Homelessness is as big an issue in San Francisco as any other major city, but local firm Panoramic Interests has designed a self-contained stackable tiny apartment that it promotes as a viable solution. MicroPAD modular dwellings comprise a total floorspace of just 160 sq ft (14 sq m), but include a kitchenette, sleeping area, and bathroom.

The idea is that multiple MicroPAD (Prefabricated Affordable Dwelling) units would be stacked atop each other, to a maximum height of 12 stories, depending on the site. Ideally, they would be installed in an infill area (the unused space between existing buildings unattractive to developers) to keep costs down. The firm even says it could build MicroPAD apartment blocks atop existing developments, such as parking garages, for example.

Comprising a steel shell with a fair amount of glazing, the homes look very snug but their 9 ft (2.7 m)-high ceilings should help make it feel less cramped inside. The design and layout looks well thought-out and the amenities are generous, including a bathroom with shower and toilet, a kitchenette, bed, storage space, and a desk. A layout suitable for disabled occupants can also be installed.

Panoramic Interests is currently drumming up interest for its first MicroPAD build in San Francisco. If successful, the firm will prefabricate MicroPAD units in a factory before they are assembled on-site. It then plans to lease the development to the city, which could in turn decide which homeless people live in the tiny apartments.

According to the firm, the MicroPAD exceeds San Francisco's earthquake regulations and can be built up to 50 percent quicker than a typical non-prefabricated project. It also says that building costs could be up to 40 percent less than a conventional, non-prefab project. Though the images show the MicroPAD placed on a trailer, that's just to make it easier to move around the recently-completed prototype.

Inhabitat reports that rent (paid by the city) would come in at around US$1,000 per month. Future plans for the project include rolling out the idea to other cities.

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