If you live in a city, your future apartment may be inside a parking garage. Yesterday, a team of designers from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) unveiled prototypes of new studio apartments called SCADpads—tiny units that each fit inside a single parking space.
Why build in a garage? Overcrowded cities are struggling to find places to build affordable housing, and since fewer and fewer people are driving cars, maybe it’s a natural step. Already, most parking garages are only used about half of the time, and they tend to be located near downtown areas, exactly where many people want to live.
"Parking decks are a building type that’s often overlooked, but it may actually be the next frontier for adaptive reuse," says Christian Sottile, dean of the SCAD School of Building Arts. "When we think about the impacts of demolition and reconstruction, we can either watch these existing assets sort of grind their way into obsolescence or we can enable them to evolve into other things."
Over the last 10 months, dozens of students worked on every aspect of the design—from architecture, furniture, appliances, and textiles, to interactive features, like a smart lighting system that turns on lights automatically when someone comes home and dims when they’re ready to go to sleep.
Each unit is fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and a flexible living space that can be used for sleeping, eating, working, or play. "They’re entirely self-sufficient—it’s small living with no compromises," Sottile says. The three prototypes, currently installed in a parking garage on the SCAD campus in Atlanta, were also designed with private outdoor spaces that take advantage of the parking deck’s view of the city skyline.
The installation also includes a community garden, lit with a daylight-harvesting system installed on the roof, and a maker space where the apartment’s occupants can 3-D print specific accessories for their new home. Three students will be testing them out by living in them for the next three months.
"SCADpad is designed by millennials for millennials," says Sottile. "And that provides this really interesting laboratory for experimentation. You’ve got this enormous population group—78 million plus—and 88% of them want to be in an urban setting. Affordable, efficient housing is important to them, along with mobility, and not being tethered to a car, and having collaborative living environments."
The apartments could be used anywhere across the country, since parking spaces are a standard size. Installation at a larger scale would be easy, Sottile says, since it would require little modification to existing garages.
It could quickly add new housing in prime areas. The garage where the three prototypes are now, located in midtown Atlanta, could hold 300 to 400 units. SCAD has calculated that making the switch to housing could double revenues for the owner of a parking garage while still providing studios that cost 40% below the median rent in major urban markets.
"It’s the kind of project that’s thinking about what's next in terms of urban housing and reuse of existing assets, but it’s also an immediate solution," says Sottile. "You’ve taken sort of the underdog building and given it the chance to compete. There’s a beautiful story about preservation here and not making the mistakes we made 50 years ago when we demolished buildings to put up parking decks."