10/16/2012 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Watch: Teen Builds Mortgage-Free Dorm on Wheels


When I first met a 16-year-old Austin Hay, he nervously showed me the 130-square-foot home he was building for himself in his parents' backyard (he had started building at 15). He'd heard about the mortgage crisis, the environmental impact of large homes and the Small House Movement, and he wanted to take action.

Now he's a senior in high school and has finally finished what will be his dorm room on wheels when he starts college next year. Total cost was $12,000, but it's debt-free and it's much more than your typical college digs. It has a full kitchen (including a fridge/freezer, sink and camping oven), a sofa-bed he built himself, a nearly full-sized shower (he chopped the top off) and a composting toilet.

When we stopped in at his open house last week, his tiny home was packed with dozens of friends and neighbors (who rotated through). His mother weighs in on the future of tiny houses (his high school and other local schools have asked for Austin's guidance in building their own versions), his girlfriend answered our questions about living in something tiny one day and his grandfather playing Santa Claus to help Austin finish his tiny dorm on wheels.

Watch Kirsten's feature-length documentary on tiny homes, "We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters in the Old and New World."