How small is 173-square feet? It's roughly the size of four ping pong tables pushed together. And yet it's also the size of the apartments being built in a high-end high rise in São Paulo, Brazil.
Consulting firm LifeEdited, headed by entrepreneur and eco-living advocate Graham Hill, has launched a project in the upscale Vila Olimpia neighborhood, constructing a luxury building comprised of micro-apartments that incorporate smart design.
The term "micro-apartment" generally refers to spaces that are approximately 400-square feet or less. In comparison to the average micro-home, Hill's apartments are scant in interior space, though each also comes with a 75-square-foot balcony.
Expected to open in 2016, the building offers the services of a hotel and features apartments that while small, transform with the help of modular furniture. A large framed picture folds down into a bed, a kitchen counter evolves into a desk, and a mirrored wall folds back to reveal a bathroom.
The project, known as VN Quatà, is being executed in conjunction with Brazilian architects Basiches Arquitetos Associados and developers Vitacon.
As Hill told FastCoExist, the decision to build in Vila Olimpia was inspired by a desire to build housing in a centrally located urban area. "It's important to me that there's an environmental angle to all this. Helping people not commute is the big benefit," he said. "But also living in much smaller square footage, there's less to heat, less to cool, less space to have more stuff."
While the spaces are minuscule, the price is not. Anticipated to fetch approximately $160,000 per unit—or, $974 per square foot—VN Quatà's micro-living spaces shouldn't be confused with affordable housing options.
Tiny homes have become a burgeoning market in recent years, spawned by a growing desire to live more sustainably. Even LifeEdited's Graham Hill moved out of his Seattle mansion and into a 420-square-foot apartment in an effort to go green.
Cities like New York and San Francisco have also been exploring the trend of micro-apartments to ease the crush of rental markets with too many renters and too little space.
Last year, San Francisco approved a pilot program commissioning a building made up of 220-square-foot dwellings, though area residents remain concerned that the micro-apartment trend could simply drive up the city's already-outrageous rents for larger living spaces.
And this year in this Wisconsin, the nonprofit Occupy Madison began constructing 96-square-foot homes to help house the city's homeless.
But how much further can we push the micro-housing trend? Dak Kopec, director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College and author of Environmental Psychology for Design told The Atlantic, "Sure, these micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20's," he said. "But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people, say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem." Kopec reported that crowding-related stress can be linked to increased rates of domestic and substance abuse.
Still, many happily embrace the trend as way of living more responsibly. It's a mainstay of the green movement—the less we use, the less we waste, the less environmental impact we leave behind. But how much less we can live on while still enjoying a full life is the question. LifeEdited is hoping the answer is 173-square feet.