Posted on December 17, 2021 by Rory Dew

DECEMBER 17, 2021 – Trinity Schaefer and Elizabeth De Leon, both undergraduate civil engineering majors, are lead organizers and co-founders of UTSA’s Big Heroes, Tiny Homes project. Big Heroes, Tiny Homes–initially adopted by Humble ISD in Houston, Texas–is a trademark program dedicated to assisting homeless veterans in finding a life of shelter and security. Since launching over the summer, it has been an excellent way for the students of UTSA’s Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design (Klesse College) to invest in their community while working towards their desired career goals.

Schaefer and De Leon discovered Big Heroes, Tiny Homes when searching for a service project for The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Before Tiny Homes, Klesse College’s ASCE chapter had adopted and completed two other projects, The Steel Bridge and The Concrete Canoe. These projects consisted of teams that designed and constructed the bridges and canoes, traits that Schaefer says helped the transition into the Tiny Home Project as it consists of a similar process.

UTSA’s ASCE chapter has partnered with Operation Finally Home , a registered non-profit that helps veterans in need of a home, and The Towne Twin Village. The Towne Twin Village is a new neighborhood built on grounds that previously housed a drive-in theater that “will soon be reborn as a permanent housing community for homeless seniors” on San Antonio’s inner east side.

The project’s design team divided themselves into groups in July 2021, with each group exploring design ideas independently. Some focused on creating a cozy space while others are committed to an environmentally sustainable design, but all teams were asked to consider capacity for disability accommodation in their designs. The designs were reviewed on Friday, November 19th, 2021 by a panel of expert judges in various fields involved in building and designing homes to determine which design should be developed into ASCE’s first tiny home.

The tiny home will be partially constructed on UTSA grounds, starting in January 2022, and then donated to The Towne Twin Village in May, where the team will complete the rest of the construction. It is important to Schaefer and De Leon that the project remains local to San Antonio. In addition, they are hoping ASCE’s involvement in this project will increase community awareness of the Big Heroes, Tiny Homes initiative and help to address homelessness locally.

The unique structure of Klesse College facilitates the collaboration between students pursuing degrees in architecture, civil engineering, construction science and management, interior design, and more to achieve project goals. In doing so, students are preparing for the cross-disciplinary interactions they will see post-graduation. Schaefer said Big Heroes, Tiny Homes has been an excellent opportunity to collaborate and gain connections within the varying academic specialties she will work alongside as a future construction manager. De Leon said this project has been a fantastic way to “establish a way of giving back to the community while learning. It’s a great topic to bring awareness to.”

Schaefer and De Leon believe that Big Heroes, Tiny Homes is a highly beneficial project for Klesse College and the entirety of San Antonio. Through this project, ASCE, Klesse College and UTSA can directly support veterans in San Antonio, one of the leading military cities in the nation.

Schaefer and De Leon hope this is just the beginning of a broader project. They hope UTSA students of all majors will get involved with Big Heroes, Tiny Homes. Both are committed to continuing to support this project throughout the duration of their UTSA careers and beyond, post-graduation.

Written by Elise Trumbull

— Rory Dew