The Plugin House, a 360-square foot tiny home prototype, appeared last week outside Boston’s City Hall in an effort to gauge public interest in accessory dwelling unit construction.

Created by James Shen, a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, the 360-square-foot prototype is constructed from prefabricated insulated panels that are many times as efficient as typical batt insulation. The panels are bolted together from simple hand tools, and the home requires no skilled construction labor to assemble. About 1,500 people have toured the home since it arrived at City Hall.

It is still technically illegal to build an accessory dwelling unit in Boston without going through a long variance process. However, the city of Boston is exploring the possibility of easing these restrictions, and is currently conducting an 18-month Additional Dwelling Units pilot, in which residents of select neighborhoods can create affordable housing inside their building envelope.

Building in backyards, infill-style, also addresses the linchpin for affordable housing—the more efficient use of the land the homes sit on. “Land is one of the critical components in housing affordability,” says Ostberg. “We’re trying to think creatively about how to use our existing land most effectively.”

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