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Beyond House-Sharing: AirBnB Enters the Pre-Fab Market


02 / 06 / 2019

By Owen Mitford

It’s no secret that AirBnB—the housing service for travels that provides a more home-like answer to traditional hotels—has always been on the cutting edge of technology and growth. First, they revolutionized vacation-taking by allowing individuals to offer up their homes, apartments, yurts and everything in-between via an online platform to guests. (Currently, there are over 5 million properties for rent via AirBnB worldwide.) Next, they built an entire lifestyle brand around the service, providing a range of curated classes on a city-by-city basis and launching a lifestyle publication to go along with it. Now, the innovative travel company is taking a massive leap into uncharted territory: building their own line of pre-fab homes.

The new initiative, known as Backyard, will roll out prototype models as early as Fall 2019. But despite the name, Backyard isn’t just interested in building spaces for backyards. Instead, the company is aiming to become a much larger player in the technology and sustainability-driven pre-fab housing industry. “Backyard investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and gain vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time,” Gebbia told Fast Company. “Backyard isn’t a house, it’s an initiative to rethink the home. Homes are complex, and we’re taking a broad approach–not just designing one thing, but a system that can do many things.”

airbnb enters the pre-fab market

Architectural models as part of the Backyard Prototype. [Photo: Samara]

For anyone who’s been watching the space, it’s not surprising that AirBnB—which has been accused on numerous occasions of catalyzing inflated housing prices in cities across the globe—is entering the home-building market. Afterall, the company is, at its core, a technology behemoth, and fellow giants like Google and Facebook are already deeply invested in securing their piece of the manufactured housing space. For AirBnB to enter seemed like only a matter of time.

“In the US alone, we’re starting construction on an average of 3,300 new homes every day. For us, this goes beyond a business opportunity. It’s a social responsibility. The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste,” Gebbia said via a press release. “In order to meet the demands of the future, whether it be climate displacement or rural-urban migration, the home needs to evolve, to think forward.”

The homes—which will feature a host of smart technologies, focus on sustainability and be wired for potential co-living—represent a future in which manufactured housing is at the very forefront technological advancement and affordability. “Backyard is about creating new options for people, whether they’re Airbnb hosts or not. We’re interested in making it easier for people to find new places to call home,” Gebbia says.

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