SmartDwelling I

Project:SmartDwelling was developed and is hosted by the New Urban Guild, of which Eric and Julia are senior members and Steve is the founder. The ideals of Project:SmartDwelling include building dramatically smaller, smarter, and more sustainably, all of which are central ideals of the Sky Institute. And it was actually SmartDwellings that brought studioSky together. Forty members and allies of the New Urban Guild gathered in Miami in January, 2009 to lay out the principles of Project:SmartDwelling. Just over three months later, Steve's SmartDwelling I was published in the Wall Street Journal. But as of May, 2012, not a single SmartDwelling had been built. Eric, Julia, and Steve realized that "the best way to see SmartDwellings built is to be so committed to them that we found a company dedicated to their implementation." And that's exactly what happened on July 1, 2012. Today, SmartDwellings are under construction with the first of them slated for completion November, 2013. Here are some of the techniques that make SmartDwellings smart:

Outdoor Rooms

Just like architecture can't be smart without respect for its regional context, an individual building can't be smart without respect for its site. We design the site as a series of beautiful outdoor rooms because the single most sustainable thing you can do is to entice people outdoors where they become acclimated to the local environment, likely needing less mechanical conditioning when they return indoors. When they do this, they achieve a state known as "living in season.” Here are two examples of garden rooms designed on two very different settings: The first one is a pair of SmartDwellings on a half-acre lot designed for one of the home occupants to be be able to raise crops in a bio-intensive way to feed ten people or more; this is the smallest garden that will produce a meaningful income. The second is a larger and more urban home with a landscape that is entirely edible, but that only feeds the family.

Edible Landscape

We believe that edible gardens can be just as beautiful as purely ornamental gardens… if people would only design them that way. And if edible gardens can be lovable, why not design gardens that both nourish you and delight you? Our site designs are therefore primarily edible, and often contain little or no lawns because the choice between grass's cost of mowing, gas, oil, and chemicals and the benefits of an edible garden should be clear.


One of the big impediments to buying or building an ultra-small home is "what if my needs change in the future?" We design "Grow Zones" into our SmartDwellings to allow for future expansion. A Grow Zone is a part of the plan that is kept free of built-in cabinetry and the like, and that has one or two doors or windows through which future expansion can easily take place. Eric has been working for years on a comprehensive system of home expansion known as Evolution Cottages that goes beyond the Grow Zones… have a look.

Wall Cavities

If we want to build dramatically smaller, we need to exploit spaces that are usually wasted. The cavities in stud walls are not only wasted, but they are homes to both household pests and mold and mildew. We dispense with drywall, replacing it with boards on one side of the wall and then we install shelves from the open side of the wall so that every interior wall becomes a shelving unit. We replace closet walls entirely, by building storage cabinetry instead of closets.  

Here are details on SmartDwelling techniques, SmartDwelling I, SmartDwelling II, outdoor room examples, manufactured SmartDwellings, Evolution Cottages, and Reconnection Cottages.

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