CITYSPACES® MicroPAD®

Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.

- Dieter Rams

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the MicroPAD®?

A: The MicroPAD® is a 160 square foot fully self-contained residential dwelling, with a private bathroom and kitchenette.  Units are stacked to create buildings up to 12 stories tall.

Q: Does the MicroPAD® comply with Building Codes?

A: Yes. It meets and exceeds all relevant codes, including, but not limited to:

  • 2013 CALIFORNIA BUILDING CODE (CBC) & SAN FRANCISCO AMENDMENTS
  • 2013 CALIFORNIA MECHANICAL CODE (CMC) & SAN FRANCISCO AMENDMENTS
  • 2013 CALIFORNIA PLUMBING CODE (CPC) & SAN FRANCISCO AMENDMENTS
  • 2013 CALIFORNIA ELECTRICAL CODE & SAN FRANCISCO AMENDMENTS
  • 2013 CALIFORNIA ENERGY CODE
  • 2013 CALIFORNIA FIRE CODE AND SAN FRANCISCO AMENDMENTS
  • ACCESSIBILITY CODE – 2013 CALIFORNIA BUILDING CODE; CHAPTERS 10, 11A, 11B (FAIR HOUSING ACT)
  • 2013 NFPA 72 (NATIONAL FIRE ALARM CODE)
  • 2013 NFPA 13, 14, 24 (INSTALLATION OF FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS)
  • TITLE 19 CALIFORNIA ADMINISTRATION CODE
  • 2013 TITLE 24 CALIFORNIA ADMINISTRATIVE CODE
  • 2013 ADA STANDARDS in common spaces

Q: Does the MicroPAD® comply with Planing and Zoning Codes?

A: MicroPAD® buildings fall under SF Planning Code for Group Housing/Congregate Residence.   “Group Housing” — with varying density limitations — is either principally-permitted or allowed via the Conditional Use process in all Zoning Districts with the exception of RH-1 (“One-Family”) Districts.   Group Housing, per Sec. 102, Sec. 790.88(b) and Sec. 890.88(b) is defined as follows: “A Residential Use that provides lodging or both meals and lodging, without individual cooking facilities, by prearrangement for a week or more at a time, in a space not defined by this Code as Dwelling Unit. 

However, Zoning Administrator Interpretation 209.2(a) Effective Date 10/05 states:
” … Group Housing units (i.e., “bedrooms”) are allowed to have limited kitchen facilities (e.g. “pantries”) with the following specifications: a small counter space, a small under-.counter refrigerator, a small sink, a microwave, and a small two-ring burner. Such limited kitchen facility shall not include any other type of oven, as that would constitute a full kitchen.”

2013 SAN FRANCISCO BUILDING CODE (based upon the 2013 California Building Code)

“Group Housing” is considered a “Congregate Residence” in the Building Code.

A Congregate Residence, per ·chapter 2 “Definitions” is defined as follows:
“Any building or portion thereof that contains facilities for living, sleeping and sanitation, as required by this code, and may include facilities for eating and cooking, for occupancy other than a family. A Congregate Residence may be a shelter, convent, monastery, dormitory, fraternity or sorority house, but does not include jails, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels or lodging houses.”
Assuming that the project is privately funded, then the accessibility requirements of Chapter 11A — rather than Chapter 11 B — apply.

Per Sec. 1102A.1.4 “Building Accessibility – Where Required”, a Congregate Residence is considered a
“Covered Multi-Family Dwelling”. For the purposes of accessibility, it is basically consider a single (big) dwelling unit.

Per Sec. 1128A “Covered (Multi-Family) Dwelling Units”, a Congregate Residence must have an accessible kitchen (only one) per Sec. 1133A “Kitchens” and one bathroom that complies with Sec. 1134A.2 Option 2.
Accordingly, additional “bathrooms” or “bar/pantries” (i.e., limited kitchen facilities) within the individual
“bedrooms” of the Congregate Residence do not have to be fully accessible.

