When we think of sustainable living, reducing energy costs and using solar energy, we often think of tiny houses. While tiny houses may be great for one or two people, they probably aren’t ideal for everyone. Yes, there are slightly bigger models of tiny houses, but still, that doesn’t work for everyone.

What about if you’re a business or an artist and you need a studio or a place to meet with clients? What if you have kids, and you don’t want to live on top of each other in bunk beds and loft beds?

One family had a completely out-of-the-box idea to turn an abandoned junior high school building into not only their family home, but a mixed use building that includes everything from residences to office space and classes.

Charles and Lisa Shaw say that their friends thought they were a little crazy when they first had the idea to transform an abandoned school, known as the Smiley Building, into a mixed use space.

The school building is quite large, and at first, their energy bills were huge. They quickly got started on renovations, and now the solar panels on the building’s roof often generate more energy than the building can even use.

They also implemented other smart design features like lights that are on motion sensors so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn the lights off when you leave a room.

Besides how energy efficient and sustainable the building is, the other thing that sets it apart is how many uses it has. Not only do people live there, but there are artists with studios, people hula-hooping in the hallways, classes and workshops to attend, and even non-profits and businesses that use rooms as office space.

Charles says that they’ve never had to advertise the space yet they’ve never had a problem filling the space. He believes buildings like the one he created are the future.

Speaking of which, Charles did much of the renovation himself. He used to be a plumbing contractor and an electrical contractor. He learned how to do anything that he didn’t already know how to do, like drywall or solar panel installation. Lisa says that she’s super proud of her husband.

Want to see the space for yourself? In the video below, Charles gives us a tour and shows us some of the diverse uses.

Do you think buildings like this are the future?