What is a Micro-Unit? Wikipedia defines a micro-unit as: “A micro-apartment, also known as an apodment or microflat, is a one-room, self-contained living space, usually purpose built, designed to accommodate a sitting space, sleeping space, bathroom and kitchenette within around 150–350 square feet. Residents may also have access to a communal kitchen, patio and roof garden.”

Micro-units have widely varying definitions depending on the cities in which they’re built. This is in part due to building code variations within cities, but is also attributable to the market’s acceptance of a smaller unit. A 220 square foot rental in San Francisco might not seem so strange, whereas in Boston, the city recently nervously approved a 450 square foot “Innovation Unit.” This huge disparity proves that “micro” varies widely depending on the affordability of the real estate in question.

Typically in urban areas, these small units can provide benefits to both the developer and the renter. Although more expensive to build due to twice as many kitchens and bathrooms in the same amount of space, the efficiency is found in double the rental income. Renters benefits from lower rental costs, public transit access, and proximity to
employment.

Living small can be a solution for a range of demographics: young professionals, empty nesters, retirees, long distance commuters, and young couples. Real estate costs and rents tend to be escalating, so all fingers point to the micro-unit as a solution. But if small is the trend for the future, what does this mean for the way we live in small spaces?

We’ve honed in on what we’re calling the Small, Medium and Large Micro-Unit. We’ve kept a few things in mind while developing these micro-units: accessibility, differing minimum area requirements, and varying market’s size acceptability. Each variation has its benefits and we’ve illustrated how the three compare.

How can we make “micro” more livable?