Tiny Prefab Living in San Francisco Apartment Building

If you thought prefab living was solely for outside the city limits, think again.

Zeta Communities, a San Francisco company that produces net-zero-energy housing, is working on exciting new project called Smartspace. The company has partnered with two Bay Area housing projects to create two four-story apartment buildings - one located in San Franciso, the other in Berkeley.

What's remarkably different about this housing is that each apartment is a prefab unit.

The small prefab apartments will range from 300-340 square feet and will appeal to a younger market seeking affordable housing in the city limits. Parking spaces won't be available, but the new development will offer car-sharing and it's close to public transit. The San Francisco homes are going to be marketed as condos and the 22 units in Berkeley will be rented. The homes for sale will range from $200,000 to $275,000.

Here's how Andrew Silverman, Zeta's VP of Real Estate & Development, describes them: "Smartspace has been created with an emphasis on both efficiency and comfort. Every space within each unit has been carefully designed to serve multiple functions, and every want in a residential home has been integrated. Unlike prior projects that focus on small spaces and efficiency, Smartspace has created high style, distinct elements within the unit, high-end finishes, and the residential experience is multifunctional and of high appeal."

Developer Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle says, "I've done about 15 projects, and I've always been exasperated at the huge amount of time and money a developer spends just to build a studio apartment or a one-bedroom as a one-off project. Teaming up with Zeta makes the process more like manufacturing and might provide the answer for producing multifamily housing in a better, cheaper, faster and greener way."

Kennedy points out that prefabricated homes are manufactured off-site and usually ship in sections that can be easily assembled. Many builders construct homes of reused or recycled materials. But prefabricated housing can be less resource intensive because it uses few materials and can be completed far more quickly than traditional on-site construction.

Zeta CEO Naomi Porat told the Chronicle that "with conventional building, you have multiple deliveries from multiple sources. Instead, our products are coming from the factory to the site with only a few trips."

Affordable Housing for Young Workers

A number of micro-housing developments have sprung up around the Bay Area in recent years. Seattle has prefabricated apartment units to rent too. However, the proposed development in the Bay Area is unique because it's large, dense and will bring affordable, well-designed apartments to an urban area.

Michael Janzen, author of Tiny Prefab, A Do-It-Yourself Prefab Building System, says: "I suspect the real estate market crash and recession got a lot of people questioning their values and turning their attention toward housing options like tiny/mirco homes."

Micro projects like this make it affordable for "singles and first-time home buyers to get a toehold in the market that they otherwise wouldn't have access to," says Sarah Karlinsky, deputy director at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Image from Zetacommunities.com

Tammy Strobel blogs at RowdyKittens about simple living and is the author of Simply Car-free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life.
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