Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia in a Backyard prototype

Airbnb launches home design and manufacture Backyard initiative for 2019

US: Short-term rental giant Airbnb is to expand its functions by launching its home design initiative, Backyard, next year.

The company described Backyard as “an endeavour to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes” and said its first test units would be distributed in 2019.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said the inspiration for Backyard came from asking: What does a home that is designed and built for sharing actually look and feel like?

Gebbia said: “Backyard is an initiative to prototype new ways that homes can be built and shared, guided by an ambition to realise more humanistic, future-oriented, and waste-conscious design. It investigates how buildings could utilise sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time.”

In an interview published in Fast Company, Gebbia said the Backyard initiative would include small prefabricated dwellings, green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. These would be expected to range from guest houses to single and multifamily homes.

It was partly inspired by a United Nations report indicating that, based on current projections, 2.5 trillion square feet of new buildings will be built worldwide by 2060. In the US alone, builders are beginning construction on an average of 3,300 new homes each day, Gebbia said.

Gebbia said: “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“The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste. 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,” he added.

Gebbia said he hopes Backyard will become as big as Airbnb is today.

He said: “Airbnb didn’t have five- or 10-year metrics at day zero, we just focused on building something we thought could help solve a problem, while bringing people closer together.

“We’re optimising for Backyard’s potential. We’re interested in thoughtfully exploring the opportunity and doing something transformative, similar to how Airbnb did when it started,” he added.

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