The San Francisco Monster Micro House

The San Francisco Monster Micro House

The “San Francisco Monster Micro House” is a new, self liquidating positive cash flow design concept that could possibly allow someone to build new and live in San Francisco without paying much in the way of a mortgage. It is the concept of architect/designer William Edward Summers who has completed over a thousand projects in the nine county Bay Area but now lives part time out of the country.

The building footprint is 20’ x 60’ so it will fit within the allowable building envelope on a standard small San Francisco lot The Monster Micro House is configured to allow several different options; One option is twelve micro apartments or condominiums. Another option is a 1200 square foot penthouse with a roof deck of about 1000 square feet, and eight micro apartments. The luxury solution is a 2600 square foot penthouse and roof deck with four micro apartments. There are two enclosed parking spaces, or four tandem spaces and two potentially uncovered parking spaces.

This “San Francisco Monster Micro House” is designed to allow maximum flexibility in space planning, permitting and the construction phases. If the zoning is changed then with some configurations it is possible to reconfigure to easily increase the number of units without any additions.

The radical innovations are with the design and space planning. The house itself is an easily engineered simple structure. The curb esthetic will allow the house to fit into a San Francisco streetscape without a ripple

To learn more about the concept a plan prospectus is being offered for free until the end of summer at:


More information about William Edward Summers

Official site:
Mobile friendly:

Other articles:

Nob Hill Gazette
Page 16, May 2000

Metropolis Magazine
New York, November 1995

Nob Hill Gazette
Page 30, February 2000

San Francisco Chronicle
August 2006

Other publications:


7 Tips for Making Your Renovation Easier

House on Barksdale Drive, renovation under construction

For most people a home is their biggest single investment, so planning and renovating wisely is extremely important.

“Often a house has everything desired in term of location but has design flaws, outdated floor plans or needs more square footage. With careful design an old house can become better than when it was new” explains William Edward Summers, the principal of South Vancouver Island and California based design firm William Edward Summers Creative Projects.

Summers’ new book “The Keep It Simple Guide to Renovation” provides homeowners with a clear path to successfully completing a renovation project.

1) Thoroughly understand your building’s zoning designation including the parking requirements. Allowable building set backs, height limitations and lot coverage are also important details

2) Use your architect/designer’s design development concept plans to obtain a more accurate preliminary estimate from your builder and better response from your banker. A visual is worth a thousand words.

3) Give your architect/designer enough time to make thorough plans. It is much less expensive and stressful to make your design decisions on paper rather than during construction.

4) Use an intermediary to facilitate communication with your builder. This will help alleviate stress and confusion during the construction process.

5) Avoid panic by adding 15% to any final estimate for budgeting purposes. Renovation is a process that frequently has unanticipated variables that add expense.

6) Let your builder or architect/designer do the permit processing. As the project owner you may be too emotionally close to the process to be able to deal with the building officials objectively and without anxiety.

7) Think about long term usage with your renovation and consider designing for accessibility and energy conservation.

The New Book “The Keep It Simple Guide to Renovation” by William Edward Summers is available for free until mid summer at:

Orinda Transformation 2004

Micro Apartment Building Plans

3d micro apt building2

The ready-to-use plans for two micro apartment buildings are just being completed. One building has eight units that are around three hundred sixty square feet and the other building has ten smaller units that are around 260 square feet.

Micro floor planapartmments4-Model

The units are around the size of a small hotel room with a kitchen. The sleeping accommodations are provided by a Murphy bed that folds down from the wall. There is a very small balcony  for a small BBQ grill or a couple of chairs and a table.

This size dwelling is not for everyone but is a perfect solution for others. It also offers a way for people to live in the central areas of expensive cities.

The micro apartment plans may be assembled in numerous different ways by picking and configuring the floor plans from our selection of micro plans. It is possible to build one unit as a single family dwelling or assemble the plans into a multi-story building. There is total flexibility with these plans.

Better rear view of micro apt building{3D}3

Square footage micro apartmments4-Mode2l

The Garage, A Great American Innovation Space

isingle car garage

A garage is the great American innovation space. The world’s most successful tech firms Apple, Microsoft, Google, Hewlett Packard, Disney, and others started in a garage, so it seems reasonable to consider first, how and why a garage has been so central to innovation, and secondly how to optimize garages for innovation.

