Modular-home manufacturer Kasita’s units range from 352 to 408 square feet (33 to 38 sq m) and prices start at about $90,000. (Courtesy of Kasita)

Micro-housing builder Kasita is making its first appearance at a ULI event during the 2018 Spring Meeting in Detroit, as it ramps up marketing to developers for its next-generation approach to modular home construction.

“This is where construction is going,” said Benji Miller, Kasita’s chief operating officer, as he lounged in a Kasita prototype parked outside the Cobo Center. “We take a lot of the risk out of the process.”

The Kasita unit is available for ULI Spring Meeting attendees to tour, providing a glimpse into how Kasita has reengineered a living environment, including a kitchen, washing machine, and bathroom with shower.

Kasita’s units range from 352 to 408 square feet (33 to 38 sq m) and prices start at about $90,000. Two designs are available: the Independent, a stand-alone accessory dwelling unit, and Community, a “modular, stackable, high-density product for real estate developers, institutions, governments, and anyone who wants to place multiple units in tight urban spaces,” according to company marketing materials.

Units priced at $109,000 are shipped fully equipped with appliances and furniture, including a queen-size bed that slides away to create more living space. Storage space is also available under the floor or in optional cabinets.

Each unit is wired for an Alexa-like home assistant to control lights and appliances. Eleven-foot-high (3.4 m) ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and elevated spaces are designed to give the units the look and feel of a larger space.

While companies have been pitching modular concepts for decades, rising construction and labor costs make prefab more enticing for developers, the company says. “We think the time is right for this,” said Dason Whitsett, the principal architect. Construction in a “controlled factory environment is not subject to the whims of the market,” he said.

Standardized and tightly controlled manufacturing can eliminate many of the past problems that builders have experienced using modular designs, Miller says. No welding is required in the process of site prep, he says. “We have spent a lot of time looking at framing and production,” Miller says.

Some of Kasita’s models come fully furnished with convertible furniture hooked up to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant system. (Courtesy of Kasita)

Work is expected to begin later this year on a mixed-use, 24-unit project in Denver. The company also has a commitment for a project in New York, Miller says.

“We’re hitting places that are being hit hard by the housing crisis and the lack of supply of housing,” Matt McPheely, the company’s head of sales, told the Denver Post. “We’re taking a manufacturing approach to housing, which enables high precision and scalability.”

In California, the company has been touting the use of the units for granny flats, but the company’s focus is on larger projects. Four to five stories is the ideal height for projects, the executives say.

“The assumption is we are a tiny home,” Miller says. “We are really a modular builder.”

Kasita founder Jeff Wilson famously spent a year living in a 33-square-foot (3 sq m) Dumpster “to test the limits of habitable space,” according to the company’s website. The two-year-old firm has raised $11.2 million in investments, including support from Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams, the residential brokerage firm.

Read more about Kasita in the summer 2018 issue of Urban Land.