In January of 2020, a collaborative effort between UMass Amherst Building & Construction Technology, UMass Amherst Architecture, Five College Architectural Studies and East Branch Studio took root to design and build a net-zero energy micro-house. Teaming up with UMass faculty and East Branch Studio staff, eight students embarked on a journey to create an innovative, affordable home that could respond to the changing needs of its inhabitants over time. Postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new group of eleven students broke ground in 2021 and built the transportable home their peers designed.

This small, smart home – deemed the HyggeHaus – made its grand debut at Signature Sound’s Green River Festival this past summer as part of their Go Greener initiative, with the front porch serving as the stage for musical acts. After the festival, it was be delivered to OneHolyoke CDC to assist in their effort to provide affordable housing to the local community. OneHolyoke CDC became the first and only Community Development Corporation in the city of Holyoke in 2014. The role of the HyggeHaus shifted again from concept to teaching tool to stage to home.

The design of the HyggeHaus is a modest and efficient studio-style dwelling unit. To enhance the unit’s potential impact and appeal, the students designed this studio to be a basic module that will be expanded to include an additional bedroom unit that will attach onto the existing home and make the space even roomier. With green building methods in mind, options to panelize the construction of the additional unit using straw bale or hempcrete are currently being explored. Designed around relatively conventional wood stud framing and wood trusses with both cavity and outboard insulation, the HyggeHaus is net-zero and employs recycled and low-carbon materials throughout. It also features an innovative pre-fab construction system that will allow it to be repeatedly shipped, assembled, and disassembled rather than demolished.

In the upcoming spring semester, the new group of students will create a second unit that will attach to the original Hygge House. This will make it a two family dwelling once it has arrived at its final site in Holyoke.

Gardening the Community (GTC)

GTC is a youth-based food justice organization in Springfield who partnered in the fall of 2020 with Revitalize CDCCommunity Foundation of Western MassachusettsNortheast SolarSteve Jablonski ArchitectsGraham Electric, and Kent Hicks Construction to build an outdoor pavilion on GTC’s farm site at 200 Walnut Street in Springfield. The pavilion will serve as a shelter for GTC’s youth program participants working on site, a community gathering spot, and house a new solar panel array that will provide electricity to GTC’s greenhouse, storage, and farm store.

Gardening the Community began in 2002 as a small garden on Springfield’s Central Street, working with just 5 youth. The organization is now a year-round food justice and urban farming program operating with 30 youth on 3 sites. The group distributes 28,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year to Springfield families, grown by its youth leaders and by neighboring farms. All produce is grown sustainably, without pesticides or chemicals.

GTC runs a year-round farm store that sells pesticide-free vegetables and fruits to the community at affordable prices, located at 200 Walnut St, Springfield, MA. It is open Wednesday & Thursday from 11am to 6pm, and Friday & Saturday from 11am to 3pm.

For more information go to

The Green House stage at Green River Festival has become a fan favorite feature at the festival!

As part of our ‘Go Greener’ commitment, the house itself highlights smaller, sustainable living and acts as a pop-up stage where our biggest performers let their hair down in an intimate, back porch setting. Come witness unforgettable acoustic jams, storytelling, surprise appearances and more! Watch past performance videos here.

For Green River Festival 2020, we’re taking the 3rd annual tiny house stage up a notch. Students from UMass Amherst’s Building & Construction Technology Program and the Department of Architecture are designing and building with Kent Hicks Construction Co. a locally sourced, natural, repurposed, net zero house! This small, smart home will make its grand debut at the festival and serve as our new Green House stage where you might just catch some of these artists letting loose!

Stay tuned for updates on the house and the students’ journey through construction!

Note: This project has been postponed due to the pandemic. We’re hoping to return to it next year!