The exciting future of multifamily design in Colo.

martin goldstein

Martin Goldstein
Principal Architect, Venture Architecture

Colorado State Land Board Banner April 10 300 x 250

Today’s multifamily experience undoubtedly has matured over recent decades. At one point, an apartment building’s success was measured solely on its fundamentals. It was about the right checked boxes for beds and baths. There were laundry machines in the building or maybe on the floor. The finishes were kept up to date, but making sure the building performed well at a low cost remained the top priority. Today, multifamily design tells a different story – it’s all about experience.

While sustainability, amenities, finishes and technology are the big buzzwords in the industry, what they all point to is a focus on how design can enhance quality of life. Whether you’re attracting millennials looking for their first place or baby boomers looking to downsize and relocate to be closer to family, residents want a home that allows for an ease of living.

The impact on developers and their design teams can be seen at every level, from the types of amenities offered in the community to the design details of a single residence. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. Different regions across the United States call for different considerations to attract residents.

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Here in Colorado, it’s important to consider how the outdoor lifestyle factors into how people will use their space. Typically, Colorado residents come with a lot of outdoor gear that needs storing – at least a bike (or two), some downhill gear (skis or a snowboard), tents, backpacks and, on the rare occasion, even a kayak. And to round out their outdoorcentric lifestyle, many residents also own a dog. To accommodate this, many firms have started to pay closer attention to gear storage and pet accommodations. It’s common nowadays to design bike closets (both inside and outside the unit), bike repair rooms, mud room rinse areas, and dog wash rooms and dog relief pens – especially if the community is located near one of the numerous trails around the Denver metro area.

Beyond amenities, modern multifamily design also needs to incorporate the latest technology so buildings can respond to environmental factors like local climates. In addition to snow and ice, Colorado multifamily communities need to be able to handle copious amounts of direct sunlight, which often can wreak havoc on energy efficiency. One solution is a new exterior glazing system by View Inc. that incorporates an automating tinting system. Depending on personal preference, each resident can filter the light to their desired level. Whether a resident chooses manual tinting that they control or automated operation that allows the building to adjust the glass on its own parameters, these new windows allow unobstructed views while filtering the sun’s rays. High altitude, sun-drenched regions like ours could begin to see more systems like these as they would enable residents to better control their interior environment without having to pull blinds that obscure their mountain and city views.

With buildings becoming smarter, there is significant opportunity to directly impact an individual resident’s experience and overall quality of life. Enter, the internet of things. As our devices have become intelligent, mobile and connected, life has become more customizable. Companies like Single Digits are simplifying the multifamily resident experience by combining internet, television and connectivity of devices. One such offering is a Wi-Fi private signal or “personal area networks” that can be provided to individual residents on a building-wide basis. That means a resident can access her Wi-Fi as privately as she does at home when she is in the community’s amenity spaces, outdoor plaza, a neighbor’s unit or even the lobby. Residents can seamlessly stay logged into their favorite streaming movie or work space back at the office from anywhere in their home or community. And that’s just the tip of the technological iceberg.

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Forward-focused developers and design teams are working to integrate the IoT into the architecture of the building to directly impact residents’ daily experience. By integrating the right door hardware and LED lighting systems, doors can be locked, unlocked or even checked remotely. Imagine getting to work and wondering if you locked the door this morning. Now you can check with the ease of opening an app on your smartphone. If you forgot, you can lock it remotely. Or if you’ve lost your keys, the manager can buzz you into your unit to grab the spare. Taken a step further, imagine pulling into the secure parking lot with a few bags of groceries and your laptop bag or briefcase. You can turn the lights on, unlock the front door and make sure the heat is turned on before you even get out of the car. Simply put, technology increasingly allows a resident’s experience to be readily adaptable and customizable to their personal preferences.

This is a truly exciting, dynamic age for multifamily design – from meeting residents’ lifestyle expectations to responding to local climate and culture to individual customization of lights, temperature and communications. In our lifetime, we will not just enable multifamily residents to improve their daily experience and build better lives, but ultimately we will improve all areas of our built environment for people to enjoy for years to come.

Featured in CREJ’s August 2019 Multifamily Properties Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.