Kasita – a Start Up
In January 2015, Brent Wistrom, wrote in AustnInno about a new start-up that had raised over $1m for micro homes, as referred to in last week’s Weekly
Insight. At that time, ‘Professor Dumpster’, the founder and CEO, was in a’ helluva good mood’. He'd got his shoes kicked off, and was working with his
team in the wide-open space they're renting in a renovated warehouse in East Austin that was more art collective than tech hub.
The space, explained Dumpster – real name Jeff Wilson - was huge. Large enough to hold a couple of the micro housing units, or ‘Kasitas’, that they were
in the process of sending out to the world. But way back then this was a big idea for transferable tiny homes that still hadn't hit the streets.
More Affordable, Low Impact Living
Wilson, alias Prof. Dumpster, ,was trying to not only start a company that sells tiny urban homes but also to spur a movement toward more affordable,
low-impact urban living.
"When you talk about disruption spaces, folks are usually talking about software as a service or talking about the latest dating app or another ride-sharing
app," Wilson said. "We're not disrupting taxis here. We're talking about Maslow. We're talking about a very core need in all cities."
43% Price Hike in 2 years
Austin, of course, was (and still is) feeling that affordability crunch more than almost any city outside of New York City, San Francisco and Boston.
Homes prices in Hyde Park, just north of the University of Texas, had increased 43% in two years, for example.
Student Debt, Affordability & Mobility
For Millennials, many of whom were (and are) strapped with student debt at levels unseen by prior generations, affordability and mobility were
(and remain) key. Meanwhile, homes continue to be one of the better places to park money and watch it grow.
But would that be the case with 208 sq ft. (19.32m2) dwellings that can be plugged into big racks, as Kasita planned?
Seeing is Believing
In Wilson’s view, people needed to see it to believe. “It's kind of like the iPhone” he said “ -- something people didn't know they needed until they
started using one.”
"I have a feeling, a pretty strong conviction, that when folks see these and walk into them and, on top of that see the price tag, and what it feels
like to walk into a Kasita and use and live in one, demand is going to be essentially unlimited," he said.
At that time Kasita had roughly 3,000 letters of interest from developers who might want to have a Kasita rack on their properties -- typically in or near
downtown areas. The idea was to have developers purchase racks and individuals purchase Kasitas that fit into them. The developers would make money with
homeowner association fees. And homeowners would own their Kasita, paying about $600 a month -- or about half of an equivalent studio in central Austin.
A ‘Light Bulb’ Moment
Wilson got the idea while he was a professor and dean at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. While there, he started living in a converted dumpster with
33-square-feet of living space -- a move that not only made waves on campus but got the attention of national media, such as the Washington Post.
Wilson said it started as part social experiment, living on less and inspiring students to look at alternative living and energy use. It also became about
finding the smallest imaginable space to live in -- the baseline of what it takes to live.
The Housing market is F…..d
"So, on Nov. 15 of last year, I was just lying in the dumpster... about to fall asleep," Wilson said. "And I thought 'man, my life has actually gotten
pretty good now that I have a little bit of AC and heat. I've kind of figured out how to organize this space. And I dealt with the the fact that it's a
lot smaller. I'm in the hottest part of East Austin on east 7th. My rent is obviously very low, and I spend a lot of time outdoors and in the community and
I'm able to spend disposable income on stuff that I like to spend disposable income on that I never had before.' And I essentially had a better life in a
lot of ways. And I thought, 'the housing market is fucked, and we need a solution to it. And maybe there's something here.'"
Get Rid of the Architects & Engineers
He started by getting rid of the architects and engineers he had been working with. They were too entrenched in traditional thinking. Instead, he
looked to his iPhone and its consumer-focused design, and he started working with world-class designers to formulate a new kind of home.
Kasita has raised roughly $1 million in funding, and it's eyeing a bridge round of funding before embarking on a Series A raise that should coincide
with the installation of a rack and Kasita in East Austin, where the company owns some land. Wilson expected to show off the prototype in spring 2015,
perhaps around the time of SXSW.
What’s it like Inside
Wistrom got a chance to check the prototype out with Wilson. In his words, “Just walking in, there's a clear sense of minimalism and technological
integration. It has a Nest thermostat, of course, but it also has adjustable wall panels that could accommodate all kinds of tech, which is part of
Wilson's vision. It has speakers built into the floor and walls, and the queen size bed rolls nicely under most of the space below the kitchen counter
Would the idea ‘Take Off’
Wistrom felt it was tough to say whether Wilson's movement would take off. He saw it as a big step forward in an area that hadn’t seen a lot of
innovation in decades. Today the reality is a little more substantial, And, we may know sooner than later if the concept will take off.
3 Years Later
After a very popular and over attended ‘pop’ launch, Kasita seems to be alive and kicking. New models and product lines have been introduced for 2018
and projects appear to be becoming established. However, the initial ‘housing rack’ concept may be giving way to some more individual, one-off requirements.
You can find more information on Kasitas website where their dominant statement is that “… living space should make your life simpler and fuller.
That’s why we reinvented the home for the way you actually live.”
Kasita is NOT alone
Recognising the growing housing issues, way back in 2008 we worked with a Dutch company to offer “Home-2-Go”, then came the recession!
While sizes, stacking, and multiple assembly concepts were not dissimilar, furniture was left to the occupants, but could be supplied loose.
Many of Kasita’s built in furniture concepts are, of course, quite standard in the UK caravan industry. Other firms, several from overseas as well as the UK,
are promoting similar idea. And while Kasita has to cope with Texan / Us zoning laws, they do seem to have plenty of space wot work within – not a luxury
found very often in the UK.
Wherever there is space, ‘Planning’ generally requires that local design styles, if any, are observed. This places extra demands on such projects,
often requiring individual modelling and façade treatments to meet such criteria. This is something that timber frame structure are eminently suited
to provide, but this places extra burdens an challenges on the small number of people with the knowledge and experience to do this.
Furthermore, unless part of some comprehensive re-development, which seems unlikely, most of the work will need to be quite individualised and small scale.
Prefabrication Is Key
Factory prefabrication of elements like walls and floors can always be considered for OSM (Off-Site-Manufacture).
There is also little doubt that integrating the use of more components that are produced off-site under factory controlled conditions,
can go a long way to helping to prevent accidents on-site. This includes the availability of carefully selected complimentary components and
methods to speed up work on site as well as providing unusual and hard to find environmentally sound, eco-friendly, sustainable and complimentary
building products and components that facilitate merging with local vernaculars.
Your Partner in Development
Whether you are an architect, builder or private client, almost certainly you will (at least soon) be aware that building sites can be very dangerous places.
Working with our teams we believe will help you to provide safer sites as well as better value and more readily marketable homes.
Our specialist services deliver best value and protect the interests of land owners, house-builder developers, professionals and private individuals
seeking to build their dream home. Our off-site construction systems also reduce the amount of material that gets wasted on site, helping to avoid land fill,
hazardous waste separation and handling, They also deliver better value for you and your customers.
PLEASE CONTACT US FOR AN INFORMAL DISCUSSION AS TO HOW WE MIGHT WORK TOGETHER
Call us to arrange a factory visit and discuss your ideas and needs with our in-house team of professionals for your next project. You’ll be glad you did!