UCI volunteer built playhouse
UCI volunteers built a playhouse with all of the amenities, including this cozy kitchen, to benefit HomeAid Orange County. It's on display at the Irvine Spectrum Center. Photo courtesy of UCI Facilities Management

As UC Irvine construction projects go, this one’s on the small side: Campus volunteers have once again contributed their spare time, sweat and talent to build a playhouse that will benefit the homeless.

With its white wood trim, green accents and wooden shingles, UCI’s fourth entry to Project Playhouse looks like a home in Coastal Living — only child-size. Called “12 Cliffside Drive,” it’s on display with eight other mini-homes at the Irvine Spectrum Center through Sept. 12, with village tours noon to 6 p.m. weekends.

The playhouses — plus one amazing doghouse — will be auctioned on the last day to raise funds for HomeAid Orange County, a nonprofit group that provides housing for the homeless.

Designed with relaxation in mind, UCI’s Victorian-style beach house features a bay window with a seat; a working kitchen; a flat-screen TV; a DVD player; a Wii; a built-in blackboard; and, of course, anteaters. One mascot has been crafted out of blue and yellow Lego blocks, while a stuffed Peter plays on a swing outside.

For the past few months, Bill Mitchell, UCI’s carpentry shop supervisor, and 10 Facilities Management staff members have worked on the house after hours and on weekends. Mitchell solicited donations from contractors of materials and furnishings, even a granite countertop for the mini-kitchen.

“We all work with our hands, and this is one way of giving back,” Mitchell says. “The economy here in Orange County is pretty bad these days, and this is an important way to help our community.”

UCI is the only university that donates a playhouse; other Project Playhouse participants are home builders. Facilities Management received a UCI Living Our Values team award in 2007 for contributing to HomeAid. The group has raised $95,000 for the charity over three years; last year’s playhouse sold for $25,000.