A 300 sf apartment
That doesn’t….feel small!
Bryan Middle School
2012 - 13 SMP TEAM
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
Mrs. Sue Hamilton
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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