Tiny Houses

Backyard BI(h)OME shelter can provide affordable housing in LA gardens

Backyard BI(h)OME shelter can ...
The Backyard BI(h)OME is designed to be affordable, lightweight, customizable and environmentally-friendly
The Backyard BI(h)OME is designed to be affordable, lightweight, customizable and environmentally-friendly
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The Backyard BI(h)OME is designed to be affordable, lightweight, customizable and environmentally-friendly
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The Backyard BI(h)OME is designed to be affordable, lightweight, customizable and environmentally-friendly
The Backyard BI(h)OME is lit using LEDs
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The Backyard BI(h)OME is lit using LEDs
Students and faculty members began designing the Backyard BI(h)OME last January
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Students and faculty members began designing the Backyard BI(h)OME last January
A Backyard BI(h)OME prototype was displayed at the Broad Art Center in June
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A Backyard BI(h)OME prototype was displayed at the Broad Art Center in June
Students and staff with construction skills worked on building the pipe framework for the Backyard BI(h)OME
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Students and staff with construction skills worked on building the pipe framework for the Backyard BI(h)OME
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A team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has designed a shelter that it says can tackle LA's housing crisis in an environmentally-friendly manner. The Backyard BI(h)OME is affordable, low impact and recyclable. What's more, it can be easily constructed in people's back gardens.

In his Sustainable City Plan, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has set a target of building 100,000 additional housing units by 2021. Professor at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture and director of the university's cityLAB Dana Cuff says this can be achieved without needing to buy vacant land or bulldoze existing buildings.

There are just under 460,000 single family lots in LA with an estimated total of around 3,800 acres of underutilized space in their backyards. This, coupled with recent legislation that made it easier to construct a second dwelling unit on each property in LA, is the basis for Backyard BI(h)OME.

Cuff argues that if around a fifth of those underutilized spaces could be used for housing one or two people, LA's targeted number of new housing units could be met. With this in mind, he went about designing an affordable, customizable, environmentally-sensitive shelter that could house one to two people and be built on a backyard lot. He worked on the project with students and faculty members of the UCLA architectural and urban design department and UCLA College’s environmental humanities program, as well as Kevin Daly Architects.

The Backyard BI(h)OME is lit using LEDs
The Backyard BI(h)OME is lit using LEDs

Some would argue that few people would want to sacrifice space in their backyard for the sake of helping to meet LA's housing needs. However, as a simple and affordable means of creating a home that can then be rented out, the Backyard BI(h)OME could offer a potentially attractive supplementary income over its projected 10-15 year lifespan.

The shelter has a footprint of just 350 sq ft (33 sq m) and is designed to minimize weight, material usage and waste, use non-permanent foundations, be easy to source and ship, be easy to disassemble and be recyclable/reusable.

Its simple construction uses fabric sheeting embedded with solar panels wrapped around a framework of electrical conduit pipes. The floor and end walls are fashioned from wood and there are openings for light and ventilation.

There is a stone gabion around the outside of the Backyard BI(h)OME and a small wooden deck at the front, with a slide-out bench. It is designed for "multi-species cohabitation," with nooks and crannies able to be built into the walls to provide a habitat or biome (hence the shelter's name) for for lizards, field mice, bees, birds and bats. Alternatively, an edible garden can be planted. Exterior overhangs are built into the design to provide cover for these spaces.

A Backyard BI(h)OME prototype was displayed at the Broad Art Center in June
A Backyard BI(h)OME prototype was displayed at the Broad Art Center in June

It's designed with a compact kitchen and a greywater recycling system that collects wastewater from the kitchen, bathroom sink and shower for use on the surrounding backyard habitat. A compostable toilet also contributes to the shelter's sustainable and environmentally-friendly feature set.

All the materials needed to build the shelter can be carried onto site and hand-assembled by two people. The steel and wood frame, the floor and the skin can all be easily recycled or reused.

Work on designing the Backyard BI(h)OME began in January this year and a pared-back prototype was displayed at the Broad Art Center in LA from June 10-17.

Source: UCLA, Backyard BI(h)OME

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4 comments
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is neat. If I had a backyard, I would want that in it.
davgrn
looks like a pretty fancy tent to me.
CAVUMark
"There are just under 460,000 single family lots in LA with an estimated total of around 3,800 acres of underutilized space in their backyards. " I recall fully utilizing the backyard where I grew up, we played tag, baseball, caught fireflies, slept in our tent, and even dried clothes on a clothes line. The dog played with us in the back yard, we had a garden where I grew corn and carrots and let's not forget the tree where I learn how to climb.
I wish I had that backyard now.
cylinder08
I want this in my backyard! I’m definitely jumping on this grey water craze, I mean who wouldn't? You save water, you save the environment and (best of all) you save money. I'm looking into buying a new house with the greywater system already put in rather than a laundry to landscape Something along the lines of this company: http://greywaterrecyclingsystems.com/
It’s a lot more affordable than the other greywater systems out there… Also I like how the maintenance is simple so even a newbie like me can diagnose and fix a problem. Anyone else have any experience with another greywater system out there?