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Northwestern University’s Tiny House at Chicago Museum

If you haven’t heard of Northwestern University’s tiny house before, this post will show you. We also covered part of the construction process a while back over on this post, in case you missed it before.

Not only that, we’ll also let you know where you can take a tour of it in real life if you’re ever in the Chicago area.

Right now, as I write this, it’s at the city’s Museum of Science and Industry ready for you to tour.

In 2010, a special group of students in engineering and construction at Northwestern University decided they would design and build a tiny house on a trailer.

Today it’s known as the Northwestern Tiny House Project, which you should visit real quick and “Like” on Facebook. Who knows? Maybe with enough likes we can inspire them to build another one!

Visitors at Northwestern University's Tiny House

Photo Credit Northwestern University

What do you think about the large awnings that they added to the house? I thought it was a unique way to extend the outside space a bit and they can also come in handy if you wanted to add more solar panels to help power the house.

Aerial View of Northwestern University's Tiny House by Lee Hogan

Photo by Lee Hogan

More of Lee Hogan’s amazing aerial photography of Chicago is available for you to check out here.

Tiny House at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry Photo by Kaycee Michelle

Photo by Kaycee Michelle

Photo Credit Northwestern Tiny House Project

Inside the Northwestern Tiny House

Photo Credit Northwestern Tiny House Project

Kitchen in Tiny House

Photo Credit Northwestern Tiny House Project

Dining inside Northwestern's Tiny House

Photo Credit Northwestern Tiny House Project

Composting Toilet and Cork Flooring in the Bathroom of this Tiny House

Photo Credit Northwestern Tiny House Project

For additional information on Northwestern University’s little house on wheels project, you can visit their website dedicated to this particular project by clicking here.

If you’re interested in learning more about building your own tiny home on wheels, download some free construction plans while joining our free email newsletter to stay informed. You can also check out upcoming workshops and available tiny house books.

If you enjoyed this post on Northwestern University’s Tiny House Project, please “Like” and share this article using the buttons below. Thank you!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Lisa June 27, 2012, 10:22 am

    A couple of weeks ago, someone had a tiny house they had just built that had a rear porch that folded up flat against the back end of the house when in transit. It operates off of a hydraulic lift. Along with the awnings, I’d like to see a wrap around porch, possibly one that would fold up against the house when in transit. This would significantly extend the spaciousness of this tiny house. With a wrap-around porch, you could put a bar-b-que grill out there and sit and watch the rain under the protection of the awning. Very nice amenity.

  • Paul Siemsen June 27, 2012, 10:24 am


    The awning does a number of good things for this tiny house:

    1) It provides shaded outdoor living space.
    2) It makes a very boxy house look more appealing and home-like.
    3) It keeps hot sun out of the interior in the summer.
    4) By admitting less light into the house, it increases privacy inside. (It’s harder to see in when it’s darker inside than outside.)

    Thanks for your newsletter.


  • jparkes June 27, 2012, 10:29 am

    In Florida the awning would go a long way towards keep your house cooler and energy efficient by shading it, the sun here will heat up even a windowless wall enough to cause energy drains in cooling it.
    I like the size, if not the design. The supports would make the newly created outdoor space difficult to navigate. I would have just built a deck around it and used vertical columns to support it, thus creating plenty of outdoor space to cook outside, entertain, or just hang out on nice days.
    I guess that would make it hard to be mobile…but then i wouldn’t plan on moving mine as some intend to do. In that case i would have gone for the roll up type awnings used on travel trailers.

  • mary June 27, 2012, 10:38 am

    The awnings are interesting. I think they would be impractical in certain windier areas-I’d be concerned that a good gust of Kansas wind would turn it on it’s side, especially if the balance was off even a bit.

    It’s also a bit disappointing to see those large awnings without a rain barrel.

    I think a pagoda style might be interesting, or, as jparkes recommends, a deck and vertical columns.

    • William June 28, 2012, 9:51 am

      Hi Mary,

      I helped design the house and one of the main reasons we went with awnings was to increase our rainwater collection area. We actually have a 400 gallon tank under the house for rainwater collection which we filter for showers and general use.

