My recent post on the Archipod, a spherical prefab “garden office” seemed to go over well so I thought, today, I’d follow up with another backyard retreat that’s decidedly more, umm, boxy.


Designed by Seattle-based green building guru Sloan Ritchie with LEED-certified architect Jim Burton, Backyard Boxes, like the Archipod, are green “accessory dwelling units” but a bit more dwell-friendly. While the Archipod’s size (9’ 10” in diameter) is ideal for use as home office, studio, or garden chill-out space, I assume if one spent too much time in one things could get a bit claustrophobic.
A Backyard Box, on the other hand, steps the live-in factor up a notch and could also be used as a guest/pool house, rental home, or place to deposit your mother-in-law for days (or weeks). Come to think of it, although Backyard Boxes are tagged as “accessory” units, I could even imagine living in medium- or large-sized one full-time.
Designed to fit into compact city lots, Backyard Boxes are available in three sizes: the 400-square foot studio MatchBox, the 600-square foot, the 1-bedroom SandBox, and the 800-square foot, 2-level BigBox. Or, if one prefers, a CustomBox option is available. Each Backyard Box comes equipped with the buyer’s choice of finish: Essential (half-bath, open floor plan, garage style door), Complete (full kitchen, full bath, built-ins) or Luxe (upgraded cabinets, countertops, etc).
All super-insulated Backyard Boxes are built to meet Passive House Certification and include energy-efficient lighting fixtures, nontoxic finishes, and rain screen siding. If a buyer wants to go all out with eco-friendly bells and whistles, a Backyard Box can come equipped with nifty add-ons like an energy monitoring dashboard, solar photovoltaics and water heating, a green roof, a rain garden and more. Foundation and utility hook-ups are not included in the price of the homes (they range from $79,500 to $104,500 sans add-ons, by the way).
I like the looks of 'em as both office spaces and as small full-time homes. The integration of Passive House standards, something that hasn't quite caught on stateside yet, is a particularly excellent touch. Check out the Backyard Boxes homepage and blog for more info … the FAQ page will prove especially helpful to intrigued Seattle residents.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Thinking (and living) inside the box
The Backyard Box, a Passive House Certified "accessory dwelling unit" (aka mother-in-law apartment) is available in three sizes: Match, Sand, and Big.