By Published: May 29, 2018

The backyard shed is getting a modern upgrade thanks to the innovative ideas of a group of CU Boulder students. 

The Pocket Studio team consists of 17 undergraduate students in their third year of the Program in Environmental Design who have been working on the design, fabrication, construction and assembly of two fully furnished backyard office studios. 

Using modern design ideas and trends in working behavior, the team is creating environments that enhance personal, professional and creative productivity to achieve a better work/life balance. Picture yourself walking to your backyard to go work in your own studio.

The studios can be used in many ways, such as a backyard office for working remotely; yoga or art studio; writing retreat; music room; workshop; etc.

Three of the team members, Ali Albawardi, Madison Castello and Malek Elhindi, are majoring in environmental design. 

“We conducted interviews with graphic designers and people who are our target audience,” Castello said. “It’s not limited to a specific use. The big benefit is reducing commute time. Having it in your backyard making it your own is very cool.”

After conducting and analyzing research about office spaces and modern work habits, the student team learned that many people have the ability and desire to work remotely, but not the space. Studies show a growing demand for more worker flexibility. The cloud and other web-based software have made it easier for employees to work wherever they wish, challenging the need for a traditional work space.

The students learned it takes the average worker 26 minutes to travel to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.Traveling 26 minutes each direction is nine full days a year spent going to work and back. 

Public health research has found that longer commutes are linked to increased rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, back and neck pain, depression and divorce.

Employers face a shortage of space to provide traditional offices for employees. Studies show that open-plan office spaces have negative effects on employee productivity and job satisfaction. 

The Pocket Studio is a solution. The studios are small backyard structures designed to function as flexible work spaces that respond to current trends in working and living environments.

CU Boulder Crowdfunding

Visit the crowdfunding page to help support the Pocket Studio project and help environmental design students gain real life experience.

Support Pocket Studio

Learn About Crowdfunding

“It’s versatile and not limited to any one specific use,” Elhindi said. “After hosting events and speaking with potential clients, we gained an understanding of what makes an inspirational work or exercise space. By offering a customizable interior, open space layout, and views to the outside, we as a class have designed a space that allows for all types of work and covers most of what people would need in an accessory structure.”

The 100 square-foot studios are constructed from SIPs, structural insulated panels, a building system consisting of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings. At 8 ½ feet tall and 8 ½ feet wide, the studio does not require a permit to be moved.

Furniture includes a folding desk, storage unit and a large adjustable peg system for open-concept storage and display. 

Key features:

  • 7x7 foot windows
  • Client customizable interior
  • Easily transportable
  • Base price is $10,000

“I wanted to bridge the gap between architecture design and engineering,” Albawardi said. “Working on the Pocket Studio project has been helpful for me to learn the design process and the construction process.”

To help support the environmental design students as they develop the project, go the Pocket Studio crowdfunding page