According to the National Association of Home Builders, 48.9% of the 132.5 million households in the United States cannot afford a $250,000 home and 29.4% cannot afford a $150,000 home. Policymakers looking to encourage attainable development often turn to parking reductions and zoning changes, but in 2022, the average size of a new single-family home was over 2,500 square feet. With an estimated construction cost of $150 per square foot, that new home would cost approximately $375,000 to construct, putting it out of reach for many Americans.

How can design help reduce the cost of new housing?

Depending on market demands and site context, new construction techniques, higher housing densities, and smaller home sizes help address the pervasive need for attainable housing. With an ambitious goal of keeping construction costs under $99,000 per home, we proposed the use of 3D-printing technology, assuming a cost of $250 per square foot of printed area. These parameters necessitate a 396-square-foot home; a tiny home by any definition. While small-scale living has the potential to reduce housing costs, tiny homes realistically appeal to only a small fraction of the population, namely single and couple adult households. Tiny home construction typically does not provide the benefit of attainability for families or other shared households.

How can mutigenerational housing support attainability?

Multigenerational and shared living is on the rise in the United States. Particularly in warmer climates, combined households provide a pathway to attainability that supports strong communities. According to the Pew Research Center, American adults living in multigenerational households often do so due to financial challenges or the need to care for a family member. Multigenerational and shared communities create strong connections, benefitting both the physical and mental health of residents.

Instead of housing just one or two people in a single, 396-square-foot tiny home, the Enclave design concept brings together families or other combined households into two small structures, creating a more socially connected and supportive living arrangement. One of the two 396-square-foot structures provides sleeping spaces for up to six people. An accessible bathroom and bedroom accommodate family members of all abilities. Twelve-inch exterior and 8-inch interior 3D-printed walls form the majority of the dwelling enclosure. Taking full advantage of the allowable height, a wood-framed sleeping loft above one bedroom and bathroom provides an additional area for sleeping or storage.  Incorporating wood framing with 3D-printed construction expands the functionality of the home without compromising economic feasibility.

The other structure features living spaces, with a fully functional kitchen, a powder room for convenience, and a living room ideal for family gatherings. A simple roof connects the sleeping and living structures, forming a screened exterior space and extending the living spaces for al fresco dining or sleeping outdoors on warm nights. The screened porch also doubles as a mud room, complete with shoe storage and laundry. Engineered wood beams with minimal spans reduce structural depth and avoid complicated trusses. By utilizing the space between the structures, the living space is effectively doubled, providing residents with room to spread out. Both structures, with a combined printed area of 792 square feet, can be accommodated within a single gantry-style 3D printer print bed measuring 38 feet by 100 feet. The interior living space of each home totals 597 square feet.

Sustainable features, such as rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection supplement resources, supporting attainability for residents by reducing utility costs. South-facing roof areas capture solar energy, reducing electrical use and reinforcing a fully electric home, cooled and heated through a roof-mounted heat pump and mini split systems. The thickened wall mass of the 3D-printed structure is oriented to the north and south, shielding the home from harsh southern exposure and providing an efficient thermal envelope, further reducing the need for heating and cooling. Fenestration on the east and west facades maximizes daylight. When the weather allows, an outdoor screened porch and operable windows at opposing ends of the home provide passive ventilation through the structures. Rigid roof insulation and a membrane roof reflect solar heat and deep overhangs curb heat gain within the homes. Drought tolerant xeriscaping with minimal irrigation is supported by rainwater collected by the roof. The space left between the pairs of homes by the 3D-printer rails creates an area for drying laundry in the sun. A secondary 3D-printed outdoor shower sits just outside the sleeping rooms.

While the home is design to accommodate a shared living situation, the Enclave design concept is about more than just one multigenerational household. On half of a typical city block, the homes are organized to form a community enclave. With two multigenerational homes per print bed, a total of seven print beds fit on 1.4 acres, housing 14 separate households. On an eighth print bed, a shared community building provides a large kitchen, gathering space, community garden, and playground. 3D-printed raised planter beds in the shared courtyard and a community garden make fresh produce readily available and create opportunities for residents across generations to help each other thrive. Breeze-block walls encircle groups of homes, concentrating entries and creating a sense of security and community. A winding pathway connects the homes to each other and a variety of programmed areas. Outdoor cooking, gardening, and other gathering spaces expand the functionality of the homes into the shared courtyards. By drawing residents outdoors, their homes become part of the larger community, bringing neighbors together and making tiny home living feel not so tiny.