THIMBY 3.0: Richmond Backyard Homes

Project Proposal

The Richmond Backyard Homes program is THIMBY’s third iteration, and aims to maximize land use efficiency of sprawling, residential neighborhoods by providing shelter for unhoused individuals and families in the backyards of single-family residences. The team plans to pilot the City of Richmond’s “Tiny House on Wheels” ordinance on a selected site in Richmond, California. 


  1. First and foremost, we hope that the tiny house unit will provide a comfortable transitional housing option for those who are otherwise displaced by the Bay Area’s rising cost of living and the social and economic ramifications of the pandemic. With the onset COVID-19 and an acute housing crisis, overcrowded shelters are no longer feasible for all those are displaced or unhoused. This home and a future backyard homes provide could provide a more private and safe alternative for some of these individuals.
  2. By engaging students, homeowners, and community organizations, we have the ability to educate others about sustainable housing and renewable energy.
  3. With the expansion of this project, we hope more homeowners will consider offering their own backyards to support members of their community, as true change first happens at the local level.


Our team is currently designing and constructing an affordable and scalable model of solar-powered, off-grid capable ‘tiny houses.’ In collaboration with Richmond-based Community Housing Development Corporation TentMakers, Inc., this home has the potential to be adopted by local governments and organizations. The house itself will be constructed by students and members of the Richmond community from exclusively reclaimed or recycled materials.

Most importantly, this home will be sustainable and resilient by incorporating:

  • Affordable Building Materials: reclaimed wood, recycled denim insulation, etc.
  • Energy Independence: 2.4 kW solar array, battery storage
  • Water Efficiency: low flow-rate fixtures, rainwater and greywater filtration

We will create a healthy and comfortable living space through:

  • Air Quality Monitoring: student-designed and inexpensive

  • Active Ventilation: PM 2.5 filtration with heat-recovery

  • Full Electrification: no hazards associated with natural gas or propane usage

  • Compact Design: lofted bedroom, multi-purpose and built-in furniture

Check back for more project updates!

Most recent rendering for the backyard homes.

SHAC is an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley with a shared passion for sustainability in the built environment.

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