- Coexist is creating tiny home and office DIY kits that include all the necessary construction materials.
- This includes sustainable hemp-based insulation.
- The “Traveler” kits start at $26,000 and are sold out for the rest of this year.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Let’s take a closer look at the Traveler DIY kit, which was first launched on Earth Day in April.
The design of the home – which starts at $26,000 – was inspired by the co-founders’ times in California.
Coexist was co-founded by Anastasiya Konopitskaya and Drew Oberholtzer, a wife-and-husband team.
Traveler has a midcentury modern Scandinavian appeal with a design that “merges the indoor and outdoor,” according to Konopitskaya, a licensed architect. This was done by integrating a 12-foot-wide glass-paneled wall with a sliding door and mesh screen.
But if that’s not enough, extra windows can be added in.
In total, the home can fit three queen beds, accommodating up to six people throughout its first floor and loft, which is accessible using a ladder.
There’s also room for a half bathroom, couch, coffee table, and more, depending on the customers’ needs.
The loft can also either come with a solid plywood or netted floor, which evokes the image of a hammock, according to its maker.
Even the exterior of the kit home is customizable.
Customers can pick between three facades: a “sandy beach” cedar, a plaster and hemp combination, or a recyclable corrugated metal.
The unit stands at 19-feet deep, 14-feet long, and 15-feet tall.
But if that’s too small, several Travelers can be combined into a larger compound.
Now, let’s dive into what makes the Traveler stand out from other kit homes: sustainability.
This includes the wooden pegs and mortise and tenon, both of which are built by a nearby craftsperson.
The company also sources the timber framing’s wood from a local sustainable forest, which allows Coexist to bypass some of the pricing complications other homebuilders and DIY-ers have seen throughout COVID-19, Konopitskaya said.
The team tries to source most of the materials from its home state in Pennsylvania, but due to supply chain bottlenecks in the hemp industry, the raw hemp needed for the homes’ insulation still has to be imported from Europe, mostly France.
It’s 2021. Why not sow some cannabis seeds and reap some home insulation.
The Traveler uses hemp-based insulation for a greener living environment and customers can select between three hemp options: “hemp blanket batt” insulation, precast “hempcrete block” infill, or both.
Hempcrete blocks can maintain interior temperatures, among other uses, and are made of the plant’s woody core, a limestone-based binder, and water. They’re also biodegradable, lightweight, and have no carbon footprint, according to Coexist.
The hemp blanket batt is made of 92% hemp fiber (the remaining 8% is a binder) and is “superior to all insulations on the market because of its high density and thermal mass properties,” according to its maker.
The inspiration for creating a hemp-based home came when the couple was still living in Los Angeles.
“We started building guest and single-family houses in Los Angeles and we were looking for materials that perform well that are also healthy and good for the environment,” Oberholtzer said. “We really couldn’t find anything,”
Then, the couple found hempcrete.
“We went down the rabbit hole trying to learn everything we could about it,” Oberholtzer continued.
That’s when the couple decided to move from California to Pennsylvania, where they bought a small research farm to produce a “seed-to-structure where we could create proof of concepts,” Oberholtzer said.
The farm also grows other products, including flax, and has already received research grants from the state’s department of agriculture. It’s also working with Thomas Jefferson University to create 3D printed hemp bioplastic home products to create a local “hemp farmer-to-end use” supply chain with carbon sequestering capabilities.
Coexist also designed the Traveler to be a healthy unit to live in.
Part of the home is compostable, and none of the wood or hemp materials have been chemically treated, according to its brochure. This means no formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, or latex paint throughout the home.
Coexist is even in the “early stages of trying to apply carbon credit” to the Traveler, according to Oberholtzer.
So why tiny homes and offices? Well according to Oberholtzer, the idea for the product came out of COVID-19-induced demand.
The couple has two children at home and experienced the same parenting and work-life balance difficulties that have been all too familiar for many parents during COVID-19.
This then led the couple to look into the cabin and tiny home markets, where they found that there was nothing hemp-based “that’s really focused on health, wellness, and performance,” Oberholtzer said.
That’s when Traveler was born, inspired by the working parents’ drive to create their own “well-performing and healthy” DIY kit using their area of expertise in hempcrete.
At first, the couple thought more people would use the Traveler DIY kit as a backyard office since that was the original plan for the build.
But after its market debut, the team realized most of its customers wanted it for uses other than an office, whether it be a backyard home or a family compound.
Unlike other tiny homes that ship prefabricated or almost fully built, the Traveler comes as a DIY kit, construction materials included.
This allows savvy customers looking for a construction project to build their own unit. And all it takes is one week, some power tools, and at least two people.
Despite the extra customer effort of a DIY unit, interest in the Traveler has been skyrocketing, and the response has been “pretty crazy,” Oberholtzer said
Tiny homes have skyrocketed in popularity during COVID-19, and the Traveler is no exception: the kits are now sold out for the remainder of the year.
At first, Coexist was only selling five units per season. But now, the company is taking unlimited pre-orders for the spring 2022 season. It’s already seen hundreds of inquiries, including some that want to create entire communities out of Travelers.
“We had to pivot a bit because we weren’t anticipating the response, Oberholtzer said. “It’s been great, but we need to do some things to be able to fulfill potentially 50 or 100 [orders], so that’s going to require a little preparation for the spring.”
All of these inquiries have also given the team ideas on how to improve the Traveler. Some customer suggestions have included releasing a bigger build or a build with a kitchenette or full bathroom.