Although there was no shortage of out-there ideas, a few trends took shape. Architects emphasized designs that made for low-cost and fast construction, minimalist aesthetics, increased mobility, and the use of more renewable power sources.
Check out our favorites below.
The Koda — A tiny house that can be taken apart to move with its owners
In October 2016, the Estonia-based design firm Kodasema unveiled its design for the Koda house. The 269-square-foot cube can be assembled by a construction crew in less than seven hours and disassembled in four hours.
150 Kodas will become available to order online in Estonia starting in late 2017, with prices likely starting at €120,000 (about $132,500). The company might later expand sales internationally if it can ramp up production, Kodasema's cofounder, Taavi Jakobson, told Business Insider.
The 20K Homes — Beautiful cottages that cost just $14,000 to build
Students at Rural Studio, Auburn University's architectural design program, built two cottages with raw materials that cost just $14,000 each in early 2016. Located at Serenbe, a 500-person community in northwestern Georgia, the 500-square-foot homes are used to house resident artists.
The Rural Studio team calls them the "20K Homes," and hopes they can become a model for building houses that are both beautiful and affordable.
The Ecocapsule — A solar-and-wind-powered pod
Designed by Netherlands-based Nice Visions, the Ecocapsule features a roof with solar cells and a mini wind turbine. It also has a rechargeable battery that can last at least four days if the off-the-grid sources fail.
In spring 2016, the company started production on 50 units, which cost €79,900 ($83,480) and can be customized to each owner's requirements. The second generation of Ecocapsules will be available for a lower price in 2017.
The Kokoon — A three-story house that can go up in under 24 hours
The house was a project by students in the Wood Program at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. One of its designers, Stephanie Jazmines, told Business Insider that the Kokoon is designed to be prefabricated, meaning the majority of its parts would be built offsite.
Kokoons are not available for sale right now, but Jazmines estimates that the homes would cost about $15,000 each if the team were to sell them.
The House T — A "ninja house" that has no interior walls and uses ladders for stairs
The MicroPad — Stackable apartments that could help end San Francisco's homeless crisis
San Francisco has the second biggest homeless population in the US.
Panoramic Interests, a developer that specializes in high-density apartments and student housing, designed the MicroPad to help get people off the streets. In fall 2016, it created a prototype of the MicroPad, a 160-square-foot, move-in-ready container that could be stacked on top of other ones to form a larger building.
The Montainer — A shipping container converted into a $55,000 home
The Montana-based startup Montainer launched a line of fully-furnished shipping container homes in summer 2016.
Montainer CEO Patrick Collins told Business Insider that because each home costs just $55,000, the company could make it easier for more people to buy a new house. Anyone can order and customize one online.
The rEvolve — A solar-powered tiny house that rotates to face the sun
Designed by 15 students at Santa Clara University, the rEvolve is a solar-powered tiny house. The creators built the 238-square-foot home on a revolving platform that moves with the sun to optimize the amount of sunlight its panels can absorb.
In fall 2016, the students built the first rEvolve house for San Francisco-based nonprofit Operation Freedom Paws, which matches disabled veterans with service dogs. They told Business Insider the house cost $61,000 to build, and the platform, called a solar tracking ring, cost an additional $25,000.
The Full Fill Home — A house that can withstand earthquakes and costs under $5,000 to build
Designed by renowned architect Anupama Kundoo, the Fun Fill Home is a low-cost, easy-to-build house for those who live in earthquake zones. In July 2016, Kundoo told Business Insider that each Fun Fill Home requires $4,400-worth of materials. (The photo pictured above is not the finished house, but is meant to show how it's constructed.)
Kundoo's firm, Anupama Kundoo Architects, was commissioned to build 22 prototype homes in Auroville, India in the fall.
The PopUp House — A Lego-style home that can be built in a few weeks with a screwdriver
In January 2016, French architecture firm Multipod Studio unveiled a prototype for the PopUp House, a customizable home made from stackable blocks. In September, Multipod teamed up with Spanish homebuilders Wilbat House to construct the first one in L'Armentera, a town in Catalonia, Spain.
Measuring 1,660 square feet, the house was built in two weeks with an electric screwdriver. It's made from stacked recyclable wooden panels and insulation blocks (constructed off site), all held together with wood screws.