Home sweet bus: Student converts old school bus into versatile mobile home (Video)

Hank Butitta
© Justin Evidon

If you're studying architecture, here's a story you may sympathize with: architecture student Hank Butitta didn't want to make any more slick architectural renderings of imaginary buildings for imaginary clients. The University of Minnesota graduate student was more interested in making real things with practical impact. So for his thesis project, he and some friends decided to convert an old school bus purchased off Craigslist into a comfortable mobile home, complete with kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area and covered with a wooden floor salvaged from a gym.

Butitta, who has since taken the bus on a 5,000 mile tour around the midwestern and coastal United States, explains on the blog Hank Bought a Bus:

In architecture school I was tired of drawing buildings that would never exist, for clients that were imaginary, and with details I didn’t fully understand. I prefer to work with my hands, exploring details thoroughly, and enjoy working/prototyping at full scale. So for my Masters Final Project I decided to buy a school bus and convert it into a tiny living space.

Hank Butitta© Justin Evidon

Hank Butitta© Justin Evidon

Hank Butitta© Justin Evidon

Butitta admits "it's not an original premise," but the point was to show people the potential of converting existing vehicles into flexible and affordable shelters. Butitta notes that the bus cost $3,000 in addition to the $6,000 worth of improvements, which Butitta says cost less than his last semester at University of Minnesota. Plus, the project also intends to point to some deficiencies in architectural education as it stands today:

I also thought it was important to demonstrate the value of full scale iteration in architectural education. There are too many architecture students who don’t understand basic physical limitations of materials or how they can be joined. This project was a way to show how building a small structure with simple detailing can be more valuable than drawing a complex project that is theoretical and poorly understood. I think we need more making in architecture!

I'd have to agree with Hank there. Designed, prototyped and built in 15 weeks, just in time for Butitta's final thesis review, the design features a versatile area in the middle that can be adapted into a working area or into a queen-sized bed. Overall, the bus can sleep up to six people. For better natural daylighting, the windows were kept unobscured and the two emergency hatches were converted into skylights.

Hank Butitta© Justin Evidon

To better understand living in small spaces and to generate more public discussion about the tiny house movement, Butitta intends to further explore this "homebus" project by developing other systems he has in mind (perhaps converting it to run on some kind of biofuel?). Check out more details over at Hank Bought A Bus, and for more bus-to-home conversions and tiny house projects, check out how two Israeli women are proposing renovated buses as a solution for Israel's housing crisis, and how this twelve-year-old built her own tiny house as a school project.

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