One of the fascinating things about 1970s Silicon Valley was how such a bucolic landscape became the site of the most important new innovations of the last two hundred years. Similar to the Brandywine Valley in Delaware in the last 1700s/early 1600s, Silicon Valley offered a few simple tools that allowed innovation to flourish. First Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Med Center, and many other local universities produced an endless stream of brainy people. Secondly, San Francisco, and old banking town, offered connections to bigger financial cities. Finally, and perhaps most elusively of all, there was lots of inexpensive work space, and undeveloped land available. The last tool is why the myth of the garage workshop sprang up – because it was true in a very strong way. Hewlett Packard could never have started  in a location like Midtown Manhattan, or Beverly Hills. I recall no tech powerhouses that started in such tony environments.  That fact is the key to the promise of the garage.

The main reason that the garage is so useful is simple, because it is there. Many people have a garage. It has all of the necessary infrastructure, enclosed heated space, electrical service, usually some minimal plumbing, and access to a bathroom, and kitchen. It is a site where a variety of work can take place at any time of day or night, for an unlimited time. Finally, it comes with the house, so there is no extra expense for the space.

One problem that may occur is that an existing garage may be filled with stored items, cars, or clutter, rendering it useless as an entrepreneurial space. The ideal solution is to create a new garage, if there is enough space on the lot. Building a new garage would be well worth the effort, if it meant creating a space where the next Microsoft would be born.

The nature of garage space ranges from a basic 24’ by 24’ two car garage to a coach house with a complete apartment above the parking area. A variation to the standard garage is the shop building, which is a larger, purpose built structure, often about 1000 to 1500 square feet. At the other extreme is the one car garage, which is very limited in space, although I once designed a one car garage with an apartment above. It was unique because most coach houses are built above at least a two car garage.


There are many improvements that can enhance the garage infrastructure significantly.

One important first step is to get adequate electrical power to the space.. This often means upgrading the electrical panel to easily use whatever equipment is desired. A hose bib is also a useful feature. Adding insulation and heating make the space much more habitable. Next are more advanced enhancements, such as, adding a half bathroom, a utility sink, and possibly a wood burning stove.  There are also architectural enhancements such as installing a two story foundation, for a future second story, or a twelve foot plate height. Most garages, however, are adequate just as they are.

The types of activities that easily lend themselves to the garage environment range from musical groups to tech lab, architects/engineers office, art studio, bio engineering lab, etc… the options are literally limited only by the entrepreneur’s imagination. I even had one client who left the garage door in place, built a wall behind it, and used the space for her religious group of whirling dervishes, and her neighbours had no idea.

A client who owns a small lumber mill said the most frequent request he gets is for a 25’ by 40’ post and beam building with ten foot high walls, and a steeply pitched roof.  They almost always plan to build in a second half floor within the building envelope. The shop like the one his clients describe is the ultimate entrepreneurial space. The 30’ by 50’ shop space that I designed for a Harley Davidson mechanic is a similar project, and the prototypical shop.

But for the mechanical entrepreneur, the 24’’ by 60’ garage that I designed for a client with a large lot is the perfect solution. A structure this size can easily house six cars, a wonderful way to avoid creating a truck garden.

In many ways the garage is related to another archetypical frontier space, the log cabin. Like a cabin the garage is a raw space, a blank canvas with flexibility of use. Like a cabin the garage is simple and inexpensive to build, and generally post design, and utilitarian.

Because it is the perfect entrepreneurial space America needs to build ten million new garages right now. Out of this creation of this space are sure to come at least two or three new Apples, Microsofts, or Harley Davidsons.

In this day of adult children returning to live with their parents, and extended families, a garage must be considered as the site for creating additional living space. A garage is also an ideal first project when building on raw land because it can serve as both a staging area for future construction, and a dwelling space. It can also be extended into a full house with careful planning.


