While Canada’s tiniest rental apartments (226 to 291 square feet) are leasing like hotcakes in Vancouver’s Gastown district despite some backlash from local housing activists, Patrick Kennedy of sustainability-minded development firm Panoramic Interests has big plans to bring pint-sized prefab apartments to San Francisco's SoMa district and beyond.
Recently featured by Kirsten Dirksen and co. over at faircompanies, Kennedy’s prototype dwelling, SmartSpace 1.0, measures 160 square feet — the smallest a studio apartment can be, according to California law. While SmartSpace 1.0 is half the size of the units at the Vancouver “micro-loft" development, it's palatial compared to another faircompanies-featured dwelling in New York City. Funny enough, that Manhattan apartment is the exact same size, 78 square feet, as the structure that inspired Kennedy to conceive the SmartSpace concept: his vintage AirStream travel trailer.
Envisioned as the housing equivalent of the SmartCar, each non-prototype SmartSpace unit will be prefabricated off-site to speed things along while lowering construction costs and minimizing waste. Then, as envisioned by Kennedy, they’ll be stacked, LEGO-style, on top of and next to each other. And Kennedy certainly has some experience in the stacking department as Panoramic Interests was the first firm to install independently accessed stacked parking lifts in 1995.
To test and tweak the SmartSpace concept, Kennedy erected the SmartSpace 1.0 prototype unit in a Berkeley warehouse (check out those beautiful faux views!). He invited faircompanies along for an exclusive tour of the space in which he further explains his vision and shows off some of the dwelling's space-saving, transformative features (some, like the "euro bath," did not go over that well with an MIT student/guinea pig who lived in the space for a month).
Explains Kennedy towards the end of the video: “Someone asked Aristotle Onassis, 'what was your secret to being rich?' He said two things: 'always have a sun tan and always have an address in the best part of town even if it's a broom closet.' Now I'm providing the broom closets in the South of Market area, metaphorically speaking."

Something not detailed in the faircompanies video is the actual SmartSpace development (pictured above) that's proposed for a 3,750-square-foot infill lot at 38 Harriet St. in the SoMa district. The car-free, LEED Platinum-targeting complex will be composed of 23 modular SmartSpace apartments (more spacious than the prototype unit but not by that much) factory-built by none other than ZETA Communities, the prolific, net-zero energy-focused firm behind projects like Tierra Del Sol in Stockton, Calif., the Lancaster Net Zero Energy Live Townhomes in Oakland, and the Seed & Plant Lab at the Presidio Stewardship Center. Green features of the prefab apartments will include Eco Solution carpet tiles, Plyboo hardwood flooring, low-flow fixtures, EnergyStar appliances, and plenty of natural light and ventilation. The units will also boast 9-foot ceilings and access to secure bike storage. A similar, but much larger (180 units) SmartSpace development is due to be built in the Mission in the summer of 2014.
I love the Leonardo da Vinci quote that drives SmartSpace's "small space, big design" ethos: "Small rooms or dwellings set the mind on the right path, large ones cause it to go astray."
Click here to read more about the SmartSpace concept and, of course, take a tour of the prototype unit in the video that's embedded below.
Video screenshot: faircompanies/YouTube; SmartSpace SoMa rendering: Panoramic Interests

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

Watch: Small equals smart for San Francisco housing developer
Squeeze on in for a tour of SmartSpace 1.0, eco-housing developer Patrick Kennedy's tiny — 160 square feet, the smallest legal size for an apartment in Califo