Welcome to Home of the Future, a 4-part video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge. Each month, we’;ll take you inside one innovative home and explore how the technology of today informs the way people will live in the future. To follow along, stay tuned for new video episodes on our Facebook page. This month’s location? A tiny prefab billed as the “iPhone for housing.”
In recent years and against the backdrop of an ongoing affordable-housing crisis, tiny houses have become a popular lifestyle alternative and perhaps an even bigger internet fascination. But if you really want to see how much further tiny houses can go—and how they might engage urban housing on a larger scale—you’ve got to look at what’s happening in Austin, Texas, where local startup Kasita is designing and engineering the micro home of the future.
The origin of Kasita (the name is a play on casita, the Spanish word for “small house”) goes back to a viral story in 2014, in which an Austin-based “Professor Dumpster” made his name by, well, living in a 33-square-foot waste receptacle. While that experience lasted “only” a year, it spurred Professor Dumpster—real name Jeff Wilson—to explore the full potential of small living.
4 years later, Wilson’s answer is what you see here: a 352-square-foot prefab micro dwelling with sleek metallic siding that hints at just how futuristic the pad is inside. Indeed, beyond an easy-to-love glass-walled, minimalist interior, what really sets the Kasita apart is the technology right at the center of it.
The unit integrates over 60 smart-home devices, all programmed to speak to each other through custom software. There’s a smart doorbell and camera from Doorbird, a smart thermostat, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors from Nest, dimmer switches from Lutron, and a wireless stereo amplifier from Sonos, to name a few.
All together, this ne2rk of devices lets Kasita create “moods” that adjust to your day, summoned at your command via an app or a voice assistant like Amazon’s Alexa. For example, the “Netflix and Chill” mood, as shown in the video, dims the lights and raises a hidden flatscreen TV.
If a homeowner were to install a similar system in a traditional home, it could cost over $ 20,000—not to mention time poured into figuring out which devices work together and which don’t. With the Kasita, it’s all built into the per-unit price of $ 139,000, which also includes a water-efficient Nebia shower, Queen Casper mattress, washer-dryer combo, and a tankless water heater. (The price does not include land, shipping, installation, and taxes.)
Besides modern design and smart-home integration, there’s another component to Kasita’s innovation, and that’s the potential to scale. While the first couple of Kasita units will be heading to backyards in the Austin area, the company has its eyes set on cities.
“Long-term, we are aiming to go ultradense, and that means taking these micro units, putting them on small pieces of land in the urban core, and going up,” Wilson tells us.
Earlier this year, Kasita opened a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in East Austin, which has the capacity for 6 builds at once.
At the same time, the company is working with local governments in places like Houston and Brooklyn to pilot stacked Kasita “communities” as an affordable-housing solution.
Watch Jeff and his team demo the Kasita in the second episode of Home of the Future.