Is the Hotel of the Future Actually a Room on Wheels?
Modular hotels could be a game changer for the hospitality industry, and they’re coming to open spaces near you.
The past few years have brought massive shifts in how the hospitality industry operates, from contactless digital concierges to the prevalence of short term homestays. Now, a new trend in hotel development is emerging: Design firms are creating modular hotel properties that can turn a land owner into what’s essentially a hotelier-in-a-day. Much like modular homes, these moveable, four-wall accommodations can be brought into empty plots and wide open spaces with the goal of making development more sustainable, but also more profitable. Two companies at the forefront—Habitare and Moliving—are quite literally moving hospitality in a new direction, and paving the way for what the next generation of travel may look like.
And based on the popularity of Airstream hotels like Autocamp and glamping sites like Under Canvas, it seems the next natural step for hotels is to go modular.
OBMI, the global architecture and design firm behind Habitare, is offering luxe units that take inspiration from their surroundings, melding with the natural landscape. And their rapid installation process, which they say is assembled in one-fourth of the typical construction time frame at less than one-third of the cost, shows the promise of being both economically viable and environmentally conscious.
Both companies say the savings is due to bypassing many of the hurdles that traditional developers deal with.
“Hotels often take years to build and are usually over budget,” says the New York-based start-up Moliving. “Hotels are still being built on-site, piece by piece, without a repetitive process. The conventional construction industry is broken. It is a fragmented and an inefficient building process that requires too many moving parts. This results in an extraordinarily expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable building process, and makes progress and innovation difficult.”
Moliving works with aspiring owners from the very beginning of the zoning process, using geo-spatial data and market comps to determine whether their land is a fit and how many units can be installed on the property. Their nomadic hotel unit, which costs $150,000 and takes about five months to manufacture, is made of recycled and eco-friendly materials and includes a self-leveling system that protects the land, allowing the unit to be removed and relocated with virtually zero disruption to the environment. The suites are engineered using top-of-the-line tech that allows them to be more eco-efficient, too, like rooftop solar panels, gray water recycling technology, and UV sanitization technology.
Of course, the one thing that this isn’t included is the toughest part, the part for which the industry gets its name—hospitality. Hiring issues continue to plague the industry post-pandemic, an issue Moliving aims to solve in offering bespoke staffing and management of the properties, which can be scaled up, down, and physically moved by land sea, and even air based upon demand.
The future of hotels, it appears, is now.