Graduation Date

Fall 2023

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Environmental Systems, option Energy, Technology, and Policy

Committee Chair Name

Arne Jacobson

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Peter Alstone

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories

Environmental Systems


Housing insecurity affects many communities. Because they can provide private and dignified spaces for living at low cost, tiny houses have become prominent in discussion about affordable housing. This project assesses whether electric or natural gas space heating provides the most cost-effective option for a tiny house in Arcata, California. Drawing from a comparative analysis between two tiny house communities for the homeless (THCHs), Home Yard Cottages in Spokane, Washington and Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon, this project offers recommendations for the eventual development of a THCH in Arcata. Comparison of energy bills from the THCHs with historical weather data indicates a potential correlation between energy consumption per capita at a THCH and total heating degree days (HDD) during the energy billing period. Building energy simulations from eQUEST inform the cost-benefit analysis comparing electric and natural gas heating in a tiny house in Arcata. Sensitivity analyses investigate effects of the price of natural gas, the social cost of carbon (SCC), and the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) program of California. Consultation with Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA), a nonprofit organization supporting affordable housing, clarifies the needs of the community regarding the eventual development of a THCH. The cost-benefit analysis, covering the duration of 30 years, resulted in the net present cost of electric heating exceeding that of natural gas by $1,700. The sensitivity analysis determined that either a 64% increase in the price of natural gas or a $629/ tCO2e value for the SCC would balance the cost-benefit analysis.

Citation Style

ASCE (12709 kB)
Source Materials from Study Sites (10199 kB)
Original Data and Calculations (224 kB)
eQUEST Models