Tiny House - Big Idea

News Item


On the grounds of The University of Queensland (UQ), near the Advanced Engineering Building, there is a Tiny House on display until the end of February 2020.  This house was erected to demonstrate 3E panels which was invented from a collaborative research project on hybrid FRP-timber thin-walled structures between UQ, the Queensland State Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.   This complements the ARC Future Timber Hub Project on "The optimisation of wood-based mass-panels for Australian building systems".

3e panels, a start-up company in which UQ is a shareholder, is an efficient solution for building construction. The panels are a hybrid fibre reinforced polymer (FRP)-timber thin-walled panel system, they are light weight, consist of high strength-to-weight ratio than any other existing panel system, and are made of more than 90% (by volume) timber, thus CO2 negative. 

UQ's Associate Professor Dilum Fernando, who is one of the lead researchers in 3e Panels, shared the reason behind the display, "We wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to build a house using 3E panels. We wanted to demonstrate that a house could be built without using heavy machinery yet very fast. The Tiny House also intended to demonstrate the connection system, which is a key in fast assembly of the panel. The whole house was built by students and myself, without any prior hands on experience on house construction."

By showcasing the Tiny House, which was erected within 7 hours (the house floors and walls in 1.5 hours), the team at UQ have been able to demonstrate: 

  • time savings achieved through 3E panels;
  • ability of 3E panels to act as structural members;
  • a complete pre-fab system with insulation, weather proofing membranes, and finishes attached at the factory settings and assembled on-site;
  • the low-cost on-site assembly.

Associate Professor Fernando further explained, "While 3E panels are intended as high-quality, high performance product, the fabrication process we adopted for this project was a labour-intensive fabrication process with minimal use of machinery and use of un-skilled labour. Through this we wanted to demonstrate that, 3E panels could also be used for low-cost housing with community-based construction. If the materials, and moulds for panel construction are supplied, even without pre-skills on construction/fabrication anyone in the community will be able to fabricate 3E panels to a good quality. This could lead to community based low-cost house construction projects."

The Tiny House project was funded by 3E panels. DAF also played a key role in providing assistance with manufacturing and providing advice on adhesive selection, manufacturing methods etc. In addition, Baber Studio assisted the project with Architectural design. Rothoblaas were also able to provide screws and connector systems at a lower cost.

The Tiny House will be on display until the end of February 2020.

Additional Articles

UQ's Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology News - Published 3 Feb 2020 - UQ’s Tiny House based on a big idea


For more information there are several published papers on hybrid FRP-timber thin-walled structures:

  1. Miao, C., Fernando, D., Heitzmann, M.T. and Bailleres, H. (2019), “GFRP-to-timber bonded joints: adhesive selection”,International Journal of Adhesion and Adhesives, accepted for publication.
  2. Fernando, D., Teng, J.G., Gattas, J. and Heitzmann, M. (2017). Hybrid thin-walled members made out of FRP and timber,Advances in Structural Engineering, 21 (9), 1409-1417.
  3. Gattas, J.M., O’Dwyer, M.L., Heitzmann, M.T., Fernando, D. and Teng, J.G. (2017). Folded hybrid FRP-timber sections: concept, geometric design and experimental behavior, Thin-Walled Structures, 122, 182-192.
  4. Min, L., Fernando, D. and Teng, J.G. (2016). “Local buckling behaviour of hybrid FRP-timber composite thin-walled columns”, 8th International Conference on Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Composites in Civil Engineering, CICE 2016, 14-16 December, Hong Kong, China.
  5. walled beams with novel non-uniform cross-sections”. World Conference on Timber Engineering, August 22-25, Vienna, Austria. 
  6. Fernando, D., Gattas, J., Teng, J.G. and Heitzmann, M. (2015). “Hybrid thin-walled members made of FRP and timber”,The 12th International Symposium on Fibre Reinforced Polymers for Reinforced Concrete Structures & The 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Fibre Reinforced Polymers in Structures Joint Conference, 14-16 December, Nanjing, China.
  7. Mainey, A.J., Gilbert, B.P., Fernando, D.  and Bailleres. H. (2015). “Thin-walled timber and FRP-timber veneer composite Cee-sections”, Second International Conference on Performance-based and Life-cycle Structural Engineering, PLSE 2015, 9-11 December, Brisbane, Australia.

A Tiny House publication is currently being drafted.