, and no place to sleep? Your self-esteem is destroyed, along with your mental durability. But what if you could land, shower, take a nap and start the day rested? That is paradise. That is what we see in the village.”
What is the community perception?
From Jim’s point of view, talking with folks who have been at planning meetings and stopped on the site to talk, “They are scared of it.” “As a community, the project is uncertain, but moving forward, if the community knows there is a place where someone can land and get back on their feet, get a job and move on to better, they want to be a part of it.”
The “orchestration of construction soup”
Jim called the moving pieces of the construction process the “orchestration of construction soup,” –entirely fitting when juggling a schedule, permitting, people, and progress.
A few of the projects in the upcoming schedule
- Sheeting the roof next week
- Underground work for HVAC contractor, plumber, sewer, electrician
- Concrete work
- The first eight houses are in production now and will be delivered in a few weeks; the next set will be built
- Site build the garages, staking out, and pouring concrete
- Digging the retention pond
The crew’s site manager has 25 years of experience, allowing them to pivot with construction issues and adapt to avoid construction delays. They know what they have to do to complete the project on time.
Construction innovation used in the village
The site will have some new construction innovations incorporated into the build.
Winter has no effect here
A snow melt system will be built into the sidewalks and parking lot, requiring no shoveling. With heat tubes, microprocessors, and electric conduit, they will build sidewalks that, when snowing, might build up to a foot but will be gone in an hour, dry in a day, and never slippery.
The microprocessor in the sidewalk senses temperature and darkness and only turns on when it’s snowing. Heat tubes and electrical conduit will be built into exact locations and tied to a German-built boiler in the community center to keep fully modulating at 41.15°F, and the boilers will regulate. The boilers have set points with programming that can be controlled online.
Beyond energy efficiency
Solar panels will be built into every tiny house. They will be self-sustaining but connected to the grid to back feed the system. The intent is to run the meter backward and reduce the operating cost of each house. The hope is that the energy supplied will then feed to the community center, reducing those operating costs as well. The plan is to add a battery backup to each home in the next two years. They will wire the houses for it with the battery backup to come in 24 months. Jim mentioned that the question was asked about why not adding the battery backup now, and the answer is that now the batteries are 36inx36inx8in, and in 3 years, they will be 20inx20inx6in and half the cost.
The innovations are ways to drive down the operating costs to help the project long-term and help with the sustainability side.
Challenges along the way
The project started about 12 weeks behind schedule due to permitting, mainly due to Public Works working out the building’s underground sewer and water portion. The construction crew is doing everything they can to make up the time. While everything has been given the green light and the construction is flying, there could potentially be an impact from the delay. The plan is to house people in the winter and have them out of their cars, off the streets, and into tiny homes.
Guidance and mentorship
One of the main goals of the programming at the Tiny House Villiage is the guidance and mentorship the residents will receive from ADVOCAP and other organizations every step of the way.
Jim has been doing the same with the local students in the area’s tech, architecture, engineering, and construction programs. He has given talks at the area tech schools to discuss the future outlook of the construction industry. On their crew currently, they have Architects and Structural Engineers who all love to build. Today’s kids are motivated differently than the 44 and older group running the company. The 25 and younger folks in the crew want to understand the construction phases, why they are building the project and the cause behind it. This helps them focus on the job’s goals and enjoy being part of the project. They can then look at it as something they want to do not have to.
OKF, ADVOCAP, and partner organizations have been working with this population and this programming for a long time. This is their expertise. The Tiny House Village will allow them to care for the same people and build a strong community in one location. By systematizing the operation, there is a higher likelihood of success, allowing other communities to replicate and scale a village in their area.
Alternative Housing Options is honored to be part of such an important building project in NE Wisconsin. Click the links throughout the article to learn more about any of the partners involved.
Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva’s love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.