We are so excited to announce the launch of our crowdfund for Constance’s bus!
Please donate to our go fund me page and share to everyone you know.

Also check out the new sf chronicle article that just came out about us as well.

As the craziness of the holiday season finally dies down, we at THIMBY are tackling the new year with enthusiasm to build tiny houses for the homeless.  Our Crowdfunding effort is starting off very strong, and we are thrilled to build Constance her home.

Looking back, 2018 was a really inspiring and exciting year for all of us, full of new opportunities and fresh faces. We expanded our team to include more people who are passionate about finding sustainable solutions to fight homelessness; met and worked together with inspiring individuals within the tiny house community who have given us valuable advice and guidance; and shared Constance’s story with those both inside and outside of our communities. Your overwhelming response of support and excitement has fueled us, especially Constance and her family. We’ve truly seen how important this project is, not just to one woman and her family, but to the larger community of people who see the importance of ending homelessness.

While 2018 was all about putting the plans in place for Constance’s bus, we’re looking forward to 2019 being the year where we can make those plans a reality. We’ll be pushing hard to build Constance’s bus in the coming months and setting up a program to build tiny houses in the Bay Area. We have been hard at work this winter, and In the upcoming week, THIMBY will be releasing even more information and media about our campaign, so please stay tuned (and get everyone you know to donate!!)

Thank you so much for your continued interest in Constance’s story and support for THIMBY!

All of us at THIMBY wish you a wonderful year of health, happiness and tiny homes for all!

California On Fire

As many of you have heard, seen and experienced for yourselves over the past few days, California is burning with raging wildfires all around the state. Between the loss of life, the vast destruction of property and the deterioration of air quality, this year’s fires are some of the worst in our lifetimes. And although it is inconvenient for us UC Berkeley students when events like the Big Game are cancelled and we are forced to stay indoors, we often forget how much worse it is for the homeless and most vulnerable in our community that have no where to seek refuge.

Image courtesy of @kellansworld (Instagram)

Image courtesy of @kellansworld (Instagram)

GRIP, the local nonprofit that we are working with, has faced a massive surge in the numbers of people seeking aid and shelter due to the fires. From lending a helping hand to those who lost their homes in the fire to sheltering people on the street from the hazardous air conditions outside, GRIP is focusing all of their energy and resources to helping its community members get through these trying times.

Out of respect and sympathy for victims of the California wildfires and their urgent need for aid, THIMBY will be postponing our fundraising launch for a few weeks. We will, however, still be volunteering at GRIP’s Thanksgiving event this Thursday to help our community in any way that we can. If you are in the area (165 22nd Street, Richmond, CA 94801), please drop by to say hi and donate some of your time if you can! Check out GRIP’s Thanksgiving event here to learn more!

With wildfires and other natural disasters becoming increasingly relevant and present in our lives due to the impacts of climate change, we at THIMBY are reminded just how important it is to build sustainable and affordable tiny homes for these communities-- not just to protect the people who live in them but also to be friendly to the environment these homes are placed in and help reduce our negative impact on the climate.

At THIMBY, we hope that you all stay safe this Thanksgiving holiday. Limit the time you spend outdoors and if you need to go outside, please use a N95 mask. Take care of yourselves and everyone around you, and don’t forget to spend some quality time with your friends and family!

If you’d like to sign up for our mailing list to get the most up-to-date notifications of our journey to build Constance’s bus, please fill out our form here.

- Nadine

A Successful Volunteer Day!

We’re finally coming back to reality after the amazing success of our first volunteer day! Thank you to everyone who came out and got their hands dirty clearing out Constance’s packed bus (and a big shout out to Shane’s girlfriend Delaney for bringing the best spread of healthy snacks to fuel us throughout the day!). In just a few short hours, we managed to not only remove everything stored in the bus, but also sort through and organize it all into piles to keep, throw away and donate. Additionally, we managed to scrub down the interior of the bus so that by the end of the day, it looked like a completely different space!

Getting started cleaning and organizing everything in Constance’s bus!

Getting started cleaning and organizing everything in Constance’s bus!

It was amazing to add so many new faces to our growing group at THIMBY! Billy showed us his amazing plant-filled bus, whose five solar panels will provide all the electric power necessary to build Constance’s bus! He immediately got to work measuring up the bus and finalizing all the design schematics to turn the bus into a home. It was also the first time for many of us at THIMBY to meet Constance and her family in person. Constance was so excited by all the enthusiasm we had for the project and at one point, stepped into the bus as we were cleaning it out and looked around it amazement. When we asked her what was wrong, she said that it was unbelievable to see her dreams finally becoming reality. David and Miracle kept everyone’s spirits high as they ran around, helping decide what to keep and throw away.

David hard at work helping us to clean out the bus!

David hard at work helping us to clean out the bus!

Constance is so exciting for everything we’ve got planned for Thimby 2.0!

Constance is so exciting for everything we’ve got planned for Thimby 2.0!

The inside of Billy’s beautiful plant-filled bus!

