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Module, a Pittsburgh–based housing startup, is currently constructing a set of unique, two-story homes that can grow with a family by removing the home’s roof and adding another box to create a third floor. The company’s units start as small as 500 square feet, which keeps the initial cost down, and when a family may need more space for children or extended relatives, the modular design allows for an easy and less expensive addition. Fast Company’s Adele Peters has more on the innovative idea from Brian Gaudio, cofounder and CEO of Module, below.

While the company also makes homes without removable roofs, the inspiration for adaptability came from developments in South America, where Gaudio, an architect, had worked on a documentary about the local housing crisis. In some areas, families couldn’t get mortgages, so they bought very small houses by necessity.

“You basically could only buy as much as you had saved up,” he says. “So people could buy a one- or two-room home, and then over time expand it as they were able to save more cash.” Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena formalized the idea, designing “incremental” housing with a basic frame that could flexibly expand. Gaudio decided to adapt the idea for the U.S. market, beginning with his hometown of Pittsburgh.

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