Seattle-based startup company Node creates attractive “Lego” houses that may solve the affordable housing crisis in big cities such as New York and San Francisco.
Housing In America
Although technology has advanced many aspects of our lives, one thing hasn’t changed much: the process of building a house. The average cost of a house is $428,000 including a long and tedious process filled with hidden costs. Affordable housing used to be scarce only in densely packed cities, such as New York City. However, the affordable housing crisis has spread to almost every major metropolis in America. This process is not working well in US cities, and while policy and zoning politics play a major role, the cost of construction contributes to the most to the housing crisis. The cost of an affordable housing unit in San Francisco can run as much as $750,000. Keep in mind that this price tag does not necessarily get you a house. Because these units cost so much, more and more people are unable to afford housing. As a result, we need cheaper homes. One of the potential solutions is pre-fabricated housing.
When someone mentions pre-fabricated housing, most people think of trailer homes or log cabins. Both of these options are unsuitable for cities, but Node found a solution. Node wants to become the Ikea of the home industry, which gives it a put-it-together-yourself vibe. The homes can be flat-packed, the technique popularized by Ikea, and assembled in days on-site. The pieces snap into place like Legos, so no nails or screws are needed. Node homes are not plastic sheds like the ones you see outside of Lowe’s. These homes have a modern aesthetic that has much curb appeal and resembles modernist homes in Scandinavia.
Of course, Node’s technology is still under development. Right now, they use standard building materials such as wood, metal, and insulation. Bec Chapin, co-founder and chief operating officer of Node, says that the company’s secret is in the manufacturing, assembling, and monitoring. The houses have software and sensors that maintain a comfortable and carbon-neutral home environment, and they are powered by solar panels.
More than 24 cities are changing zoning to allow people to have in-law units and backyard cottages. As a result of these new laws, Node is looking to create homes for people’s backyards. Their cottages, which are homes with two bedrooms and one bath, ranging between 400-1,000 square feet, have sold very well. Node homes are in the $250,000 range, which is competitive with conventional construction. Node has big plans for the future, including many improvements in the set-up of these homes. For instance, the homes’ plumbing, electrical, and other systems are manually assembled, so there is still a lot of work to be done on-site. Also, the price for the construction of a Node home is not much less than conventional construction. However, Node is looking to change that by integrating all materials into factory-made assemblies. Chapin believes that this will slash on-site labor costs by an astonishing 90%. The company even wants to offer multi-family apartments up to five stories high.
The Attractiveness Of Lego Houses
Unfortunately for many Americans, housing regulations can prevent the construction of new housing where it’s most needed. Neighborhood preferences can overrule regional solutions which means, in some cases, younger generations are priced out from the cities where they are most likely to earn a better wage. As a result of these regulations, backyard cottages, like Node homes, are gaining popularity because they avoid these issues. Of course, these cottages are not going to solve America’s housing crisis, but it is a great start.
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