For most people, the terms “dumpster” and “home” aren’t often used in the same sentence.
For Jeff Wilson, aka Professor Dumpster, this combination led him to something that could breathe new life into the ever-growing trends of multifamily housing, tiny homes and the Internet of Things.
He calls the new creation an “iPhone you can live in,” because of its small size and tech-rich devices such as Nest thermostats, solar panels and self-tinting smart glass.
What Began as an Experiment…
Wilson, a professor and dean at Huston-Tillotson University, decided to embark on a social and educational experiment where he lived in a used, 33-square-foot trash dumpster for a year.
After six months, the temperatures inside started to rise to upwards of 132 degrees, so Wilson equipped the dumpster with air conditioning and electricity. And after nine months, he came to a conclusion.
“Thirty-three-square-feet is definitely too small,” says Wilson. “And nobody wants to live in a trashcan.”
…Turned into a New Project
Aside from the setbacks, Wilson noticed a lot of benefits from his experiment.
His dumpster home was closer to the area he wanted to be, and his commute went from 35 minutes to 60 whole seconds. The home was also highly affordable.
But perhaps the biggest appeal was that Wilson could pick this tiny dumpster home up and take it with him anywhere he pleased. So he flipped the script on this idea by increasing its size to 208-square-feet (compare to this 150-square-foot techie tiny home we covered) and contacting an industrial designer named Remy LaBesque from Frog San Francisco to work freelance on the project.
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To the professor, the iPhone represented something that was high tech, beautiful, but he also wanted it to have all the components of the dumpster that he loved.
Thus, Wilson’s portable, tiny apartments were born as what are now being deemed the Kasita Home (a play on the Spanish word “casita,” which means little house).
What’s So Special About Kasita?
Looking at a Kasita configuration and the homes within it, one may envision something out of a science fiction film.
They consist of sleek steel and glass structures that resemble a three-by-three grid. The 208-square-foot dumpster homes are designed to fit on a trailer. They also have forklift slots on the sides, which allow them to be picked up, transferred and placed onto the grid structure using a scissor lift system.
Currently, Wilson and the Kasita team only have one fully functioning prototype, located in Austin, but they have plans to build 10,000 of these in 2017. Contracts have been initiated both in the states and overseas to construct these units.
“We can build the racking structures as wide as we want. For now, we’re only going up three stories. We are looking to create larger communities,” says Wilson.
The three-by-three racks are only for demonstrative purposes.
The iPhone of Housing
As aforementioned, Wilson strives to design an “iPhone you can live in.”
With the techie and tiny features filling his Kasita units, and the proposed plans to increase Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities even further, the classification of these homes as iPhones isn’t too far off.
Wilson’s tiny homes will include high tech amenities such as a Nest thermostat, a hydraulically controlled back door and a slide-out bed. He also has eventual plans to include voice control automation for things such as lights, stereo and locks.
Solar panels and a battery storage system similar to Tesla’s Powerwall will also be added, once they become readily available. Additionally, Wilson is attracted to the idea of self-tinting smart glass.
“The home blackens the glass, turns the lights down, rolls out your bed and says ‘I see that you have a meeting tomorrow at 8 a.m. in North Austin. It looks like traffic will take you 35 minutes. Would you like me to wake you up at 7 a.m.?’”
In the morning, the glass will become transparent to wake residents with natural light, the tankless water heater will crank on, they can hop in the shower and listen to NPR as they’re getting ready for the day.
Technology in its DNA
Wilson stresses that Kasita is offering the first home that has IoT and home automation technologies in its DNA from the very beginning, as these are often afterthoughts with many builders.
The future is changing fast and providing a wealth of tech standards and options in the home is key to success. Wilson plans to expand the Kasita model across urban developments, locations where homes and communities wouldn’t often be built. Through this, he hopes to solve the urban housing problem.
It’s a multifamily approach that could truly pay dividends in its uniqueness, size and transportability.
“What this allows you to do is take all the noise and pain out of trying to figure out all the technical aspects. If this is the iPhone of housing, I would call the apps the technology within,” says Wilson.