Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

(Read more on the multifamily market.)

SEATTLE, WA-Unico Properties LLC, a locally headquartered real estate investment and operating company is planning to develop modular multifamily apartment buildings in Seattle and Portland within the next two years. The buildings would be created by stacking 50- to 100 individual, prefabricated, modular units that are similar in size to a standard 20-foot by 40-foot multimodal shipping container.

Branded “inhabit” by Unico, the eco-friendly, high-tech boxes will each total about 650 sf and can be combined to create larger units. A single unit would include a kitchen, a bathroom, one bedroom and a combined dining-living area. The units will come prewired such that lighting, audio and video systems can be centrally controlled, manually or by computer, in person or remotely.

Unico President/CEO Dale Sperling tells GlobeSt.com that the prototypes have been in development for about 18 months and work continues to drive down the cost of development to a point where the product is viable as workforce housing solution. Initially the company looked at adapting actual shipping containers, as some are doing, but ultimately decided for acoustical and structural reasons to build the boxes from scratch.

“On a simplified basis, you really only have two variables in a real estate project: rent and cost. Rent will be determined by macro factors and the market,” Sperling says. “Unico’s goal is to reduce hard construction costs through factory-controlled conditions and amortize soft costs by creating a single, scalable design. In addition, by shrinking the permitting time and, therefore, the time to market, we can reduce the overall delivery cost and achieve our goal of creating workforce housing that is affordable, eco-friendly, high-tech and modern.”

To create the ‘inhabit’ apartments, Unico partnered with two architecture firms: Mithun, an integrated design firm, and HyBrid Architecture, a design firm specializing in modern, sustainable prefabricated architecture. A pair of prototypes units (pictured) are on display through mid-November atop the roof park at Rainier Square, located mid-block on Fifth Avenue between Union and University Streets in Downtown Seattle. Tours are being held weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The two prototype units were built in a modular factory, Transform LLC, in Burlington, WA, and the interior design was provided by Seattle-based Vision Art. Both Mithun and HyBrid are known for their work in green and sustainable design, and they are not breaking from that tradition in designing Unico’s modular housing units.

Environmentally friendly aspects of ‘inhabit’ include: engineered wood floors and framing that use less first-generation wood; double-paned, energy efficient windows; energy efficient heat pumps; dual-flush toilets; decking made of recycled plastic and cellulose; and flat roofs that will hold a green roof system to further reduce storm water runoff. Additionally, there is no on-site waste or pollution because the units are built in a factory, according to Unico, which will seek LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for its “inhabit” developments.

Unico has indentified potential sites in Portland and Seattle but has yet to put any property under contract, Sperling says. “If you can combine a modern, clean, efficient, compact design with high technology and eco-friendly, green construction, we think that’s a pretty powerful marketing message for the generation we are trying to serve: echo-boomers who are unattached, mobile, more comfortable in an urban environment and in smaller spaces, and who spend more time out of the house than in it.”

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join GlobeSt.com now!

  • Free unlimited access to GlobeSt.com's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com.

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.