Micro Living


Micro Living

Micro Living

A 300 sf apartment

That doesn’t….feel small!

Bryan Middle School

2012 - 13 SMP TEAM

Micro Living:

A 300 square foot apartment that doesn’t feel small!

Bryan Middle School

April 11, 2013


Gerardo Bernabe……..8 th Grade

Isaiah Butler………….8 th Grade

Jose Gomez……..……8 th Grade

Marcel Gonzalez…......7 th Grade

Kyle Hutfless……….. 8 th Grade

Halima Mohammed….8 th Grade

Harrison Pruitt……… 8 th Grade

Grant Swenson………7 th Grade


Michael Baldino, P.E. Emritus, FSAME, Baldino Enterprises, LLC

Marty Peyton, Civil Engineer, Leo A. Daly

Team Leader

Mrs. Sue Hamilton

Problem Statement

The Bryan Middle School SMP Team became intrigued by a design competition that New York City was

holding to inspire creative ways to satisfy the need for smaller and more inexpensive apartments. An article

in the Omaha World Herald on October 1, 2012, cited that there are 1.8 million one and two person

households in Manhattan but only one million studio and one bedroom apartments. This means that an

additional eight hundred thousand apartments are needed. Researching further the team learned that

similar needs exist for other densely populated cities in the US like San Francisco. In fact, this need is

worldwide. Japan has been striving to address this need and has pioneered extremely small micro living

spaces or capsules in cities like Tokyo.

New York City has exempted a plot of city-owned land from its

density restrictions, and will donate that land to the winner of a

competition, called “adAPT NYC”, to build a complex of mini

apartments no more than 300 square feet in area. Unlike the

competition, we will not be designing an entire building, but we

wanted to try to design a better apartment than the experts, one

that would meet the competition parameters of micro-living, but

that wouldn’t feel claustrophobic.

After much team discussion with our mentors we decided that the scope of our project would be limited to

the following:

1. studying requirements of the competition and the examples provided by the city planning


2. developing our own design for an apartment that meets those requirements.

3. In addition, since the winner of the competition was announced on January 22, 2013, we compared

our own design to the typical micro apartment design of the winner.

The team decided that taking on this problem scope would provide an opportunity for researching

architectural / engineering systems requirements in addition to providing ample opportunity to creatively

design a better micro apartment.

We decided to tailor our design to New York City conditions rather than a “one size fits all” approach. Our

mentors advised that a generic layout for use anywhere in the world would minimize the importance of

cultural differences as well as differences in structural (wind, earthquake, etc) and mechanical (climate,

energy, etc.) design requirements. Choosing the “adAPT NYC” pilot project allows the Team to work with

real-world specific engineering and architectural parameters.


The “adAPT NYC” project provided a sample layout (Fig. 1) specifying the requirements for the micro

apartment. At least half of the space (150 sf) must be primary living and sleeping space, with the

remainder used for the kitchen and bath. The living/sleeping space must have a window, and all aspects

must meet NYC code requirements.

The winning design for this competition (Fig. 2) looked much like the sample: a 10 x 30 ft. rectangle. It is to

be prefabricated at the Brooklyn Navy Yards and installed in block units on the site.

Our design (Fig. 3) is superior to both the sample and the winner in several ways. First, we found that

while the long, narrow shape provides more wall space, a nearly square shape (20 x 15 ft.) allows for more

flexibility in room arrangement. (We experimented with a variety of shapes that would gang together in a

building, even looking at hexagons, but returned to the basic rectangle as the most practical.)

Our dimensions provide five more feet for the window wall, allowing for much more natural light and

increasing the perceived open area. A narrow rectangle would be easier to prefabricate and move to the

site, which might reduce construction costs, but our apartment will seem bigger, due to the larger window,

making it a more appealing living space. The window will have a U-factor of .07, and be tinted to keep out

the hot sun in the summertime. We have operable windows for natural ventilation.

Under the window we will place a through-wall HVAC (PTAC) unit for heating and cooling the apartment.

Those units are used in hotel rooms that are the same size as our apartment, and they are effective. The

only drawback is that they are powered by electricity, most likely necessitating all our appliances to be

electric, while gas is more economical. The PTAC unit is located in the center of the wall so the air would

be blown throughout the apartment without obstructions.

As in the other designs, our kitchen is L-shaped, providing a working triangle between the sink, stove and

refrigerator. At the end of the counter we placed a pull-out table extending into the living space, which can

accommodate up to 6 people for entertaining.

