We know there are some of our dear readers out there who may feel like there is too much attention placed on tiny houses and small apartments. But the reality is that smaller homes may be part of a more sustainable solution as more people move into land-scarce cities, and affordable housing becomes harder to find.
Dr. Jeff Wilson goes even one step further. The Austin, Texas based environmental science professor -- also known as "Professor Dumpster", thanks to his admirable, self-imposed one-year experiment of living in a renovated dumpster -- has launched Kasita, a new kind of plug-and-play prefab housing that could be described as "housing-as-a-service". As previously explained over at our sister site MNN, rather than having housing being tied to land, homes are conceived as modules that can be moved around and plugged into steel "racks" that form "vertical, high-end, design-yet-affordable, urban trailer park[s]”. Now Fair Companies gives this insightful video tour into a Kasita module and the philosophy behind it:
Like an "iPhone for housing"
Wilson is likening the 208-square-foot Kasita as more of an "iPhone for housing". It's not quite a shipping container house, nor a tiny house with all the rustic details and gabled roofs. It's more of an affordable, portable, prefab smart home, made on a production line, that can be placed on a 18-wheeler truck and taken with you the next time you move to another city, and can be left as a stand-alone structure or inserted into another "rack". He explains:
Think about an RV park. it’s a vertical way to do that: so you own your RV and you park it in a slot, this is a structure that these can go vertically.
Inside, we see a number of familiar transformer furniture concepts like a bed-sofa combo that rolls away and under a platform, as well as more innovative ideas like a swappable system of modular storage tiles that would allow you to put up shelving, storage and bike racks without much effort. A number of smart home technologies will be built in that will allow a Kasita owner to control everything via smartphone, like a Nest thermostat, smartphone-controlled lighting, and dichromic glass on the mini-solarium that can be adjusted to either let more light in or less.
Wilson says that these portable structures are built according to international building code, and the prefab unit and steel racks are zoned as multi-unit housing. People can buy either a Kasita if they need a home, but they can also buy a rack to place on under-utilized urban land and make money from renting out rack spaces. It's a model that would help bypass the typical issues around permitting tiny homes, says Wilson:
The problem with tiny houses is the coding, the permitting and the land. And the land’s the most difficult issue to solve because the folks who usually have the land are not the folks that need affordable housing. So our model allows the folks that have the land to highly monetize that land while providing home ownership to someone.
If you're in Austin, you can actually visit the 208-square-foot Kasita prototype. Wilson and his team plan to build a 50-percent larger 320-square-foot production model later this year. There are plans to design a wheelchair-accessible model too. There's no word on pricing, but Wilson maintains that since these can be made in large numbers on a production line (think economies of scale), it will be cheap enough that someone working at minimum wage could afford it.
At any rate, we think the term "post-land urbanism" is apt. In the future, with a scarcity of land to build affordable housing on, perhaps the solution is to densify and mobilize housing. The Kasita and its "housing-as-a-service" ethos is an intriguing concept that takes all the best things we've witnessed from the tiny house movement, prefab and portable shipping container housing and smart home technologies and combines them into an innovative package that thinks out of the box that we're currently stuck in. Find out more at Kasita.