Airbnb announced Thursday that it will begin testing prototype homes as soon as next year to accommodate the needs of owners or occupants who rent and share living spaces.
The new project, called Backyard, is “an initiative to prototype new ways that homes can be designed, built, and shared,” the company said in a news release.
Just as the company changed the way homeowners use their spare rooms, Airbnb said it would extend its thinking to architecture and construction more broadly.
Backyard will assess how novel manufacturing techniques, connected devices and feedback from Airbnb customers can be used to design new types of buildings that adapt to flexible living arrangements.
In a statement, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia cited United Nations projections that global construction will rise at an unprecedented rate over the next 40 years, amounting to a new Paris being built every week.
“The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste,” he said. “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.”
Airbnb’s announcement provides a partial road map of the company’s ambitions.
The company touts more than five million rental listings on its platform, across nearly 200 countries.
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Since its founding in 2008, it has upended the hospitality industry and drawn the ire of local governments around the world who say the service aggravates housing shortages and facilitates illegal short-term renting.
The initiative announced Thursday could augment Airbnb’s home-rental marketplace, adding real estate development to its portfolio, as cities continue to limit the company’s short-term rentals.