Students at the Savannah College of Art & Design are finding micro-solutions for the overflow of parking spaces in urban environments. Courtesy of Savannah College of Art & Design

Empty parking lots and garages are an increasingly growing concern for many cities. But while developers are building new properties with much less parking space thanks to new zoning requirements, architects are tackling the problem head on, figuring out a creative use for all those empty spaces.

One solution to the problem is the SCADpad, micro-unit homes just the size of a parking space that were designed by the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“The idea is to look at underutilized resources in the city,” says Christian Sottile, dean of the SCAD School of Building Arts. “One that we identified, in the U.S., was that we overbuilt parking.”

There are now about 105 million parking spaces in the United States, amounting to roughly five spaces for every car, Sottile adds. But half of these spaces are vacant 40 percent of the time. And as more Gen Y renters opt to use public transportation, not to mention high rents stifling their ability to own cars, there’s a pressing need to reuse the spaces.

Three prototypes of the SCADpad are in use now in midtown Atlanta and will be tested by students over the next 12 weeks. The fully equipped independent parking structures are modeled with a bathroom, kitchen, and flexible living and sleeping area. Between each SCADpad is a private outdoor garden fit for each unit, and a community garden for the residents rests on the side, along with bike storage.

At 135 square feet, the self-sufficient, urban, mobilelike home would take anywhere from one to two months to complete, costing just about $40,000 in construction expenses. Rents for these structures would be less than 40 percent of the local median rent of a studio apartment while providing the owner of such underutilized parking structures double or triple revenue.

“The warehouses of the 19th century became housing,” Sottile says. “Now we’re looking at mid-century parking structures. [SCADpads] is the next frontier for parking multi-story structures.”

-Linsey Isaacs is an assistant editor with Multifamily Executive magazine. Follow her on twitter @LinseyI  to continue this conversation.