Emerging Trends in Amenity Design for New Communities

It’s no secret that this is an exciting time to be in the home building industry! As land planners and landscape architects, we’re fortunate to have front row seats to the housing boom that Metro Denver and the Colorado Front Range are currently experiencing. Since we always keep a close watch on emerging trends in amenity and landscape design, we were excited when KGA asked us to write a guest blog on the latest and greatest trends we’ve been seeing. Following are some of the most significant trends in amenities and landscape design that can be immediately incorporated into any new or existing multifamily or master planned community.

Offer Product Diversity within the Community

Whether they’re in a master planned community or a high-density setting, people want their home to be an expression of their personality and lifestyle!

  • A diverse mix of home product types gives people more choices that match their design taste and lifestyle.
  • Varied street scenes contribute to a sense of community and unique place.
  • Diversity of home styles encourages a diversity of residents and fosters a sustainable community culture.

Landscape

Living in a multifamily community no longer means accepting a lower quality outdoor environment. People want an attractive, safe and sustainable place to live. Setting is a reflection of residents’ lifestyle and who they are.

  • Sense of arrival and identity is important. Whenever possible, integrate views to amenities and adjacent parks and open spaces with community entries.
  • Incorporate walkable paths and trails to surrounding shopping and transit areas, parks, and open spaces.
  • Use native and naturalizing plant materials. They have an immediate and lasting visual impact and perform with less water and less maintenance.
  • Plant sizeable trees wherever possible. They signify a sense of community and permanence, and reduce the urban heat island effect.
  • Integrate small pocket parks and community “greens.” Residents want convenient access to outdoor activities and nature without having to get into their cars.
View preservation adds to the sense of arrival and identity of a community.

More Deck, Less Pool

With the continuing boom in multifamily apartment communities, design for leasing centers and amenities has come to the forefront. Swimming pools are a staple of high-end apartment communities, but most people don’t go to the pool to swim. They go to hang out around the pool.

  • Keep the pool size to a comfortable scale for the community. Focus on providing more deck space with good solar orientation and smaller, more intimate spaces for people to gather.
  • Create larger turf areas and event lawns within the pool enclosure to accommodate larger groups, informal play and provide a cooler surface on those extra hot sunny days.
  • Achieve a higher level of deck finish with custom copings, patterning and scoring of paving, color and texture.
  • A variety of quality furnishings is important to create a residential feel to the space. These spaces are the community “living room,” not the “back yard.”

More Features, Less Water

As noted above, residents have come to expect the highest quality design and amenities in a competitive market of modern apartment and master planned communities. The swimming pool in these settings is more of an aesthetic feature than a place to swim laps.

  • Site the pool so it is aligned with key views from the leasing center.
  • Integrate fountains or other water features within the pool for dramatic effect.
  • Place water features where people can interact with the spill.
  • Use up-lighting for dramatic night effects.
  • Integrate chaise decks for both sunning and play.
  • Introduce “zero edge” entries to make the pool accessible to kids and older adults alike.
  • Provide in-pool seating in a variety of arrangements to create unique and intimate gathering spaces.
Provide in-pool seating to create unique and intimate gathering spaces.

Outdoor Dining and Entertainment

While more and more people are choosing higher density, lower maintenance multifamily living, most still want opportunities to enjoy outdoor dining and entertainment. Consider the following:

  • For convenience, place outdoor dining adjacent to indoor prep spaces.
  • Locate grills so prevailing wind doesn’t carry smoke over the pool and deck.
  • Provide multiple grills with access from different sides so various groups can use the equipment simultaneously.
  • Provide ample lighting for night use.
  • Use top-quality, durable appliances and furnishings.
  • Meet accessibility requirements.
  • Provide shade and weather protection when possible.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fire pits are popular in both single-family homes and multifamily neighborhoods. We take fire-as-amenity to the next level. Residents want an outdoor “living room” experience, not a campfire.

  • Outdoor fireplaces should be a design extension of the architecture of the community center and residences.
  • Make the fireplace stack tall where possible so it is a visual anchor and focal point of the space.
  • Make the fireplace accessible from multiple sides for greater visual impact and to allow a number of groups to share the space.
  • Include safety features like automatic shut-off timers and grill or glass covers for openings.

Cars, Garages, and Storage

People still love their cars, and garages are increasingly important in multifamily communities. Again, residents want the convenience and security of single-family living in a multifamily setting.

  • Offer direct access from garages to units when possible.
  • Provide additional storage space within the garage. People want room for their “stuff.” Some jurisdictions may be resistant to give parking credit for garages when they aren’t being used for cars. We are implementing a new trend of offering on-site storage units that can be rented by residents. This alleviates concerns about storage in garages and is an additional revenue source.
  • Electric cars are becoming commonplace. Consider providing on-site charging stations for residents.
  • For convenience, integrate a car-wash station with the community maintenance building.

Pets

We Coloradans love our pets – especially dogs.

  • Off-leash dog parks are in high demand, especially for people who live in high density, multifamily communities. Integrate them into the land plan. They don’t need to be big. Provide water and consider synthetic turf for durability.
  • Dog washes are a popular trend.
  • Provide multiple, convenient small pocket park spaces with ample and easily accessible “doggy pots.” They will get used.

Bicycles

As biking becomes increasingly popular, more and more people are using bicycles for exercise and commuting. Often expensive to purchase and maintain, finding a convenient and secure place to store their bicycle can be difficult for residents living in multifamily communities.

  • Consider providing secure, indoor bicycle storage, sheltered from the weather.
  • Offer bike racks in well-lighted, visible locations.
  • Property-owned bikes that can be signed out at the community center are becoming more popular.
  • Bicycle repair stations are increasingly popular. Arrange for a local bike shop to offer on-site repair services.
Bicycles are becoming increasingly popular with all age groups! Consider providing secure, convenient bicycle storage options, especially for residents in multifamily communities.

Waste and Recycling

Convenient waste and recycling facilities are essential. Many communities now insist upon them.

  • Many multifamily communities offer daily, at-your-door trash and recycling pick-up.
  • It is becoming standard to have a common waste compactor and recycling center rather than several unsightly and unsafe trash enclosures.

Don’t Settle

Committing to the latest trends and highest standards in the land planning and landscape architectural design process is a great way to create healthy and profitable communities for generations to come. Revitalize your existing plan or create an inviting new plan to make your community a place to call home.

Craig Karn

About the author:
Craig Karn, ASLA, ULI, is the founder of Consilium Design, a land planning, landscape architectural and urban design firm headquartered in Centennial, Colorado.  Excellent design, exceptional experience, and effective communication are hallmarks of this nationally and internationally acclaimed team.