Imagine an urban parking garage, emptied of its cars and filled instead with dozens of parking-spot-size homes.
It’s the vision of a group of more than 80 students, alumni and educators from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. They have been experimenting with these car-sized homes, called SCADpads, that could be plunked into any parking garage and instantly provide housing in overpriced downtown areas of major cities. The units are prototypes for urban housing, but students will live in them first to test out the concept.
“We’re targeting decks built in the middle of the 20th century, located in the heart of a city,” says Christian Sottile, dean of the school of building arts at SCAD. “Many of these were built as fallout shelters and will basically be there until the end of time.”
For its experiment, the folks at SCAD built their beta SCADpad neighborhood in the college’s midtown Atlanta parking garage, with incredible views of the city’s sprawling skyline. They took over the fourth floor of the garage, using eight parking spaces to create the three pads. The pads reflect the design aesthetics of the college’s three campuses: SCADpad North America for its Savannah campus, SCADpad Europe reflecting the campus in Lacoste, France, and SCADpad Asia reflecting its Hong Kong campus. Each pad takes up two parking spaces—one for the unit itself and the other for an outdoor garden area—and then there’s space for the community garden and a workbench.
Print what you need -- even a frying pan
Of course, it is no ordinary workbench. It features a 3D printer, capable of printing almost anything a SCADpad resident could want, from dishes to wallpaper to furniture. Residents design their products without keyboard or mouse and instead use their hands in front of an interactive camera to manipulate the computer screen—think of Tom Cruise in “Minority Report.”
“A big part of what we have here is the ability to custom-adjust,” says Victor Ermoli, dean of the school of design at SCAD. “If you need a cooking pan, you go to the bench outside and print that. Whatever your needs are, you can meet them.”
That kind of flexibility is necessary, because inside the pads, “every cubic inch of this space counts,” Ermoli says. The units are only 8 feet wide and 16 feet long, so a grown man standing in one can nearly touch the walls and ceilings when his arms are spread out. There’s room enough for a bed, a sitting area, a bathroom with toilet and sink, and a small kitchen that hides its appliances, like the refrigerator and freezer, inside its cabinet drawers.
These walls do talk
There’s also a long list of technological features. The whole unit is controlled by a tablet—there are no light switches —and the power can be turned off completely by blowing on what Ermoli calls a digital candle, which looks like a glowing triangle near the door of the unit.
The walls can be changed out with new 3D-printed designs, and some walls make certain noises, such as tweeting birds, when touched. With the touch of a button, the windows can be frosted over for privacy, and the bathroom mirrors can remind you to wash your hands. A daylight harvesting system captures light coming in the sides of the garage and channels it over fiber optic cables to the garden, Sottile says.
And because the units are the size of cars, they could theoretically be taken on the road and travel with their owner to a new city, where a different parking garage could be its home, Sottile says.
Students living in the units will test the concept out while the college considers questions of scalability. As it stands now, the cost of a basic unit would be around $40,000 and can be produced in two months, Sottile says. The cost to rent them would be about 40 percent below the median rent price in a city.