The inside of Billy’s beautiful plant-filled bus!

This volunteer day really put our whole project and mission into perspective. I think that meeting everyone and seeing the joy and excitement on their faces really highlighted what this project means to so many people. Constance, David and Miracle aren’t just anonymous people who are victims of homelessness; they are real people with real stories and real lives who will really be affected by the outcome of THIMBY’s project. Though they continue to live their lives everyday and refuse to be bogged down or discouraged by their current situation, we can help create a stable environment for Constance and her family by turning their bus into a home. And if we are successful, THIMBY has the potential to deploy similar solutions in future projects and affect the lives of more than just one family in the Bay Area.

Last Sunday was the important first step to get the ball rolling for Constance’s Bus. Clearing all the unnecessary things kept from her past fueled Constance’s, and all of us at THIMBY, excitement for the future as we start transforming the bus into a home! But, what’s next? In the coming weeks, we will begin putting in flooring for the bus to prepare for the launch of our fundraiser on Thanksgiving with Kathleen at GRIP. Stay tuned for more updates on all the exciting things we have planned in the coming months!



Hey Folks! It’s probably been a while since you’ve heard from the Cal THIMBY group, but we are excited to update you all on our progress of the THIMBY 2 Project.

After the Success of our first THIMBY tiny house project, we decided to apply all we learned to help those in need by building tiny houses for the homeless.  Our current goal is to work with the city of Richmond, and the non-profit Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) , to create a program that continues to build sustainable, high quality, low-cost tiny houses to be used as transitional-housing solutions. We’re hitting the ground running with our first Project, “Constance’s Bus” this semester, as we convert a bus into a sustainable tiny house for a family of three currently in desperate need of housing.

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While working with GRIP to find candidates for our first project, program director Kathleen Sullivan introduced us to some of her favorite residents of their transitional shelter; Constance, and her two kids, Miracle, and David.  Constance and her family are simply inspiring. Even though they have been homeless, in and out of shelters and cars for the past two and a half years, every time you see them they are making everyone around them smile with their infectious laughter and gracious demeanor.  After a back injury prevented Constance from maintaining her job as a busdriver, she was unable to afford the rising Bay Area housing prices, and her family has been dealing with the hardships of homelessness ever since. Constance’s family only has 6 months left in their stay at a transitional shelter, and are in desperate need for housing as the kids continue their time in school.  Fortunately, Constance owns a bus from her days as a busdriver, and dreams of transforming it into a beautiful tiny house for her family so she never has to worry about eviction again.  Constance has been adamant about making her dream a reality, working tirelessly with GRIP until she connected with the THIMBY team. The second we met her, we felt her determination and galvanizing energy, and knew we had to do whatever we could to help her achieve her goal.

So this is what we are going to do:

THIMBY is in charge of all the design, planning, marketing, and coordination of the project.  We are creating a media campaign leading up to a Thanksgiving day feast hosted at GRIP, where we will be launching a crowdfunding campaign for Constance.

Constance-Inspired Design

Constance-Inspired Design

Meanwhile we are having volunteer work days every two weeks to prepare the bus for building, and get it into presentable shape for the Thanksgiving event.

The build begins in December, on a site allocated by UC Berkeley. Professional Tiny House Builder William Burdock will be leading the building process using tools powered by his own solar powered mobile tiny house.  With Billy’s incredible 2.5 Kilowatt Solar setup, and battery powered tool collection, we will be building Constance’s Bus with nearly 100% solar power. That’s right, Thimby 2.0 is using sustainable energy from sustainable tiny houses to build more sustainable tiny houses. Say that 3 times fast.

Billy’s multi-purpose tinyhouse. This solar powered rig doubles as a mobile working shop too.

Billy’s multi-purpose tinyhouse. This solar powered rig doubles as a mobile working shop too.

While piloting this first project, With the help of GRIP, Burdock will be training homeless volunteer staff, who will in turn help build and then become the recipients of our following tiny house projects. We plan to create a circular system of community based training and housing, where people in the community get to own their houses through sweat equity, and learn valuable skills along the way.

Our plan is to finish Constance’s Bus by the end of January 2019, but Constance’s bus is just the beginning.  For our following projects, we are partnering with the city of Richmond’s carpentry training program, Richmond Build.  Richmond Build trains Richmond residents to become union carpenters in a 10 week training program, and they will be building the structures of our tiny houses as part of their program. After the structures are built, Billy and our student-run teams will be finishing off the plumbing, electrical, and furnishing.  Since Richmond Build can create the structures efficiently with their training program, our plan is to build 2 to 3 more tiny houses in 2019, eventually building up to 5 tiny houses per year in 2020, while simultaneously housing and training many members of the homeless community.

We have so much momentum but we need your help to kick off this project! On Sunday, October 14th, THIMBY will take a team of volunteers to clean out Constance’s bus to begin preparations for the renovation. If we get enough volunteers, we can get this done in a day, which allows us to begin building as soon as possible. If you’d like to participate in our volunteer day, please fill out the form below. We would love for you to be a part of our cause, help an incredible family in need, and help us build a program that keeps giving back.

