What Google And Facebook's HQs Would Look Like If They Cared More About Housing Than Parking Lots

Itown campusAlfred TwuAn Alfred Twu design for Cupertino.

Rent prices in the Bay Area are outrageously expensive, in part because a lack of sufficient housing in the Silicon Valley continues to push tech workers to San Francisco.

Looking at some of the stats, it makes sense why people who work in the Silicon Valley would look elsewhere for housing.

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, Santa Clara County (where many tech companies are located) has about 636,000 housing units, only 42% of which are renter-occupied. 53% are single-family detached homes, while 47% are single-family attached and all other types.

In San Francisco, however, 63% of the city’s 377,000 housing units are renter-occupied. Only 19% are single-family detached homes, with 81% being all other types, including apartments.

Commuting an hour or two from the city to the Valley seems to be a better option for renters, but it’s starting to put a strain on San Francisco residents fed up with gentrification and the rising cost of living in the city.

In an experiment imagining possible solutions to the problem, Berkeley designer Alfred Twu created renderings of how some Silicon Valley tech campuses would look if they eliminated their parking lots in favour of employee housing.

“It’d offer them shorter commutes and less of a hassle in finding housing,” Twu said to Business Insider. “Right now these companies already provide everything else traditionally associated with the domestic sphere, such as food and laundry, so why not housing?”

At iTown, Twu’s vision for Apple’s imaginary campus in Cupertino, all 13,000 employees would be housed in towers of 20, 30, and 40 stories.

With construction costing $US400 per square foot, Twu estimates that the complex of 800-square-foot apartments would cost $US5.2 billion to complete.

Itown campus

Alfred Twu

Oddly looks enough, it looks a lot like a college campus.

Itown campus

Alfred Twu

Apple might end up better known for its skyline than its “spaceship.”

Itown campus

Alfred Twu

“The drawings are a site capacity study — the actual layout and shape of the buildings could vary — and some commentators have suggested that closely spaced 5-8 story buildings could also accommodate the same amount of housing,” Twu said. “This is especially true if some of the traditional apartments are substituted with co-housing or shared living spaces.”

At Facebook City in Menlo Park, an “East Campus” on the opposite side of Highway 84 would provide space for tall apartment towers in addition to some built onto the existing campus.

Facebook city

Alfred Twu

And at the new concept for Googleplex, imposing apartment towers for the company’s 10,000 employees would create a new skyline from the 101.

Fake googleplex

Alfred Twu

Twu admits that the high-density developments shown in his renderings aren’t currently allowed by zoning laws.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

“The zoning changes are obviously the hardest part,” Twu said. “However, as there’s a strong desire to preserve open space, farmland, and existing residential neighborhoods, that only leaves one place to build: the ‘grayfields’ of parking lots and strip malls. The big changes will probably need to wait until current politicians age out of office and a new generation with different cultural expectations replaces them.”

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