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Ohio Life

Thinking Small

The University of Cincinnati helped nature-preserve steward Adrienne Cassel build her little house on the prairie.

Visitors to the Arc of Appalachia’s Kamama Prairie nature preserve in Adams County will find 92 acres of a rare ecosystem and one really tiny house. Adrienne Cassel, an English professor at Sinclair Community College and land steward for the prairie, lives full time at the eco-friendly, 160-square-foot abode.

Built from a shipping container, the structure replaces the tent Cassel once used when she would spend days at a time on the prairie. She wanted to build a small house that would not only allow her to live at the preserve but would also blend in with the environment.

After talking with local contractors about the environmental specifications she required for such a structure, Cassel contacted the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning to see if anyone was interested in assisting her.

“I was so excited to finally find an organization that had the same vision I did about what should go out there,” she says.
The project was slow to gain momentum, but then adjunct assistant professor Whitney Hamaker got involved with it last spring.

“What he did in the spring of 2016 was just incredible,” Cassel says. “I cannot believe they got all that done in one semester.”

Hamaker and his students spent five weeks modifying a home designed by a previous class to create the perfect prairie residence for Cassel. In order to make the building as efficient as possible, Hamaker and his students worked on the house on a site near campus and then transported it 90 minutes to the preserve on a flatbed truck.

“The biggest challenge was the distance from the university to the property,” Hamaker says.

Graduate student Marissa Zane says the combination of a good leader and small-but-dedicated group of graduate students is what made successfully completing the complicated project possible. “We were willing to dedicate a lot of our lives to making it happen,” she says.

Future plans include installing a metal canopy that will shade the house and deck, as well as solar panels that will one day provide the home’s electric power. A crowd-funding page has been set up online to help offset the expense of these improvements.

“The focus is the prairie,” Cassel says. “The house is nice and it allows me to take care of the prairie, but the big deal is the prairie.”

For more information or to contribute to the project, visit generosity.com and search for “Kamama Prairie.”

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