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New Orleans high school students build 210-square-foot tiny home

The project is part of a nonprofit that empowers students through real-world skills

This past summer, six high school students built a tiny home in eight weeks.

unCommon Construction, a relatively new nonprofit startup, is empowering high school students through the use of real-world technical skills.

Founded by Aaron Frumin and Aron Michalski, the youth-based organization takes adolescents from six different high schools around New Orleans and puts them in a team where they build a house in the course of a semester.

Frumin, who previously worked with youth through Habitat For Humanity, believes programs like these are important.

"We work with kids while there still in high school so we can be an earlier intervention," Frumin said. "Eighty-one percent of dropouts say that real-world relevant learning opportunities would keep them into school."

unCommon Construction requires a semester commitment from students. Participating students are required to take a Thursday after-school session where they learn about leadership, teamwork, and technical and creative knowledge regarding construction. Additionally, students are required to work eight hours every Saturday throughout the semester.

Students are paid and receive internship credits for their participation.

"We can play a critical bridge between education and employment or college and career," Frumin said. "There is a huge need for construction industry employees whether onsite, engineer, or architect. We just need more kids to pursue pathways that align with carpentry and construction."

Throughout the first year of the organization, unCommon Construction previously partnered with contractors to deliver learning opportunities to students.

The Tiny Home

This past summer unCommon Construction worked on their first independent project: Building a tiny home.

"This summer we used this as an opportunity to sharpen skills for six of our high school apprentices and develop their leadership capacity," Frumin said.

The tiny house is 210 square feet, built on top of an 18-foot tumbleweed trailer. The house design is based on New Orleans architecture, noting its double pitch shed roof and covered porch.

The mobile space has an air-conditioning, mini-fridge, desk space, a sink, and a composting toilet. Later, the organization plans to install solar panels.

The six students working on the house spent eight hours every Saturday for eight weeks to build the mobile house. In between each of the student workdays, the UnCommon Construction staff would spend three days in between to ensure efficiency in house building.

"We had a ton of incredible support from vendors and suppliers to make this opportunity happen for the kids," Frumin said.

The materials for the house were donated by several organizations. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company donated plans that were adapted by UnCommon Construction’s lead builder, Spencer Grant. 84 Lumber provided windows and doors for the house; flooring was provided by Floor & Decor; and the interior and exterior paint was donated by Farrell Calhoun.

The tiny house will primarily serve as a mobile office space for UnCommon Construction staff. With the mobility of the tiny house, the staff will be able to base at any future construction site.

Upcoming projects

Currently, UnCommon Constructions is tackling its second independent project as the primary contractor. The organization is currently building a single family residence at 2504 N. Prieur St.

This semester, the organization is working with 14 students from six high schools in New Orleans.

Frumin plans for the house to be completed by the end of the semester.