Binary Studios suggest that their Small Energy Efficient Dwelling is like a plant: "As the seedpod protects and nourishes the seed in the initial stages of the embryonic plant, the SEED [pod] equivalently recognizes the social contract of architecture to serve those in need by providing high quality affordable dwelling units to the large population that is typically underserved by the design community."
They continue: "The SEED [pod] provides an alternative form of equity building. The continued drastic rise of construction costs will continue to keep starter homes out of reach for much of the population; a new model is desperately needed. The homebuyer can buy the smallest livable unit, adding to the house when and as necessary and creating instant equity, returning buying power to the consumer. Modeled as low purchase price, low square footage, the SEED [pod] is added to in affordable and manageable increments."
Such a lovely story, and a lovely design too. There are just a couple of problems with incremental design that so many in the prefab world have tried to solve:
1) Land. It costs the same whether you are building an entire house or a little one. For primary residences in relatively urban or suburban areas, it is a high bar to entry. After you factor in the septic and services the cost of the house becomes a minor percentage of the overall project.
2) Laws. Many municipalities have minimum square footages to keep out the riffraff. See Big Steps in Building: Ban Minimum Floor Areas
3) Price per square foot. It is really high on small buildings because of the surface area per square foot of enclosed space and the requirement for services and people flip out. Every single trade, from the roofer to the electrician to the plumber has his base number just to show up so unless you are making these in big numbers so that they are actually on a production line, they get really expensive.
4) Banks. They look at you as if you are nuts.
Perhaps my last career spending four years trying to sell small modern prefab disillusioned me. It is a beautiful design that will sell as a garden shed or second building for a patron with money, (and it is a stunning shed) but as primary housing, incremental designs have rarely worked because of the problems that come from being tied to land. More on this, and possible solutions, to follow.
Binary Studios via Materialicious
Other Small Housing Designs in TreeHugger:
15 Modern Sheds For the Move Home to Mom
Crate Expectations: 12 Shipping Container Housing Ideas