JOHN FAVREAU, left, and Pete Feeney stand outside of a completed solar-powered tiny home at Long Branch School and Tiny Homes.

JOHN FAVREAU, left, and Pete Feeney stand outside of a completed solar-powered tiny home at Long Branch School and Tiny Homes.

BOWDOINHAM

When Pete Feeney and John

Favreau opened Long Branch

School seven years ago, tiny home construction was part of the conversation, but not put into practice.

That changed in 2014 when Stepping Stone, a nonprofit organization, was in need of transitional housing. That’s when the pair built their first tiny home.

“We learned a lot with that one,” said Feeney. “That was a real negotiation in terms of size, it was 12 by 24 feet, which is big by tiny house standards. You’re not going to roll that down the road too easily.”

The ideal size, according to Feeney and Favreau, is eight-and-a-half feet wide and up to 24-feet long. They said if a tiny home is wider than eight-and-a-half feet, it requires a permit to tow and a commercially registered vehicle.

Prior to Long Branch’s first tiny home project, the business offered classes and had a store across from its current location at 25 Main St. in Bowdoinham. The goal was to have the store run in support of the classes. After three years, the store was closed, but the pair is grateful for the opportunity the store gave them to meet the community.

“It wasn’t our original mission. It was kind of a derivative of our mission, supplying local healthy food,” said Feeney. “Community-wise, the store has had fantastic returns in my mind.

“Many people that were coming in and buying eggs, would not have bought a class,” he added. “It just kind of thrust us into the community.”

The classes offered as a part of the Long Branch School are wide-ranging, and taught by local instructors. Favreau said Bowdoinham and the surrounding area has a great talent pool to draw from.

Classes include cheese making, maple syrup making, intro to chair caning, felt making, a carving series, and a foraging walk. The classes come with experienced instructors like David Spahr, who teaches the foraging class. Spahr is an author and member of the Maine Mycological Society.

Even with the current long list of class offerings, Long Branch has actually cut back on the number of classes offered since opening seven years ago.

“We used to offer even more classes,” said Favreau. “We’ve stepped back to the more popular ones.”

The tiny homes and the school are now the focus of the business. Tiny homes have become more popular recently through a number of television shows like “Tiny House Nation.” In Maine, the business partners say owning a tiny house in a small town is easier. Towns of less than 4,000 people don’t have to comply with the state’s Uniform Building and Energy code. With a new structure such as tiny homes, there is gray area with the state’s current codes.

Favreau said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, recently worked to get some verbiage in the state’s building code to accommodate tiny homes, essentially leaving some room for interpretation to code officers. Feeney believes the laws are an impediment to owning a mobile tiny home, but he sees other opportunities down the road.

“I think tiny houses on slabs in the 600- to 1,000-square-foot range,” he said. “That, to me, is the future of building.”

The duo is willing to work with customers on their tiny house project. Customers have the option to do their own work on a project to save money, as well as find materials. The homes can be hooked up to sewer or septic systems, or a composting toilet is an option. Electric heat is commonly used; other systems may also be hooked up. If Long Branch does all the labor, the cost is typically between $40,000 to $60,000. The two men say their customers seek freedom.

“The movement especially took off after the housing crash in 2008,” said Favreau. “People started to say, ‘what are my priorities?’ ‘Do I want to work for the bank for the rest of my life?’ ‘Or do I want to live free?’”

Feeney sees opportunity in addition to financial freedom. He said the homes could be utilized as camps, as it would not be considered a permanent residence unless someone lived in it for more than 90 days.

“You could pull this into areas, where otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get a camp built,” said Feeney.

The two men have a passion for building and tiny homes. They have also provided a unique resource to the community through the Long Branch School.

They admit they’ve had some mixed results with the tiny homes business, but only need a few projects to be viable. Last year, they completed a new concession stand for the Maine State Music Theatre, with a tiny home design concept, in addition to some smaller timber frame projects. They’re currently working on their sixth tiny home project.

“It wouldn’t take much to put us over, just two or three builds a year,” said Favreau. “We just need to find the consistency.”

Long Branch School classes will resume at the end of the month, with a cheese making class on Jan. 20. For more information on classes or tiny homes, visit longbranchschool.com.

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