In each of the other designs, the bathroom lies just inside the front door. We noticed from floor plans we

found on line and from visiting hotels that the plumbing was concentrated in the center of the building,

making it cheaper to build and providing a soffit for central ventilation, as well as preventing frozen pipes,

which could occur if they were placed along outside walls. However, after visiting Staybridge Suites we

realized that if we changed the dimensions of the apartment we could keep the plumbing centralized and

still provide some privacy for the bathroom entrance. Our bathroom door is around the corner from the

kitchen, and the sink and toilet back up to the sink in the kitchen. We also found that a pocket door into the

bathroom would save space.

A soffit above the kitchen and bathroom areas provides room for pipes and wires as well as ventilation for

the stove and bathroom fans. The winning design used some of the soffit for storage, an idea we had not

thought of. However, our floor to floor height is 8 ft, as opposed to 10 ft in the winning design. We believe

that an 8ft ceiling with a large window would not feel claustrophobic and the 8ft units will be less expensive.

The hotels we visited had 8ft ceilings and we found them to be comfortable.

We looked at a number of options for sleeping: pull-out couch, Murphy bed, and building a loft space. Any

of those would work. The “adAPT NYC” sample shows a pull-out couch; the winning entry gives a choice

of pull-out couch or Murphy bed. We like the uniqueness of the Murphy bed folding into the wall. A pull-out

couch would be heavy and not as easy to move, whereas if we didn’t need it for a bed, we could use

smaller, light-weight seating that could be arranged in any way desired. We made room on the wall

opposite the Murphy bed for a TV. With the bed stowed, there are approximately 13 feet available to create

a comfortable viewing distance. At the end of the wall, next to the window, is a concealed desk with

bookshelves above it. The window glazing starts 36 inches off the floor with solid wall area on either side

of the PTAC unit, making the desk area below glazing height.

The rest of the wall containing the bed and desk is covered with built-in storage, including a pantry for the


New York competition winning design

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Action Plan

We recommend that the final design incorporate the following:


All kitchen appliances will be Energy Star rated compact size units. During our research we learned that

appliances are sold in packages. These packages usually include a refrigerator, a microwave, a stove, and

a dishwasher, and some of the packages are Energy Star rated. We wanted to include a dishwasher

because dishwashers typically use less water than doing dishes by hand. We will use a small single-bowl

sink to save space as we found that one or two people will have no use for a two bowl sink and the dish

washer makes it unnecessary.

The father of one of our team members (Grant) manufactures recycled glass countertops. They cost about

the same as granite, but are even more durable, and we found them very attractive. They are custom

made, and so could match any décor. The company also makes tub and shower surrounds. We are in

favor of incorporating recycled materials wherever possible.

recycled glass countertop samples Glass beads are dyed, then melted

together in any desired combination.

For hot water, we prefer a tankless system both for space savings as well as energy efficiency. We could

install a central system to provide hot water in every apartment on a particular floor of the building, and

stored in a separate mechanical room, but we found that the tankless heater can meet the demand for a

single apartment with one or two occupants as well as enable each renter to pay for their own hot water


The final decisions on all these details would be made by an architect and/or interior designer.


As we have become more serious about conserving our natural resources, many improvements have been

made to appliances that use water. According to the EPA, toilets account for 30% of indoor residential

water use in the U.S. Before 1980 toilets used five (5) to seven (7)

gallons of water for every flush; the 1992 Energy Policy Act called

for no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.

Two kinds of high-efficiency toilets in use today are the dual flush

and the pressure-assist. Dual flush toilets give the user the option

of a 1.1 gallon flush, sufficient for liquid waste, or a standard, 1.6

gallon flush. Pressure-assist toilets use air pressure in a container

inside the toilet tank. The air pressure produces a powerful, rapid

flush that uses very little water. Either of these options would provide the energy efficiency that we are

trying to maintain in our apartment.

The New York City competition required a full tub and shower, which we have included in our plan. We

recommend a low-flow shower head to conserve water. Most new shower heads use 2.5 gallons per

minute (gpm) but heads are available that use as low as .5 gpm.

Therefore, we would like the Mechanical Engineer for this project to specify a dual flush or pressure-assist

toilet and a low-flow shower head that only uses 0.5 to 1.5 gpm. The one shown here is adjustable to cover

that range.

Living Space and Storage

In such a small apartment we needed to be creative about finding storage space. Our floor plan includes a

wall nearly 20 feet long, part of which will conceal a Murphy bed. Folded up, that bed will require a depth of

18 inches, so we decided to make a cabinet that deep nearly the length of the wall. Below are pictures of

some ideas we liked for the use of that space. They include pantry space opposite the kitchen, hanging

rods and drawers for clothes, and shelving for miscellaneous storage. On the end of the wall, next to the

window, is a concealed desk with bookshelves above it. On the other end, next to the door, we will put

hooks for coats. The final determination of cabinets would be made by an architect and /or interior


Stair-step storage storage pole Murphy bed closet desk



Life Safety

Safety is a crucial issue in any apartment building. We want to be sure the tenants of our apartment will be

protected from fire and service outages.

