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This New Multifamily Concept Allows Residents To Adjust Bedroom Count

St. Regis Properties Director of Development Sam Remcho, Lubin Olson partner Rich Elder and oWow founder Danny Haber

A new rental unit design could change the way apartments are built in the Bay Area and beyond. After developing macro-unit apartments in the Bay Area, oWow is moving into a new phase where residents can adjust the number of bedrooms in a unit with a push of a button.

The developer originally conceived of macro-units, which are efficiently built units that are bigger than micro-units and can allow for families or roommates to live together. Unlike co-living, macro-units are rented by one family or roommates and rooms and common areas aren't shared with strangers.

OWow founder Danny Haber said the macro-units his company has developed in the Bay Area are ideal for today’s housing crisis, but the needs of the market could change, which is why oWow developed what Haber calls macro-units 2.0.

“If 10 years from now there is no crisis and there are tons of housing, efficient apartments will not really be needed,” said Haber, who will be speaking at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference NorCal in November.

With the new macro-units, which oWow will design in all its future projects, a two-bedroom unit can be transformed into a four-bedroom unit and vice versa, he said. OWow has already proposed to build nearly 1,000 of these units on a parcel near the Richmond BART station.

As rent prices have soared in the Bay Area, companies have been providing different options to keep rents affordable and build more housing. Various architects have been designing macro-units, repurposing parking structures and designing housing with more density.

Startups have been providing various home-sharing options, such as HomeShare, which separates units into mini-spaces with privacy partitions. Co-living also has become more popular with Common and Starcity expanding in the Bay Area.

For oWow’s macro-units 2.0, the walls are acoustically rated, can be used by the tenants to transform the bedrooms and are not accordion doors, which are often used in conference rooms and offices, Haber said.

 “If we can make these macro-units with magic walls, we don’t need unit mixes in buildings anymore,” he said.

He said having prefab cookie-cutter units would be cheaper to build. The macro-unit 2.0 can work for different income and demographic groups now and in 10 years can change to meet the needs of the market. 

The units will be naturally affordable, but can be adjusted to market rate depending on what the market wants, Haber said.

“The units can meet market demand without additional construction or work,” he said.

Find out more about oWow's macro-units and other multifamily trends at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference NorCal Nov. 1 in San Francisco.