Can 135 Sq. Ft. SCADpads Solve Urban Housing Challenges?

SCADPad Alumna Sitting on Fold-Up Hammock Bed


Proclaiming that you’re home after rolling into a parking space may be taking on a new meaning in the future.

Recent trends for smaller living appear to be going a different, more minuscule direction, if a micro-housing and adaptive re-use experiment proves out by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). That parking space won’t be used for a car but will be a pad for a 135-square-foot unit that residents will call their humble abode.

In April, SCAD unveiled SCADpad, which has transformed a midtown Atlanta parking garage into a sustainable community for select college students. The first of four groups of three students began occupying the trio of units on the fourth floor of a parking garage overlooking downtown Atlanta in 7- to 10-day intervals. The experiment will last into late May or early June.

SCADpads a Sizable Solution for Urban Housing Dilemma

The trial tests the idea that younger residents don’t require large living spaces because they prefer to spend time in communal settings, and also proposes a solution for growing urban housing challenges.

Each of the fully functional and furnished units fit within a standard parking space and adjoining common areas give residents a chance to spread out. The experiment is an opportunity to examine whether “cold, uninhabitable spaces built for cars, not humans” can offer housing alternatives for a population that is expected to keep growing for the next 300 years, said Christian Sottile, SCAD Dean of the School of Building Arts.

A United Nations report says that global urban population is expected to rise to about 1 billion over the next 12 years and reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and trends show that more of the U.S. population is living in urban areas. In those same areas, the majority of the country’s 105 million parking spaces reside, including those in about 40,000 structures that operate at half the capacity, according to SCAD research.

“We asked how we can live small with no compromises, lead the way forward in thinking about new ways to inhabit the city center and think about adaptive re-use,”Sottile said. “It’s not just meeting the demand for small housing and maximizing space, but it is really modeling an immediate strategy for adaptable or sustainable adaptive re-use.”

Building a Sustainable Urban Micro-Housing Community

The experiment is the work of a team of 75 current students, 37 alumni and 12 SCAD professors from a dozen academic degree programs and marks the non-profit university’s 35-year anniversary. SCAD’s website tracks the lives of residents through photos and tweets. Public open houses that began in mid-April will run through June 11 for all of Atlanta to see.

SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace calls the project, “a sustainable urban micro-housing community that projects relevance far beyond the form and function to the Vitruvian principals of utility, strength and delight.” Without the oil spots.

SCAD President and Co-founder, Paula Wallace, with SCAD alum.
SCAD alum and featured artist Marcus Kenny sitting in SCADpad North America with SCAD President and Co-founder, Paula Wallace.


The mobile units are accompanied by a handful of amenities designed to practice sustainable living. An adjacent park is furnished with custom-designed furniture built by students. A community garden is irrigated by filtered grey water and fed by fiber optic sun harvesting and high-efficiency composting systems. And a waste management center awaits recycling, composting and trash disposal.

Also, SCADpad showcases custom art installations from SCAD alumni on the interior and exterior to create themes inspired by SCAD locations in Asia, Europe and North America. A workstation built by SCAD furniture design students features a hands-free, intuitive 3D printer interface that allows the resident to create wall attachments without pressing a button.

Underused Parking Garages Have Urban Housing Potential

Sottile said the pilot site is a structure that doesn’t have much traffic, which adds a bit of a safety net for the residents living on the fourth floor. In addition, the garage is designed with alcoves for parking, which enabled designers to easily isolate the SCADpads.

The units occupy one alcove, and cars are not permitted to go next to them or pass through. Thus, the chances of residents living in an exhaust-filled environment are low, Sottile said. Ideally, an entire floor would be taken off line for living and cars would be parked on nearby levels.

With so many floors and spaces, the sky is the limit for urban housing. Sottile said that the deck used in Atlanta could accommodate 300-400 SCADpads.

“At SCAD, we see many of these 20th century structures as a huge adaptive re-use and historic preservation opportunity to bring art and design together to delight the user and sustainably evolve these buildings already in place,” he said.

“Think about the possibility of bringing this to the market.”


All images courtesy of SCADpad.



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

Follow PMI  

Property Management Insider is brought to you by RealPage. Learn more.


© RealPage, Inc. All trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. 1-877-325-7243 | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | DMCA Notice | Sitemap