Treehouses, yurts, farms, houseboats, or domes — the desire to stay in unique accommodations has boomed in recent years, especially over the pandemic, in part thanks to companies like Airbnb.
Although travel isn’t the same as it was pre-Covid, travelers still want to explore. New York startup Moliving offers something just as compelling: modular, pre-fabricated 400-square-foot pods with a bedroom, bathroom, and two balconies. These fully furnished units have minimal disruption to the environment as they aren’t built into the ground and can be easily relocated without damaging land. Fiscally it makes sense as well, especially for hotels that operate seasonally and can adjust the number of rooms for changing demand.
Moliving’s model units are the first products of its kind. They’re easy to install and customize and offer a luxury feel, which is particularly interesting for luxury eco-resorts. While a hotel on wheels doesn’t sound very luxe, Moliving founder and developer Jordam Bem assures this is a luxury product through high-level design, function, and technology. Bem’s aim is to democratize the hotel industry and allow landowners to invest in their property as a hospitality destination that is efficient, scalable, and timeline friendly.
“No one has managed to marry luxury with mobility,” Bem says. “We call ourselves a hybrid between ultra-luxury and mobility spaces. If you look at the mobility competitive set, guests are staying in an eight-foot-wide RV or Airstream whereas Moliving’s units are 11.9-feet wide, 12-feet tall, and 45-feet long which feels like a luxury suite instantly elevating the experience.”
To prove his product, the first Moliving units will be used in eco-resort Hurley House, located in New York’s Hudson Valley region, which will open in 2022 and feature around 60 units. Hurley House will be the flagship and model for how Moliving will work elsewhere in the world. Landowners and future hoteliers will enter into a joint venture with Moliving, who will bring the units, operations, design and guest experience to ensure quality and high standards across the board, while the landowner will provide the land and some minor permanent infrastructure. Hurley House was purchased by Arizona Investissements, a Luxembourg-based developer and family office that is an affiliated company to Moliving. Bem also enlisted a talented staff, including chief development officer of Moliving, Agustine Desintonio, who spent 35 years at Four Seasons, and Hanna Bem, chief operating officer and head of the Moliving Collection management company. They hope by generating a luxury-minded staff, they will bridge the gap between mobility and luxury.
“Moliving brings in the units, brings in the management services, and reservation system,” Bem explains. “Everything that a traditional Marriott would bring to the table. The idea of us providing all the services is we can control the outcome. If we control the outcome and we know for a fact that this is a five-star hotel.”
Moliving units are designed and engineered in-house. Each unit costs $150,000, which is two to three times cheaper than a comparable four- or five-star product, Bem says. Units have approximately 400 square feet of interior space and two independent 120 square feet of private outdoor spaces. These units can be built in three to five months, which is exponentially faster, safer, and more sustainable than the years it takes to build a hotel. In an effort to localize each unit and reduce the carbon footprint, Moliving units will be crafted in a regional facility near the expected delivery location. They’re also built on a custom chassis and very easy to transport (similar to an RV) by attaching to a truck.
“We realized the seasonal market was a huge issue,” Bem tells Forbes. “Take the Hamptons, for example, they’re only open four months out of the year, which is why they charge a premium. Oftentimes, the service isn’t great and the experience is terrible so you don’t get what you pay for.”
Bem explains that the whole premise of Moliving is creating hotels that operate at full capacity at all times by fluctuating the inventory. For example, Hudson Valley’s high season is April to November, while a destination like Florida’s high season is December through March.
“During their peak season, so it’s a win-win, because the landowner has less rooms on their site, which means two things: operational costs will be much cheaper, because you have less people servicing rooms, and less maintenance costs,” he says. “At the same time, if a hotelier is running at 90% occupancy, regardless of if you have 80 or 20 rooms, your hotel’s technically hot. If your hotel is hot, you can charge higher prices.”
Instead of building more units, the units will be relocated to another location, resulting in a sustainable and profitable hotel solution.
Each unit, so far, has wood interiors, made from recycled wood and recycled steel, called green steel; windows that allow plenty of natural light, while still respecting privacy; a bathroom skylight; a Samsung 55” Smart TV; electronically controlled shades; WiFi; LED lights; a private bar; and a connected iPad that allows you to control everything from music to temperature to lighting. There’s also lithium battery technology that stores energy from the unit’s rooftop solar panels; gray water recycling technology that reduces water consumption; and UV sanitation technology.
“Our goal is to run Hurley House 100% on solar energy,” Bem says. “Every unit is also self-sufficient, even if you’re operating off-grid. We integrated a recycling system so the water that comes out of the shower is purified and recycled up to seven times.”
The units at soon-to-be Hurley House are made with dark wood panels, but he hopes future Moliving unit exteriors will be more reflective of location, like white panels in Florida.
They also hope to create a mobile app that handles front-of-house and back-of-house lodging functions. There’s also an off-grid setting or the option to connect to the host property within minutes.
The attention to detail trickles all the way down to the partners and vendors that furnish the suite.
Moliving has recently partnered with an interior design company and will be manufacturing everything in-house to take the boutique experience to the next level. The goal is also for guests to be able purchase items within the units they like, which can be delivered to them within a reasonable time frame.
“We’re trying to solve a problem and make the world a better place at the same time,” Bem says. “If you think about it, many seasonal places are beautiful because usually they’re untouched by humans. With Moliving, we have the ability to come, install a hotel and leave without harming the environment, which means that more people can actually visit the world.”