All buildings in the U.S. must have a fire safety plan in addition to compliance with building codes designed

to prevent fires. In exploring fire safety we found four

different types of sprinkler systems, all of which had their

separate purposes. They were pre-action, deluge, dry pipe,

and the wet pipe. We decided on the wet pipe system

because it is the most common and the cheapest to repair.

It is usually used in apartment buildings and it seems to

work well. The sprinkler system would be designed by a

mechanical engineer.

Our apartment building will include a safety plan which will

be designed by the project electrical engineer that will include smoke detectors in every apartment and

emergency, battery-powered lighting that will come on automatically if there is a power outage. The

emergency lighting will include arrows in the hallways to indicate the quickest evacuation route, much like

those on airplanes. In addition, we will install intercom units in each apartment, linked to the manager’s

apartment, in case a resident experiences a medical emergency.

Heating / Cooling

We chose the PTAC (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioning) Unit for heating and cooling the apartment. The

units are small and energy efficient. Vents are not necessary because hot and cold air is produced from

the unit itself. The thermostat is built into the unit and is adjustable in each room. The units will be located

under the window on the outside wall where they can heat or cool the whole apartment.

Window Wall

The project architect will call on curtain wall manufactures to design the Window Wall using the following


1. The window wall configuration shall be consistent with the dimensions and be operable as

shown on Figure 4. It should also include aluminum louvers for the through-wall HVAC (PTAC)

unit and brick veneer wall sections with R30 insulation value as shown.

2. The window wall building attachment could be similar to that shown

here. We are assuming the edges of this hi-rise apartment are

concrete slabs about 6” to 8” thick.

3. The window wall structural framing shall be aluminum, capable of resisting the

positive and negative (suction) wind loads of a 20 story building in Manhattan, NY,and

meeting the NYC Building Code when attached to the building structure.

4. Glazing: Single glazing is a very poor insulator, with an R-value of about 1

(equivalent to U-1). Triple glazing costs significantly more and only makes sense for

colder climates unless a building is facing a very noisy location and needs acoustic

isolation. New York City is noisy. The values for double or triple glazing can be

further improved by including one or two low-e coatings and an inert gas fill between

the panes. The best double-glazed windows have a whole-window U-factor of about

0.27, while the best triple-glazed windows have a whole-window U-factor of about

0.17. We recommend triple glazing with low-e coatings and inert gas between


5. Reflective tint: Tints are used to minimize solar gain directly from the sun. Even though New

York is not in a warm climate year round, it does get hot in the summer, and there are times when

the sun’s position is directed at a high-rise’s window. We recommend factory supplied low-solar


Figure 4

Team Organization

We divided our research according to the team members’ interests, but each person reported to the whole

team to keep us all informed. We helped each other with the writing, so nothing in this proposal is the work

of only one person. Generally, however, this is the way we divided the work:

Title page / Problem / Solution – Isaiah Butler

Kitchen – Jose Gomez and Gerardo Bernabe

Bathroom – Halima Mohammed

Storage – Marcel Gonzalez

Life Safety – Harry Pruitt

Window Wall – Grant Swenson

Heating / Cooling – Kyle Hutfless

The Journey – Halima Mohammed

Lessons Learned – compiled by Halima Mohammed

Bibliography – Grant Swenson

Acknowledgements – Jose Gomez

Sketch-up and power point for presentation – Harry Pruitt and Kyle Hutfless

The Journey

September: We brainstormed to find our project. Some of the things we considered were a school patio, a

school greenhouse, a clean water device for 3rd world countries, and an alternate fuel. Then we found a

newspaper article about a contest in New York City to design apartments no larger than 300 square feet to

meet their need for housing in a very crowded city. We chose this project because it is a real problem in

the world and it would teach us a lot about architecture and engineering.

October: In our preliminary research we found that a lot of cities around the world are building very small

apartments to make better use of their land space. In Japan they have cubicles that look like bee hives

stacked on top of each other. There is only room to sit up, and we didn’t like that.

We designed apartment buildings, trying a number of ways to gang apartments together. We tried

rectangles, squares, and even hexagons. We decided that a whole building was too big of a project, so

we’re going to concentrate on an apartment floor plan, staying within the parameters of the New York

competition. We also researched furniture (we like Murphy beds), small appliances, heating and cooling

units (PTAC units), energy efficient windows, and sound-proof walls.

November: We looked at online floor plans, and made a list of things we wanted in our apartment. We

noticed some things about the floor plans that we didn’t like, such as the apartment door opening next to

the stove, and we preferred that the bathroom door open away from the entrance for more privacy. We

noted that the plumbing should be centralized to make the building cheaper to build. We continued to

research building materials, furniture and appliances.

