Tiny House Building Course “May Actually Change Your Life”

Nick McCouat is part of our growing Tiny House alumni, having completed our hands-on tiny house building course back in 2018.

A self-described former ‘robotics & trading engineer and general computer nerd’, at the time he enrolled Nick felt he was taking a leap of faith. We asked him how he feels now about the course and the impact it has had on his life.

Why did you enrol in the course?
In 2015 I started work with a small share-trading firm. I began to realise that we as humans are almost certainly on the wrong path; consuming too much, reusing too little, and focussing on so much that isn’t real, especially beyond what actually matters. Over the next couple of years I started to think about helping the world by doing work that’s more sustainable in environmental – and human – terms, and tiny houses seemed like a perfect, tiny encapsulation of the solution.

What did you enjoy about the course?
It’s an excellent introduction to general construction methodology and is pitched at a good level for people who aren’t necessarily ready to be on a building site or who don’t know everything to feel useful at actually building something just yet. It’s taught by a variety of pragmatic, knowledgeable and generous teachers. We learnt the basics of what needs to happen when you need to make something that actually fits together and works as a building: framing, roofing and generally gaining an understanding of how to do this safely, effectively, and with all the tools you’ve always wanted to use, but haven’t been quite sure about.
You are shown what to do by the carpenters and builders on site, and then you actually do it; it’s very motivating to actually start to understand what you need to do, and then be able to do it, and see the results by the end of the week – I think as a group we were all quietly surprised that the roof actually fit on the four walls we had built!

Why did the course appeal to you?
I’m generally a practical person and I’ve always enjoyed making things. As an engineer I’ve always loved thinking about solutions. It’s a shame though that many things that engineers can do these days ultimately lead to solutions that aren’t really all that sustainable, good for the individual, or for humanity. I guess I’d been thinking about this for a while and it was refreshing to find an outlet for this that I could feel proud of pursuing: a slightly more sustainable future.

It’s two years since you completed the course. What did you learn?
It was a great introduction into the building industry. It’s also been really interesting to see how some of the innovations that I worked on in robotics could be applied to building, particularly in terms of systems improvements. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately – using technology to improve the many manual (and error-prone) practices that currently happen on a small building site. It was interesting trying to introduce these ideas at the first building job I worked at. It’s fair enough that people are unaccustomed to doing something outside of what they know works, but technology is going to make sure these changes happen sooner rather than later.

What’s your message for anyone considering enrolling in the course?
To be honest, I thought I definitely wasn’t qualified to do this, that it was a speculative waste of my money – and everyone’s time – for me to attend. I felt embarrassed even turning up to the information night, and thought that even if I was accepted by the group I’d probably just learn some theoretical fluff about why tiny houses are so amazing.

This proved to be completely untrue.

Two years later I’m working for a small, local builder, and 6 months into studying carpentry at TAFE.

If you had to say one thing about this course, what would it be?
The course was amazing; the teachers and the skills you learn are excellent. But it should probably come with a warning: it may actually change your life.

Bower Reuse & Repair Centres’ Tiny House Building Course is currently accepting enrolments: 15 Participants, 6 days, 3 Facilitators, 1 Tiny House. March 2021.