Meeting modern trends in multifamily construction
As demographics and preferences across multifamily shift, AIA partner Kawneer explores how architects are adjusting their exterior designs.
It’s no secret that the multifamily market has been undergoing a dramatic shift over the past few years. Multifamily helped carry housing out of the recession, with booming demand that has eased recently but remains strong.
Amid those changes are noticeable shifts in demographics and preferences. Cash-strapped millennials are staying in rental properties longer as they try to save for a down payment and wait out a tight inventory of starter homes. At the same time, older buyers looking to downsize are moving in: According to Multifamily Executive magazine, Baby Boomers made up the majority (58.6 percent) of the increase in renters from 2006 to 2016.
For architects and designers, these shifts translate into a few key trends, most of which impact the design of both the interior and exterior. Among these trends:
Increased amenities: “There’s been an explosion of amenities in the U.S. and Canada multifamily construction sector,” said Robert Cassidy, executive editor of Multifamily Design+Construction, in a summary of the publication’s Multifamily Amenities 2017 study. “Package delivery centers have tripled in size. Simple bicycle ‘racks’ have become bicycle ‘kitchens.’ … Some properties now have dedicated rideshare areas for tenants to wait for their Uber or Lyft rides.”
The report also points to demand for high-end security, energy and water efficiency, wellness features, Wi-Fi, and, potentially, co-working spaces.
Urban elegance: Clean, sleek aesthetics continue to adorn multifamily buildings across urban skylines nationwide. Large expanses of glass, with seamless transitions between floors (and from interior to exterior spaces) are often used to achieve this desired appearance.
Sound control: Residents often want to see their city but not hear it, so the acoustical performance of the fenestration system is a critical element for urban multifamily spaces. According to the National Multi-Housing Council’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 92 percent of renters desire an environment that would promote better sleep, Multifamily Executive reports.
Single-family inspirations: Renters and condo owners are seeking many of the latest design features of single-family homes—most notably open floor plans, ample daylighting, large expanses of glass, and energy efficiency.
Putting it all together
For designers and architects, meeting these trends impacts the exterior façade as much as the building’s interior layout.
At The Pearl in Silver Spring, Maryland, this translated into “a balanced communal environment” that merges urban luxury with the serenity of nature. The modern community is comprised of three buildings each featuring studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Designed by Baltimore-based Design Collective to be light and airy, the buildings feature views of Rock Creek Park, an open courtyard, and a rooftop farm designed to provide occupants with fresh produce.
To create voluminous natural lighting, a range of high-performing windows, curtain wall, storefront framing, and entrances from Kawneer were used throughout the buildings. The NX-3500, NX-3100, and NX-3800 window systems required a custom receptor to bridge larger wall sections and locate the thermal break within the system while allowing the product to be supported in the stud cavity. The receptor also helped address different trim depths to accommodate the range of cladding materials used on the façade.
In addition to meeting the high thermal requirements of the project, the Kawneer solutions, which also included NX-8910 and NX-8920 Terrace Doors, 1600 Wall System 1 and 1600 Wall System 2 Curtain Wall, Trifab VersaGlaze 451T Framing System, and 350 Heavy Wall Entrances, helped achieve the desired modern, sleek aesthetic.
For New York’s 14-story Chelsea Green condominiums, architects at Stephen B. Jacobs Group sought to provide as much natural lighting into the building while meeting strict efficiency requirements and targeting LEED Gold. Natural ventilation was also crucial, but couldn’t come at a sacrifice of a sleek aesthetic.
The team created large expanses of glass by seamlessly integrating TR-700 Window Walls with TR-8300 sliding glass doors. A vent and frame design in the window wall prevents air infiltration and water penetration. Finally, a Kawneer Versoleil SunShade Outrigger System reduces solar heat gain on the glass while adding a bright blue pop of color.
Indeed, today’s multifamily projects are defined by unique, modern façades that not only look the part, but contribute to the building’s overall efficiency and occupant comfort, control sound, and bring in the natural lighting today’s buyers and renters crave.
Find out more about evolving exteriors for the multifamily market, including additional case studies.
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Images Courtesy Kawneer Company, Inc.; Photography: Perzel Photography Group