4.501 / 4.511
Tiny Fab: Advanced Applications in Digital Fabrication

UG: 4.500; G: permission of instructor
Lab Fee: 
Limited to 12
Required of: 
BSA; restricted elective for BSAD, MArch, Arch and Design minors
Preference Given to: 
Course 4 majors and minors, MArch

Course Description & Goals:

This semester we will explore the idea of using digital fabrication to produce Tiny Homes. This class is a search for technical solutions to the age-old need for affordable housing. Due to the large number of natural and manmade disasters this past decade, North America, among other places, is in need of replenishment and replacement of suburban homes. A handful of developers, government agencies and individuals are answering some of the need by constructing Tiny Homes in targeted areas around the country.

The construction of Tiny Homes, and all homes, xis expensive and limited in design scope. There is no technology in building construction to manage this problem. Shortcomings in construction are associated with the strict use of conventional, handcrafted systems of production. With this way of working both large and small houses are constructed one piece at a time. We all know this way of working is slow and difficult to measure accurately. This semester we will investigate the belief that digital systems can lower cost, increase quality and function.


  • Design exploration starts with five short projects in the first half of the semester, each intended to teach digital skills and methods in construction. Through these projects, students will gain a deep understanding of the relationship between computation, materials and computer-controlled machines. Simultaneously, traditional methods of construction will be presented as case studies with an in-depth overview of past and present industrial-based systems of home production. 
  • The second half of the course will focus on a range of individual or group projects from building mockups to materials studies and detailing. All meetings will involve weekly presentations and lab sessions focused on learning CNC machining and computation. Course deliverables can range from a short research presentations and a final project in the form of a physical mockup and a conference ready paper.

Who should take this course?

This course is designed for advanced course four undergraduates, MArch students in their first or second year of core or first year SMArchS students interested in guided experimentation and research methods with digital fabrication. This course is also suited for designers interested in learning a research workflow from physical project planning to conference presentations and research writing. Students are expected to know the following: 2D drafting, 3D Solid Modeling, laser cutting and 3D printing.

Learning Objectives

  • Small Building Design
  • Product design and manufacturing
  • Advanced solid & mesh modeling
  • Computation as a tool to create building kits
  • Mastery of CNC machines and application


  • Quality of design outcomes
  • Completion of 5 Exercises and the Final Project
  • Time to complete assignments & attendance 


  • Final grading is an average of the 5 Exercises and Participating in the Final Assignment