We played two games that showed the importance of teamwork. The first involved an imaginary shipwreck.

We had to prioritize items from a given list of salvaged articles in terms of their importance to our survival

and rescue. We did this individually, and scored our results, then repeated the process in groups. Our

group scores were generally higher than our individual scores, showing that we do better when we work

together. In the second game we each received instructions that were tied to someone else’s instructions.

We had to watch and listen carefully so each person would know when it was his turn. The whole process

broke down if one person failed to follow his instructions.

December: Wednesday December 5, 2012 was the day of our field trip, and we went to three different

places. Our first stop was at the Leo A. Daly Headquarters, which is an international company that has won

awards from all over the world for their engineering projects. Our tour guide was one of our mentors, Marty

Peyton. At Leo A. Daly there are teams for each project, so people who specialize in one type of

engineering can get help from people who specialized in another field.

Next, we went to the Holiday Inn Express. The room that we saw was about 300 square feet, which is

exactly what we needed, but there was no kitchen in the room.

Our last stop was the Staybridge Suites. The rooms were bigger than 300 square feet, but they gave us

some good ideas. There was a walk-in shower, which took up too much space, although that was because

that specific room was for handicapped people. There were large windows in the room that made the room

look wider and bigger, which is something that helps the space issue a lot. The Staybridge Suites also used

PTAC units for air conditioning for separate rooms, instead of having one central system for the whole


After the trip our mentors showed us how to make a scale floor plan for our apartment, trying to come up

with a design that combined the best of everything we had seen. It was easier to picture the apartment in

our minds after we actually walked through rooms that size.

Staybridge Suites

January: This month we spent writing our proposal. It’s harder than we thought it would be! Each of us

had a particular part of the apartment to work on, and we brought our designs to Harry and Kyle, who

worked on the Sketch-Up model of our final apartment floor plan. Some of the appliances and fixtures we’d

found didn’t fit into the space, so we had to do some more research to find things that would fit. The winner

of the New York competition was announced, so we were able to compare our design with that one.

February: After some marathon writing sessions and a lot of help from our mentors, we finally finished the

proposal. We now have four weeks to get ready for the presentation. We’re pumped!

Lessons Learned

Isaiah Butler: What I learned in SMP is that it is more complicated to build a building or even a little

apartment, than I thought it would be.

Marcel Gonzalez: I learned a lot in SMP this year. I learned how to make floor plans, which required

learning how to measure and draw to scale. I found out that I don’t really what to became an engineer, or

architect. I’m good at math, but I feel like it’s kind of boring to do mostly math all the time. This was a

wonderful experience to help me choose what to be in the future.

Gerardo Bernabe: I learned how to problem solve much faster, and how to create a mini apartment and

lots of cool things.

Kyle: I learned that dimensions have to be very accurate. I also learned that it’s not easy to fit a lot into a

little space. Living in New York would cost a lot and it wouldn’t be worth it in my opinion.

Jose Gomez: What I learned in SMP was that it’s not easy being an architect or engineer. You have to be

very patient when you’re working with a team. It could be very tiring at times but it could also be fun at

times. I recommend SMP for students who want to be an architect or engineer.

Harry Pruitt: Throughout the project for SMP this year, I learned that it takes many people to create an

apartment, even one of this size. This project also has shown me how to do many things in a small space.

It is pretty amazing if you think about it.

Halima Mohamed: When I first started coming to SMP I didn’t even know what architects and engineers

were. I just thought this group would be a good thing to help me in the future. I even considered being an

architect or an engineer, but I don’t think that’s the career for me. They do lots of difficult things. But I love

learning new things, and I really enjoyed SMP.

Grant Swenson: I have learned how complex and detailed the job of an architect and/or engineer is, and

what their jobs require of them. It was fun when I was trying to find information and also creating different

models with sketch-up. This program has taught me to be patient and helped me learn more on how to

narrow down my research to the certain topics and details about them.


We would like to thank Mike Baldino and Marty Payton for mentoring us through this project. We could not

have done this project without their expertise, and their patience in teaching us about architecture and


We would also like to thank Katie Schaefer, manager of Holiday Inn Express, and Greg Coleman, manager

of Staybridge Suites, for letting us tour a room in their hotels. Marty Payton gave us a tour of his work

place, Leo A Daly, allowing us to see architects and engineers at work in a team environment.

Last but not least we thank our teacher, Mrs. Hamilton for helping us organize this project and letting us be

part of the Student Mentoring Program.























Hotel Floor Plans














NYC Project







http://www.facilitiesmagazine.com/colorado/energy-management/improving-energy efficiency-of-exteriorwalls





Water Heaters


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