Backyard is an initiative to prototype new ways that homes can be built and shared, guided by an ambition to realize more humanistic, future-oriented, and waste-conscious design. It investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time.

Airbnb challenged conventional thinking and pioneered an entirely new industry. We helped people activate underutilized space—from a spare bedroom or treehouse to your apartment while you’re away—and built a community that connected people around the world. Backyard uses the same lens through which Airbnb was envisioned—the potential of space—and applies it more broadly to architecture and construction.

Probably a Backyard prototype

We began with a simple question: what does a home that is designed and built for sharing actually look and feel like? The answer is not simple at all. Other questions quickly emerged. Can a home respond to the needs of many inhabitants over a long period of time? Can it support and reflect the tremendous diversity of human experience? Can it keep up with the rate at which the world changes? Can we accomplish this without filling landfills with needless waste? It’s a tall order.

After surveying the construction industry in search of practical solutions, we concluded it was necessary to start from a blank slate. If we’re truly going to reimagine the design of homes we have to be holistic. We can’t approach Backyard solely from the point of view of design, architecture, urbanism, civic ordinance, sustainable materiality or manufacturing. We have to grapple with the whole of it, which makes it one of the most vexing, complex, and interconnected conditions we deal with every day. But because it’s so complicated, and touches us in such essential ways, it’s a challenge worth engaging.

A table of exploratory architectural models

With a decade of accumulated knowledge about how people travel, live, and share their spaces, I believe Airbnb has a unique responsibility and global opportunity to improve the way we build and share homes. Based on current projections from the UN, 2.5 trillion square feet of new buildings will be constructed worldwide by 2060. That’s the equivalent of adding another Paris to the planet every single week.1 In the US alone, we’re starting construction on an average of 3,300 new homes every day.2

For us, this goes beyond a business opportunity. It’s a social responsibility. The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste. In order to meet the demands of the future, whether it be climate displacement or rural-urban migration, the home needs to evolve, to think forward.

We’re actively recruiting bold thinkers to join the effort. Our eclectic team includes industrial designers, interaction designers, architects, roboticists, mechanical and hardware engineers, material specialists and policy experts, all working on making Backyard a reality. We’ve spent a long time looking for exceptional people who love new kinds of challenges, are creative, and are deeply curious about the way the world is put together. We are always on the lookout for anyone who could make our team even stronger.

Joe Gebbia

Joe Gebbia in a Backyard prototype