High schoolers build tiny homes that can withstand severe weather

High schoolers in eastern Kentucky are learning valuable trade skills and how to build a home that lasts.

Six months into a year-long project, Logan Reed and AJ Maloney can see their house starting to come to life. These two juniors are part of a team from Lee County Area Technology Center (ATC) responsible for constructing the 200-square-foot home. The project they’re working on is a custom-build that will be delivered to an 81-year-old woman from West Virginia.

Carpentry instructor Tommy Judd guides the students from the blueprint to the completed build, and they work in the outdoor elements during the whole year.

“We have to really work around the weather,” Reed said. “Come out here when it’s cold, when it’s hot.”

This program started six years ago with a grant from Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative. Students are now “Building it Forward” with each subsequent tiny home.

“Once that tiny house sold, that money came back to us to put into another one,” Judd said. “We’ve went from a $15,000 tiny house up to over a $30,000 tiny house now.”

Judd’s expectation for these student-built homes is equal to that of the houses he constructed at his old company. They are built to withstand anything mother nature may bring.

“Bolted to the trailer, you know, these extra hurricane straps and stuff, and some of that stuff is kind of expensive, but Mr. Judd wanted to make sure the quality is there, and it showed up,” said ATC Principal Craig Herald.

That showed up this past December when a Lee County ATC-built home that was sent to Iowa stood tall through a tornado.

“They’re a tiny house, the size of an RV or a camper but they’re built a whole lot stronger, and I don’t think a camper could’ve survived that,” said Judd.

As they gain real-world experience, these students are making a difference. They are not only in providing shelter but also peace of mind for those living inside these walls.

“I’m glad, you know, we’re building things that can survive those winds,” said Maloney.

Depending on student availability due to COVID-19, or even the day’s forecast, construction on this home should be done by the end of the school year.

By Conroy Delouche, WLEX.