This cozy apartment can be dropped onto existing buildings, and it only costs $11K

Aptly, it’s called the Parasitic house.


When you think of a tiny house, you likely think of something like Walden—living amongst nature in spartan accommodations. But there’s plenty of room for tiny homes in cities around the world, if you count their rooftops. These often-underused spaces represent as much as 30% of additional developable real estate in some cities. Building additional housing on rooftops isn’t simple or inexpensive, but as real estate prices and rents skyrocket, many building owners are already converting rooftops into living spaces.


But what if there was a prefab home that you could simply build atop a building, adding enough space for a studio apartment, for less than the price of a car? A project called the Parasitic House is just that. Designed by El Sindicato Arquitectura, it’s a 39-square-foot, A-frame house for urban rooftops.

“We were not hired for this project,” says Nico Viteri, the firm’s founder. “We developed it as a prototype of what we think is small and replicable solution to city and worldwide problems such as gentrification, unwanted urban sprawl, global warming, and more.”

[Photo: courtesy El Sindicato Arquitectura]

The home’s core frame is built of timber, and its outer layers are steel. In between, coconut fiber offers insulation. Even though it’s small, there’s still ample light thanks to its north-facing facade of clear glass, which offers unobstructed views of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, and nearby volcanoes. Its southern facade is frosted glass, to offer privacy. Inside, things are a bit cramped, but there’s a small kitchen, lofted bed, bathroom (with a door!) storage area, and an open, dedicated spot for eating or hanging out, complete with a fold-out plywood table.

Crucially, the home isn’t really meant to be built just anywhere. While it could technically live on a concrete slab on a vacant lot, its design is intended to be placed on a rooftop, where it could hook into available water and energy lines (hence the name “parasitic”). Two to three of these dwellings could be placed on one small rooftop. The model you see here was constructed for a mere $11,000 for one of the firm’s partners, who is currently living inside. That’s inexpensive already, but it doesn’t take into account the potential cost benefits of scale.

Viteri tells us that the firm is currently trying to find partners who could help mass produce the project, along with the right company to sell the idea. In the meantime, the architects are developing two slightly larger models that they hope to commercialize as well.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach