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Airbnb's Samara launches Backyard initiative

Airbnb's Backyard initiative to roll out house designs in 2019

Airbnb has announced a major move into the architecture and construction industry, with plans to release a new housing prototype late next year.

The house designs are being developed as part of Airbnb's Backyard initiative, which is spearheaded by the company's offshoot design studio Samara, launched in 2016.

As revealed by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, the project will see the company devise a new way  to design, build and share homes suited to contemporary lifestyles.

Airbnb's Samara launches Backyard initiative
The first prototype for Airbnb's Backyard initiative will be revealed next year

"With Backyard, we're using the same lens through which Airbnb was envisioned – the potential of space – and applying it more broadly to architecture and construction," said Gebbia in a project statement.

Gebbia, who originally trained as a designer, initiated the company's venture into building design when he realised that many Airbnb hosts were modifying their homes in anticipation of guests, finding many residences unsuitable.

Backyard designs will draw on Airbnb sharing model

"We began with a simple question," said Gebbia. "What does a home that is designed and built for sharing actually look and feel like? The answer is not simple at all."

Set to reveal its first prototype late next year, Samara is working on schemes that will draw on the Airbnb model of home sharing to include architectural features designed for this goal, but also respond to a number of issues that "quickly emerged" on further investigation, such as keeping up with the changing needs of residents and "the rate at which the world changes".

The project is being led by Samara – the design studio Airbnb launched in 2016

"Simply put, nothing addressed long-term adaptability from a systemic perspective," Backyard project lead Fedor Novikov said. "The only way to close the gap was to work from first principles and imagine entirely new approaches for building homes."

Research includes investigations new manufacturing techniques, such as prefabrication, smart home technologies and eco-friendly materials, to address the current issues within the building industry, including "a tremendous amount of waste".

Housing prototype to counter "outdated and wasteful" construction industry

"In the US alone, we're starting construction on an average of 3,300 new homes every day," said Gebbia. "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," he added. "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."

Gebbia, pictured, intends the project to disrupt the architecture and construction industry

Gebbia graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a dual degree in Graphic and Industrial Design, before co-founding Airbnb with fellow design graduate Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk, in 2008. The company has since caused a major disruption to the hotel industry.

Airbnb launched the Samara arm eight years later to focus on projects including architecture, service design and software engineering. It kicked off with a prototype house designed and built for Kenya Hara's House Vision exhibition, featuring a community centre on its ground floor and traveller accommodation in its gabled roof.