News Treehugger Voices These 100 Sq. Ft. ‘Smartpod’ Offices Are Available By Subscription The Denizen Archetype is a prefabricated office with everything you need. By Lloyd Alter Lloyd Alter Facebook Twitter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 23, 2021 01:45PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Denizen Archetype News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Nick Foley was formerly the Chief Product Officer for Jump, responsible for the design and engineering of the beautiful red electric bikes. Now he has started Denizen, a company marketing the Archetype: "a prefabricated office designed with everything you need for the perfect day of work, anywhere in the world." It is available by subscription to employers "as a way of reducing central office costs, while also providing employees with a better place to work." This is a concept and business model that we have followed on Treehugger for over a decade, starting with the British OfficePOD, pitched as a "full-service system for employers to lease home offices for their employees to reduce costs, attract and retain staff, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, increase productivity and adapt to change." That was long before the pandemic, and when working from home did not get a whole lot of support from employers. It made sense for the U.K., where people live in much smaller homes, but it never caught on. But the world has changed with the pandemic, and many companies are now supportive of their employees working from home—and the Denizen Architype could fill that niche. According to the press release: "A more nimble and modern approach to corporate real estate, the small footprint (100sqft) of a Denizen pod can be installed almost anywhere with minimal permitting and moved easily if needs change. It is ideally suited for high-volume production as a consumer product - more like an automobile or smartphone than a conventional building. Leveraging the latest in 3D printing, robotic fabrication, and technology integration, Denizen can mass-produce high-quality office units that are not only more desirable spaces to work than conventional offices, but also cheaper and faster to build." I always get a bit nervous when people compare buildings to smartphones; Katerra did that and look what happened to them. However, I have suggested that we should build our homes the way we build cars. The Denizen pod is an interesting design: "Beautifully crafted from premium materials like sustainably harvested timber, 3D printed biopolymers, and durable metal cladding, the Archetype comes equipped with seamlessly integrated tech that is there when you need it and disappears when you don’t." But the main difference between a phone or car and a little home office is the volume, the scale. How big is the market for something like this? Will companies be willing to pay for it? “There is a major unmet need in the shift to flexible, remote, and hybrid work, and it’s going to take conventional real estate decades to catch up. Even prior to the pandemic, offices were expensive, distracting, and inconvenient. A better solution was needed. We've created a space so inspiring that it will change the way you want to work and live”, said Foley. “And by offering it as a subscription service, we make it natural for employers to give their teams a professional, connected, and safe work environment.” Denizen Foley certainly has a grand vision that aligns with Treehugger's passion for the 15-minute city and flexible working conditions: "When remote work is this good, a human-centered capitalism emerges, where people can always connect with opportunities to make their passions their livelihood and collaborate effortlessly on hard problems. Our vision is to partner with cities to deploy pods unobtrusively in underutilized greenspace for shared use at the neighborhood level. Not everyone has the at-home option for a great workspace, but everyone occasionally needs one. We can start reshaping our cities - less space for cars, office parks, and parking lots; more space for people, culture, and nature” said Foley.“ World-class remote tech is also a critical tool for eliminating the carbon impact of business flights - we’ve built a workspace that is just as good, if not better, than being in person.” Given the grand vision, we reached out to Alex Johnson, who wrote the book "Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution" and runs the website Shedworking. He tells Treehugger: "Aesthetically, I like the look of it, though of course like all these things you really need to get inside for a proper feel. I think one of the attractions of having a garden office is that it's a special place/sanctuary and this looks intriguing at the very least. Practically, it seems to have all the features you'd want, especially on the eco side which has become an important factor in how people make a decision on what to buy." Like Treehugger, he also admires the vision for the future of work. "What's most interesting is who they are targeting, employers and councils. It's an indicator that shedworking is, finally, arriving as a genuine alternative to 'traditional' office spaces. In the U.K., for example, I've seen various large homebuilding companies including a garden office option on their new developments. And on social media, people no longer think it's odd to be working from a 'shed.'" Denizen There are a few minor quibbles about the design. The desk is sitting in an "immersive" glass arch that is apparently switchable privacy glass, which is very expensive and I have never seen curved, because it is made of two layers with liquid crystals in between. They talk a lot about sustainability, noting that "our most important impact comes from making emitters and polluters responsible for their own messes," and then they 3D print it out of plastic and call it "recyclable" when there is nothing in the shape or form of the structure that lends itself to 3D printing. It has "audiophile-grade speakers" in the description but shows what look like Joey Roth's Ceramic Speakers sitting on the desk in the rendering. They are lovely but are very fragile, and you don't want them so close to the edge of a moving, working desk. They call for a 40 Amp electrical service for a 100-square-foot building, which sounds like they are running a bitcoin farm rather than a home office. But these are details, they are still at the conceptual stage. The most interesting part of this is the business model. Will companies be willing to pay for this, especially when many are trying to claw back wages from employees who live in less expensive cities? Are people going to be willing to leave all that technology in a very noticeable backyard building? Is there an unmet need for garden offices in a nation with 44 million empty bedrooms? Stay tuned.