Q: Is 160 square feet enough?

A: Our units are about the size of a small, modern hotel room, and are fully functional dwellings with a living area, cooking area, and a private bathroom. The units are larger than many, if not most, existing SRO rooms, and are built to modern seismic and fire safety standards.

Q: Does the MicroPAD® meet accessibility requirements per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

A: Yes. MicroPAD® buildings meet all ADA and FHA accessibility requirements. There are two versions of the MicroPAD®, one of which is 100% accessible with a roll-in shower and other special features for accessibility.  ADA/FHA typically requires 5% of units are fully accessible, as shown in drawing.  But Panoramic can increase that percentage to whatever level a client requires.

Q: Why Steel modular?

A: Steel modular units are stronger, easier to build, and more economical than traditional construction. In addition, steel modular units isolate and control:

  • Flooding: built-in secondary drain to contain plumbing mishaps
  • Fire: 2-hour fire ratings and fully sprinklered
  • Odors: 24/7 fresh air exchange & ventilation
  • Insects: steel demising walls prevent spread of pests
  • Noise: Double-wall construction & air spaces between units provide engineered soundproofing

Q: Are there examples of steel modular construction elsewhere?

A: Yes, there have been over 20,000 hotel rooms built worldwide using this same technology.

Q: Can the MicroPAD® modules be moved from site to site?

A: Yes, technically. But it is not cheap. MicroPAD® units are permanent housing, comparable to site-built structures, but they can be moved.

Q: How fast can MicroPAD® buildings be built?

A: We can build these projects 40%-50% quicker than a site-built project. As the contractor does the excavation, utilities, and foundation work, the factory fabricates, inspects, tests then ships the units. The building is then assembled on-site over a period of 4-8 months, depending on building size.

Q: Who inspects the MicroPAD® for quality assurance and code compliance?

A: American inspection firms, present in the factory, verify and test all aspects of construction. The State of California Housing and Community Development department pre-approves building plans and specifications, and certifies compliance.

Q: Where are the MicroPAD® units manufactured?

A: We are working with factories in the US, Europe and Asia. We have previously developed factory-built housing using a factory in Sacramento.

Q: Who will pay to build these?

A: Panoramic Interests. We take all the financial risk associated with building these projects. Once the building is complete, we deliver turn-key, fully furnished MicroPAD® units to the city or county.

Q: Can I buy a MicroPAD®?

A: No, we aren’t planning on selling the units individually. We are building these for the homeless.

Q: Can these house people other than the formerly homeless?

A: Sure, we feel that the quality and durability make them suitable for housing anyone.

Q: Are these environmentally friendly?

A: Yes. Our last prefab project, 38 Harriet, was LEED Platinum. Factory built housing typically produces much less waste than traditional construction.

Q: Are these safe during earthquakes?

A: Yes. The MicroPAD® exceeds seismic requirements as detailed by the CA Building Code and the International Building Code.

Q: What is the difference between steel modular and site-built housing?

A: The major components of a modular building are built in a factory, under controlled conditions that improve quality and accelerate production. The modules are then trucked to the building site where they are stacked.

Q: Who assembles the MicroPAD® units once they arrive on-site?

A: A general contractor with the usual roster of subcontractors. At least ⅔ of the construction costs are spent for on-site work, with local contractors. We have used Pankow, a union contractor, for our last 2 developments in San Francisco, and plan to use them on our next MicroPAD® project.

Q: How will the MicroPAD® buildings be leased?

A: Panoramic will construct the building at its cost, then rent the entire building to the city or county, on a master lease. The City or County (or its property manager) would select the residents.   

Q: Can the City or County buy the building once it is constructed?

A: Yes, the master lease may include an option for the City or County to buy the building.

Q: Where can I learn more?

  • If you are a landowner or municipality who wants to partner with us, please click here to contact us.