Airbnb’s plans to design its own houses in 2019

by | Dec 13, 2018 | Design

Airbnb division Samara is reportedly looking into building houses. The plan is likely to build Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs.

Airbnb is perhaps best known for the way it popularize home sharing and rentals. The company has, essentially, created a global network of more than 5 million properties — including everything from standard homes and apartments to less conventional accommodations such as tree houses. The company has been so successful at what it does that it has accumulated a net value of an estimated $38 billion.

The question then becomes: what does Airbnb do next? The answer might come as somewhat of a surprise. It lies in the futures division of Airbnb that co-founder and chief product officer Joe Gebbia created in 2016.

Dubbed Samara, this offshoot is aimed at creating new products and services for the company, and now it is looking into building houses.

This essentially takes Airbnb from a company that once facilitated the rental of existing houses, to a company that builds brand new houses. It’s quite the transition, and it’s almost certain to be carefully watched by stakeholders in the hospitality space.

It also made headlines recently by announced a new initiative called Backyard, which the company described in a recent press release as, “an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes.” The first wave of test units for Backyard are currently projected to go public in 2019.

Not all details are clear, however. Some experts in the space believe that the name Backyard itself is telling, serving as a hint that the plan is to build what are known in the United States as Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs.

These are basically small cottages that sit on properties occupied by larger homes. They are often built behind these sometimes suburban homes, thus the name serving as a clue, and the connection is a sound one, given the frequency with which such properties are posted on Airbnb.

In interviews, Gebbia has suggested that Backyard will extend the ADU concept to include touches such as green building materials, which are quite popular among younger travellers.

The type of ADUs Airbnb is likely to build have also been floated as potential solutions for cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles that have a well-documented lack of affordable housing.


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