A tiny house leaves a small carbon footprint for lecturer Daniel Burmester

A summer spent installing a small-scale wind turbine at Victoria University of Wellington’s Kelburn campus evoked a life-changing passion in renewable energy for Daniel Burmester.

Daniel Burmester and his daughter, Charlee, outside their tiny house. The house is green with white doors and wooden steps leading up to the door.
Daniel Burmester and his daughter, Charlee, outside their tiny house

Now a lecturer in the University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, Daniel lives ‘off the grid’ in a 2.5 metre by 8 metre home that relies on renewable energy.

Daniel, his wife Charlotte and daughter Charlee collect their own water and use solar power and a battery bank as their power sources. Daniel also teaches a course on renewable energy systems, sharing his knowledge and passion with his students.

“I’m a strong believer that if you’re teaching something, you should have real-life experience in it. The ability to speak from experience adds another layer to my teaching,” says Daniel.

After a lot of research into budget-friendly and sustainable alternatives to renting, Daniel discovered the tiny house movement, and built his own tiny house on a 3,000 square metre section in Pinehaven, Wellington.

Daniel’s desire for continuous learning was fuelled during the development of his new home. He did a lot of research into renewable energy, building codes and building practices. Daniel had only ever built a planter box, so there was plenty to learn.

Daniel credits some of his success to having studied electronic and computer systems engineering at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University.

“My study helped me with building my house for sure. The electronics side of things gave me insight into the off-grid electrical work. But, what’s more important I think is how studying gears you up to obtain knowledge.

“I was able to extract the information I needed, take a large project and make it very manageable, all through the skills I had obtained while studying. So, it helped me directly, and indirectly.”

He says there are many benefits in being self-sufficient and sustainable, but it’s a very involved lifestyle. There’s always something that needs to be done.

“You need to do your homework and know what you’re getting yourself into.

“It’s definitely worth it though. I get a great feeling of accomplishment sitting in our house knowing that everyone is safe, warm and dry. My wife and I consider ourselves to be very lucky,” says Daniel.

The University is working towards a sustainable future and contributing towards a clean and green environment.  The sustainability course that Daniel teaches is just one of the plethora of courses related to sustainability on offer at the University.