From Intergalactic Space to Minimalist Tiny Space 

In 2019, Diane Turnshek moved into a 560-sq-foot house built by ex-cons.

It was assembled in a warehouse on Southside, then slowly driven through the city (past the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt and down Forbes past CMU) on a nine-hour journey with a police escort until it was deposited on its foundation in eight acres of woods off a dead end road in the City of Pittsburgh.

The house incorporates many clever trappings of the tiny house movement. It has Murphy beds, 3.5-inch-deep cabinets inside the walls, a tankless water heater, fold-down kitchen bars, ventless and compact appliances, and a net loft sleeping area. Sustainability features include a water reclamation roof and cistern, reclaimed barnwood, a glass south side, phase-change wall materials, an earth tube, Hügelkultur mounds, microclover beds instead of grass and a rain garden. The cement kitchen countertop is a black, gray and white swirled Milky Way Galaxy set with hundreds of fiber optic glowing “stars.” 

Diane’s article about green housing on the Parsec Ink website describes features of sustainable houses.

CMU Earthship Scholarship

Earthships are beautiful, sustainable, off-the-grid homes built with recycled and in-situ materials. They harvest rainwater off the roof to be reused four times through a system that provides for drinking, washing, plumbing and gardening. On the Southern exposure, greenhouses provide food. These passive solar homes heat water by the sun, while tubes run underground for geothermal cooling and solar and wind power is stored in battery banks. Builders at Earthship Biotechture, outside of Taos, NM, have refined designs since the 70’s, teaching students of architecture how to construct these affordable homes in any climate. Academies run four weeks, starting at the beginning of six months of each year, and the more labor intensive, Internships run during the off-season for optimal building. Each Academy offers a 50-50 split between classroom activities and onsite training for up to two dozen students selected from around the world.  

This annual Earthship scholarship provides a CMU student an opportunity to travel to New Mexico and participate in an Earthship Academy. It includes travel costs, room and board, Academy fees and a stipend for rented tools and equipment. An ideal candidate for this scholarship would be a CMU student who has shown an interest in sustainability and is open to melding technological lessons learned at CMU with the back-to-the-Earth philosophy of Earthship Biotecture. Two letters of recommendation are requested and a completed Academy application.

Make a tax-deductible

Earthship Scholarship donation to CMU

Visit The Earthship Biotecture Academy page

Visit Doors Open Pittsburgh to buy ($10) a video tour of “A Pittsburgh Astronomer’s Tiny Abode.” Proceeds from the sale go to DoorsOpenPittsburgh, a local non-profit run by Bonnie Baxter that offers tours of interesting locations in the ‘Burgh.