Our Story

Tiny House in My Backyard (THIMBY) originally began as a band of graduate and undergraduate students who entered and won second place in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Tiny House Competition in Fall 2016. The THIMBY 1.0 students aimed to design and build a net-zero energy, off-grid tiny house that represents a frontier for energy and water efficient residential construction. The project represents experimental off-grid residency, and is a pioneer in microgrid communities, tiny housing development, and advanced energy communities. The subsequent team of THIMBY students applied the idea of “tiny living” to the displaced persons of the Bay Area successfully building a “tiny house on wheels” for a family at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, a shelter in the city of Richmond. THIMBY 2.0 transformed a decommissioned school bus into a solar-powered home for a homeless family, where Constance and her two children, Miracle and David, are now happily settled.

The current iteration of THIMBY synthesizes the models of our predecessors to design and construct a cost-effective and scalable model of solar-powered, off-grid tiny houses to address housing insecurity in the Bay Area. We have learned both from the mistakes and the successes of our previous teams to enable us to successfully execute this project. Our team of THIMBY 3.0 undergraduate students are passionate about environmentally sustainable development and affordable housing, excited to apply our strengths and respective curricula to advance “tiny houses” as a model of affordable, environmentally sustainable living. 

We believe that affordable housing construction should not solely address those who are displaced but also many of the factors that exacerbate displacement, such as climate change and housing inflation. Our name, ‘THIMBY,’ is a play off the ‘NIMBY’ movement (Not In My Backyard), which we hope to challenge through community-driven development that promotes more equitable and inclusive housing. 

Our Goals

  1. Interdisciplinary collaboration: Create an opportunity for students in diverse graduate and undergraduate programs to collaborate on a sustainable campus housing project.
  2. Behavior change: Improve the knowledge and commitment of residents to sustainable living, so that UC Berkeley’s culture of sustainability goes beyond the campus boundaries to the surrounding residential communities.
  3. Hands-on education: Construct a ‘tiny house’ to serve as an opportunity for community members, local nonprofits, and UC Berkeley students and faculty to engage in green building design and construction.
  4. Innovation: Create a model for affordable and sustainable living for residents of the greater Bay Area.
  5. Energy self-sufficiency: Design an energy system that reduces emissions associated with residential electricity consumption through rooftop solar energy generation, efficient appliances, and innovative construction and energy management techniques.
  6. Affordable housing: Provide a means of cost-effective and scalable housing to address rampant displacement and housing insecurity in the Bay Area and beyond.