  • John Mauldin June 27, 2012, 10:58 am

    The Texas winds would not allow this configuration, it would have to be anchored in the ground. An alternative to this would be to use awnings like the ones on RVs that roll up. There is a spring inside so that when it is pulled out, it tightens the spring inside so that when you go to roll it up, no effort is expended. And these RV awnings roll up against the fascia when not in use. Also, you can get these with a remote control so you can roll them up without ever leaving your lawn chair. There are a number of American manufacturers who supply RV Awnings. My favorite is Care Free!

    • sunshineandrain January 10, 2013, 5:03 am

      Thanks for the input on awnings.

  • Cy Englert June 27, 2012, 11:05 am

    If i am already a subscriber, the web site won’t let me download the How To Build book. Can someone send it to me?

  • LaMar Alexander LaMar June 27, 2012, 11:19 am

    I see some real problems with that awning design. They have low slope and any snow from the roof is going to create an ice dam. Not anchored to the ground so a high wind is going to damage them and the home. A roll out awning like used on RVs would be a better choice and could be closed up in high winds and for moving.

    I would build a fold-up deck on that left side and put my door there and cover that side with a roll out awning. That would give you a nice shaded entry way and outdoor room for a barbecue and seating.

    I would like to see the floor plan. I notice they are using a small bar sink and no real wall storage cabinets. There is wasted space all around and above that kitchen window for storage.

    I like windows but this plan appears to have too many large windows which reduces space for storage and built ins and things like flat screen tvs and entertainment/computer centers but that is a matter of living style and choice.

    My guess is after they built in those large windows they found out the place over heated so they had to build the awnings. Smaller windows with overhangs would have solved the problem.

    JMO 🙂

  • Nikhi June 27, 2012, 2:09 pm

    I think this is a great idea. If it were to be anchored down, why not add some screen to it, so it can be a nice bug proof experience? Could do it on rollers?
    I like the idea of having some shade to sit in, while enjoying the outdoor space.

  • brenda morbauch June 28, 2012, 1:07 pm

    Having covered outdoor space available is a good idea, but I am not so sure this awning design would hold up through wind and snow.
    I like a dry adequately covered space at entry. It helps keep a small house clean. As well as, having a nice outdoor cooking area. The awning as a means to catch rain water is a great idea, but then I also think about maintenance.
    The design has got the wheels turning – but I do not think this design is what I would choose.

  • Linda Lyons-Bailey June 30, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Isn’t this the house where the awnings are to catch rainwater? I remember seeing one that had a water pillow underneath and the awnings were to make it completely off grid–supplying its own water.

  • ImReady August 12, 2012, 12:55 am

    The awnings are removable, for one reason, to allow for the walls to be as wide as possible. I think 8 feet is the max width you can tow without a permit, and to make the awnings anything but removable would cause the tiny house to be narrower. The 8 feet is measured at the widest point of the structure. Someone said they would add “Posts” to hold up the awnings. That would work, but, the porch would have to be removable just as the awning is now. It would work, it’s just that these students made the stopping point be the simple removable awnings. They didn’t want to mess with a porch, (you can see that the pickup is FULL of just the awnings) and the porch columns. There has to be a stopping point somewhere. As for the “Texas winds” I am a Texan, lived in East Texas for 55 years. Sure, the wind gets high sometimes, but, not all the time. There are places all over the United States that have MUCH more constant high winds than we do here. MANY days of the year, there will be NO wind. Also, I’d imagine that the brackets holding the awning up may be able to fold out of the way, letting the awning swing down to a locking point, against the walls. This could be done, for instance, if a storm is coming…..I think they did a great job on this project!!

  • ImReady August 12, 2012, 12:58 am

    I didn’t exactly clarify myself about the removable awnings. Someone mentioned using the type of roll up awning on travel trailers; These awnings will add about 4, maybe 5 inches to the width of the building, when rolled up. Removing them is the only way to maximize the width limit to give the inside of the house the most room.

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