Fill out the form below to volunteer!


The Challenges of Off-Grid Living

Well, it’s winter in California again, and you know what that means- watching the snow forecast in the Sierras, complaining about the 50-degree highs, and, of course, succumbing to power outages regularly in the tiny house (yikes!). When we designed the house and performed the energy modeling, we came to the conclusion that our battery storage and hot water tank would get us through all but the worst of the California winter weather (several rainy/cloudy days in a row). But we were not anticipating a vicious hot water tank thermosiphoning problem. It seems our hot water tank is losing about 30C  by nighttime cycling from the indoor tank to the outdoor heat pump, causing the heat pump to run more frequently or for us to lose hot water (and therefore space heating) more quickly. This is the first winter we’ve been “officially” off-grid, as we had an optional grid hook-up close to where we were parked last winter, and plugged in basically from January-March.

Now, we’re learning the hard way to stop storing too much in the fridge- just cleaned out the moldy contents after we lost power for about a week. This was partially due to poor planning on our part- we didn’t make it a priority to get the house re-started last week on the one sunny day we had, and then went up to Tahoe for the long weekend and came back to (surprise surprise) moldy fridge contents. Plus, the battery had been low for so long that it needed to be restarted, by getting out some screwdrivers, loosening the plastic cover over the wiring box, and triggering the restart button. So, yesterday morning, on the one sunny day of this week, we finally restored power to the house, getting up to about 75% charge and shutting off all circuits other than the fridge and lighting. Today it’s rainy again, and by 11 this morning we were down to 36%, with some power production (83 watts) despite the cloud cover. Hopefully we’ll make it another day without losing power to the fridge, and the sun will come back out briefly tomorrow, then all day Saturday. Meanwhile, no hot water in the tiny house as the heat pump hasn’t run in weeks. We’ll hope to run it on Saturday when the house can charge to 100%.

This kind of weather monitoring and activity adjusting is perhaps in line with the lifestyle advocated by sustainability and climate change champions. However, it seems like the mechanisms for living sustainably must improve somewhat to make the lifestyle more compatible and pleasurable to a larger sector of the population (not just adventurous and go-with-the-flow graduate students), something I do believe is an attainable goal. In fact, it MUST be an attainable goal if we’re going to learn on a broader social scale how to live within natural bounds on this planet. There are already rapid improvements in the California grid to accommodate more renewables, distributed energy resources, and energy efficiency programs, seeking to fix the infamous “Duck Curve” and reduce the amount of fossil fuels that are needed to provide ramping ability (with natural gas power plants) to meet the evening peak load hours. If microgrids and what the California Energy Commission is calling “Advanced Energy Communities” come into the mix rapidly, we could be looking at a very different and more comfortable way to live a fossil-fuel-free residential life. The salient point for me is: it takes a village (or a grid!). It takes many scientists, research labs, policy makers, and test projects to create a movement of green living, not just one house or one student group. A quote from a recent Grist article on off-grid living in Hawaii is ringing in my ears as I experience this winter and all the discomforts of energy-deprived living (we are unwilling or unable to access backup power from a generator or the grid in our current location): “Inefficiency is the downfall of any individual effort to address climate change.”

Meanwhile, we are looking to expand our collaborative and community-building network of climate friendly micro-housing. New and old members of the THIMBY team have branched out and formed a new group- EMPOWER (Energy Management Providing Opportunities for Widespread Emissions Reduction)- to develop and install a smart home energy management system that would incorporate weather data, solar generation, battery state of charge, user behavior, and a series of sensors communicating to an Arduino in order to control the operation of crucial loads like water and space heating and ventilation. Ideally, this will be up and running this spring so that we lose power even less frequently, and potentially get reminded through an App when it’s time to turn off non-critical loads and prepare for hibernation. The grand plan is that this system would turn into a marketable product for both off-grid and on-grid applications.

Another part of the impetus for seeking community and networks is that we are being asked to leave our current tiny house location, which was really just a one-year temporary permission to do weeks of 24-hour “research” by occupying the house on campus property. Now, the times up and we can no longer live on non-residential zoned land. So we’re searching far and wide for a new location for the house, ideally a nice, flat, south-facing yard or property with a view ☺ The challenge is harder than we anticipated, and much of the East Bay area is notoriously hilly and overcrowded. There are options further afield, requiring longer commutes or working remotely, but it seems like right now unless tiny housers have city government connections, larger, more rural and open land spaces are the easiest places to site a house (out of sight or city officials, and out of range of potential neighbor complaints). We are considering a friend’s yard in Marin, or a possible connection through a nearby City Department of Public Works, but the latter would require that the house be fire inspected and Water Board approved at the state level requiring.... well.... hours worth of phone calls, emails, and potentially re-cladding the exterior of the house. A Herculean bureaucratic struggle? Fingers crossed that we find something soon and get to keep on living the tiny house dream.