In just a short few years there has been a real shift in the place we want to call home. Throughout the United States there is a marked increase in mixed-use and multifamily developments. This trend represents the changing needs of homebuyers and provides a glimpse into the future of residential design. Here’s a look at why mixed-use properties are so popular and what these changes say about designing not just residential spaces but whole communities.
Walkability and Convenience: 2 Pivotal Real Estate Desires
Walkability and convenience have always been beneficial for both residential and commercial spaces, but today they’re more in demand than ever. This push is not motivated simply for convenience sake but reflects purposeful life choices, changing views on consumerism and the desire to tread lightly on the earth. There are two large groups that are driving this demand: millennials and baby boomers.
Millennials differ from previous generations in many ways, and car ownership is one of the most striking differences. A 2017 study found that millennials own fewer cars than past generations, relying instead on alternative means of transportation such as walking and cycling. This is even true for millennials who own cars; a 2015 survey revealed that millennials actually prefer walking to driving. Naturally, this parlays into the choice and need to live within walking distance of shops, restaurants, city centers and entertainment options.
Given that millennials make up 36 percent of all home purchases––and that millennials are also big renters–– meeting the increased demand for walkability and convenience is sure to change the residential landscape with a big emphasis on community development. When choosing to buy or rent a home, millennials look for a higher level of convenience and want amenities that complement their preferred lifestyle. Ryan Morgan, Project Manager with Morgan Holdings view amenities as the central aspect of their development design, “We’re trying to establish communities with micro-experiences.”
The growing cyclist movement makes ample and secure bicycle storage a must-have for multi-family/mixed-use developments. One sought after luxury is the bike kitchen. “I would describe them as bicycle clubhouses, where like-minded residents mingle, collaborate, share stories and adventures, and create connections,” said Bobby Long, Principal, Kephart.
Another big draw are top-of-the-line, on-site fitness centers. Think beautifully designed spaces with high ceilings, plenty of natural light, spa offerings, personal trainers, specialized classes and the latest equipment.
When it comes to dinner, millennials dine out or order in about three times per week. This trend means millenials are looking at the local food offerings and convenience minded grocery stores when choosing a place to live.
Baby boomers are also after the same qualities in housing. As the population ages and become empty-nesters, they are opting to downsize and move into communities and developments with an abundance of amenities either in their building or nearby. Boomers are likely to take 4 to 5 trips each year and are looking for a space that is easy and convenient to close up and leave for extended periods of time.
Additionally, moves into senior housing also demand highly walkable communities as a necessity. As Mel Gamzon, president of the Senior Housing Global Advisors (SHGA), points out that mixed-use is already a popular design approach in senior living because it affords more freedom and opportunity than a nursing home or traditional senior living facility.
For both millennials and the aging population, mixed-use and multifamily developments offer flexibility, convenience, and connectivity. Residents don’t have to compromise location for quality; rather, they get the best of both worlds. Even though it’s clear that mixed-use developments are a growth area, there’s an important central design question: How to build the best possible spaces for people and planet? In addition to ensuring high levels of walkability and convenience, we need to consider how to build lasting communities that holistically support human health, happiness, and well-being.
Wellness: The Future of the Built Community
Architects and designers are thinking of mixed-use and multifamily developments as much more than living spaces. Builders are aiming to create residential communities that foster a strong sense of fellowship. Rosslyn Business Improvement District president Mary-Claire Burick noted that “according to estimates, some 33% of the population desires to live in a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood, and that’s because … it really offers that sense of community to everyone who’s there.”
It’s also important that these communities optimize all possible living and wellness conditions. As such, there’s been a surge of innovation centering around mixed-use complexes. Sustainable and biophilic design are showing up more and the result is a wave of green communities that are inspiring and beneficial.
From Building Design + Construction: The upcoming Nieuw Bergen project in the Netherlands is one of the most innovative and sustainable mixed-use projects
One of the most notable breakthroughs is the WELL Community Standard. WELL launched the pilot in September 2017, and it’s already been widely embraced as a blueprint for healthier communities. The standard is “a district-scale rating system centered exclusively on health and wellness that aims to set a new global benchmark for healthy communities.” This standard was formed with mixed-use spaces in mind, and it represents a new approach to community development.
Architects are following suit and integrating wellness into their mixed-use projects. Aventura ParkSquare is an excellent example. On paper, the 7.4 acre Florida development seems like many other mixed-use spaces; it features fully furnished residences, Class A office space, a fitness center, and a multipurpose social room. However, it was designed with human wellness at its core. Extra-wide sidewalks optimize walkability, while open staircases encourage residents to skip the elevators. There’s even a communal vegetable garden. In addition, the ground floor boasts a tree-lined interior avenue that encompasses two city blocks.
From Building Design + Construction: Aventura ParkSquare combines mixed-use purpose with wellness-focused design
Aventura ParkSquare gives us a peek into the future of the built community. Sustainability and wellness will be two of the most critical driving factors shaping mixed-use projects. We’re already seeing this as more green cities pop up. Architects are finding new and exciting ways to simultaneously satisfy the demand for walkable communities and create health-centric, eco-friendly developments.
Mixed-Use and Biophilia
Alongside wellness, biophilia is one of the most prevalent trends in mixed-use and multifamily design. More and more people are migrating to cities; the UN projects that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. Consequently, architects are seeking to create urban spaces that are healthier and more connected to nature. The positive effects of biophilia are progressively more evident, and it’s clear that biophilia will be integral to the future of Architecture & Design.
Many of the world’s best mixed-use spaces are already using biophilic design. One Central Park is a breathtaking mixed-use building that incorporates stunning vertical gardens, open-air seating areas with wooden benches, and a cantilevered heliostat that reflects sunlight to the gardens and atrium below. It’s an impressively futuristic design that represents biophilic innovation and opens up a world of new possibilities for mixed-use buildings. One Central Park has been widely acclaimed for its design, and it’s earned three Green Star ratings from the Green Building Council of Australia. The project is sure to inspire many more biophilic mixed-use spaces.
Architects around the world are implementing more biophilic design elements into their residential projects. Biophilic design in community residential settings can support hundreds of people simultaneously. In Gensler’s 2018 Impact by Design: Resilience Strategies Shaping the Future of Cities , it is noted that projects should select materials with a lower carbon impact. Re-using or recycling materials should be done whenever possible. Green building materials like reclaimed wood are a good fit for large scale residential programs as wood is a low impact material that stores absorbed carbon and repurposes resources while also providing biophilic benefits of being an organic, natural material.
Mixed-use and multifamily design is on the rise. Building Design + Construction reported that multifamily housing saw an 8% increase in the first half of 2018. Urban housing is moving in a new direction due to the changing demands of homebuyers, and architects are creating innovative and practical mixed-use design solutions that work for everyone. A new emphasis on developing communities that will engage and enhance people’s quality of life while minimizing environmental impact will shape the future of cities.