Tatami: first universal modular housing system

About Solution

The affordable housing crises we now face throughout the world require a similarly universal solution. Our proposition is that this solution lies in sustainability and adaptability. By designing a modular system that is completely customizable and programmable, the system can be adapted for use in various climates, cultures, lifestyles, temperatures, and conform to variances from the international building code. Similarly, the flexibility of an adaptable modular system can adapt to climate change through material and technological upgrades, and to reconfigurations of the building typology through a reorganization of the individual modules.

This same adaptability and ease of reconfiguration would similarly be a boon to shifting population demographics and market conditions, in which studio apartments of single modular units could easily be expanded to 1 or 2 bedroom apartments of multiple modules, connected either horizontally, vertically, or some combination of the two. Landlords and tenants would be able to adapt for growing families and societal changes. Municipalities and developers alike would enjoy ease of construction and permitting through a design language and housing system that already conforms to code and therefore does not require extended land use review or exemptions.

The target market is thus defined as any person or institution, anywhere in the world, in need of affordable housing. Obviously this is rather broad, but the essence of the Tatami system is to provide mass market solution, and its adaptability allows for a model in which many housing typologies and circumstances can be accommodated within this large customer segment. The customer base includes both homeowners and landowners seeking to construct their own primary or secondary housing in the form of a single family home or accessory dwelling unit or vacation home, respectively. The customer base also includes municipalities and nations large and small (along with the private for- profit and non-profit real estate developers working alongside them), who desire to provide social housing projects for their citizens in a time of unaffordable housing costs and a severe lack of housing stock due to outdated zoning codes, unjust regulation, and historical economic injustices.

By targeting both consumers and professionals, the goal is to diversify the customer base and to account for any cyclical market conditions that may have low interest rates encourage a raft of private construction driving up prices one moment, leading to a dearth of affordable housing stock and thus creating an impetus for government-sponsored housing projects the next.

Tokyo and Los Angeles have been identified as testing grounds for this system, in that both Japan and California are among world leaders in sustainable building and in the vigorous adoption of earthquake resilience standards. Additionally, Japan’s history and culture of forestry and carpentry make it nearly unmatched in the possibility of manufacturing the product locally and with respect to nature. Similarly, the work and research of contemporary architects in Japan continues to set new standards in the development of new models of housing, both in terms of micro dwellings and refugee shelters.

We hope to vertically integrate all aspects of this design-build business to incorporate design, development, and production such that economies of scale can be realized, and thus further reduce the cost of system as an affordable housing product. The integration of design/production/build is an efficient combination of typically segregated architecture and real estate practices in order to arrive at a more thoughtful product that can economically address social and design issues.

Sustainability and recycling are two features of the Tatami system that have traditionally been ignored by the affordable housing market, given the greater upfront cost and thus the reflex that they be considered luxuries. By incorporating these environment-first perspectives as bedrocks of design and material choice, we are providing a product that is unrivaled in the marketplace, and expect all in- house development projects to achieve US Green Building Council LEED certifications with an eye towards true net zero in the coming years. As such, there are four critical features unique to Tatami that no other product on the market, or in development, is currently able to provide in combination: full functional and programmatic adaptability; international zoning compliance; industry-endorsed sustainability credentials; and affordable pricing.

The longer term goal is that the Tatami system can be expanded both in terms of scale and luxury. Currently designed for single family homes to multifamily residential buildings of up to 18 stories and 100 units, further research and development of building materials and technology will allow for greater building heights and larger building loads without compromising structure or cost. Similarly, further study will allow the Tatami system to support temporary homeless and refugee housing, and use of luxury materials, to accommodate both ends of the economic spectrum. While these expansions to the capabilities and functionalities of Tatami will allow us to eventually include the entire spectrum of home seekers and homebuilders within our marketplace, the core of the business, and its social mission, will always be to provide an affordable housing solution for the mass market.

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