Stealth Housing

stealth housing

Stealth Housing

by William Edward Summers

There is always a need for housing, however during hard times, such as are currently affecting  many countries, obtaining a roof overhead is becoming increasingly challenging. The alarming inflation in house prices not only creates difficulties for those seeking to buy, but is also a budget buster for renters. In this situation, as in so many others, creative thinking will help those in need of adequate shelter to find viable solutions. A place to live can be many types of places, and situations.

Stealth, or brown bag housing, is a situation where an existing non-residential building is re-purposed into shelter, without substantially modifying the exterior. Often the main requirement is a full bathroom, and at least an ad hoc kitchenette for sheds, garages, or offices to be useful as homes. In fact, one way to obtain immediate rental income is to add a full bath to any structure.

In climates with cold winters, insulation and a good heat source, such as a wood burning stove, is essential. There are small wood stoves that that give off adequate heat for a tiny space, and if they have a flat top, the stove will have the added benefit of being a place for a tea kettle.

In a converted shed, or garage, insulation and a little work will be needed. However insulation comes in rolls, pre-sized to fit between the standard 16″ on center studs, and can be easily installed with a heavy duty staple gun. Minor electrical work, and a carpet to cover the concrete floor will help finish off the space.

Personally, I like sheds, and fondly remember the shed we had in our rear yard, back home. We had inherited our house from my great Aunt who lived there around the turn of the last century, before the days of indoor plumbing. We still had her old, long unused, outhouse, chicken coop, hand pump, and the old shed that once been a single car garage, and shop. That shed was the place I would go to think and daydream. It was a wonderful place. Perhaps, because of those memories, I think that sheds offer an easy, and romantic, solution to a need for shelter.

tiny green house

Another unconventional space is a converted shipping container. This could offer the ultimate solution for international portability, all that is needed is a place to park it. The website, has an excellent article about how to convert a shipping container for residential use:

Finally, another type of “brown bag” solution is the conversion of commercial space into residential. Years ago, after the divorce from my first wife, I lived for a year in a converted store front near “People’s Park” in Berkeley, California. Outside it looked like a store, with the windows obscured. I used a large sheet of raw, painter’s canvas, to cover the window, which created a soothing quality of light, when the sun shone through. It had a full bathroom, and kitchen, high ceilings and was very quiet, and convenient. All this for a fraction of what apartments so near the campus would have cost.

What can be used as a home is limited only by the imagination. Such places as service station shops, school buses, and retail loft storage areas, are among the many places that have been converted to homes. During hard times, creatively thinking about where you can live, will help keep a roof overhead.

Whole House Renovation

Whole House Renovation

Because of the location or for financial reasons, the choice to renovate an existing building is the only practical option for many people. In the case of the Joffre Street project, located on the South Barnaby/Vancouver, B.C. border, the owner liked the neighborhood but wanted a larger and newer house. In this case, tearing down and rebuilding was not feasible.

Tang house no title block

The existing house was a typical post World War II building, of which there are tens of thousands in Canada. Our proposal was to add a new second floor, which would capture a sweeping view over the Fraser River and an extension to the rear with basement. This solution, by luxury residential designer, William Edward Summers, would completely fill out the allowable building envelope and floor area ratio, doubling the size of the house. We also proposed to completely transform the house so that it would look and feel new inside and out.

Because of careful planning,, the desired results were achieved for an amount which was under the allotted budget – a very good thing for the client. In the end he was able to buy all new furniture for his house. The story of his project was featured in the Vancouver Sun, and in a Japanese newspaper.


In the case of another project at West Point Grey Road and Collingwood, the exact opposite happened. The 4,000-square-foot house had a heritage “A” designation, which meant that the structural aspects of the exterior could not be changed. In this project the goal was to bring modern luxury into the interior and capitalize on the multimillion view of downtown Vancouver English Bay and the North Shore. Summers’ proposal was to completely gut the house down to bare studs and start over.

The second floor became an unforgettable entertainment area with kitchen, living and dining. The ceilings were raised to ten feet and the walls were removed, which gave the entire floor a New York loft-type feeling. The bedrooms were placed on the first floor and the basement was converted into a very nice two-bedroom apartment.

Often a building offers everything from a location or cost standpoint. However, architectural redesign is needed to completely realize it’s potential. Such properties are plentiful in British Columbia. Careful design often can often make an old building better than new