How will design trends change in multifamily communities in response to the effects of COVID-19? Home, in its simplest form, is a place of shelter and safety. In today’s world, that can’t be truer. Renters in apartment communities don’t have the same flexibility as homeowners to adapt their homes to meet the challenges of a stay-at-home order or working from home. And, many renters are stuck where they are due to long term leases. What can you do to draw these tenants to your next multifamily project? Hygiene and safety are the top concerns for most consumers right now. There are many ways this can be reflected in the design, maintenance and operations of apartment communities. Here are some of our thoughts.
Safety and Hygiene
Safety and hygiene in multifamily communities starts with the ability to maintain personal space and minimize touch points. Motion and voice activation were already becoming more prevalent pre-covid-19. Automatic doors – regardless of the size of the building – are a welcome addition to reduce touch points. Elevators and public bathrooms should be touch free. Laundry should be in the unit, even in entry level product. Think about the sequencing of a building and how residents will use it. We’ll likely see wider corridors and larger elevator lobbies to allow social distancing. The use of naturally antimicrobial materials such as copper or brass on high touch surfaces is another way to battle the transfer of germs. Staffing can also play a role. Incorporating a frequent cleaning regime goes a long way to putting your tenants at ease in shared spaces.
Amenities are an important benefit to renters and an excellent way for multifamily communities to stand out from the competition. We see apartment amenity design staying more or less the same, with operations and maintenance adapting according to need. Popular amenities such as co-working spaces, pools, and fitness centers can move to a reservation-based system as needed to allow for social distancing. Cleaning protocols and frequency can be stepped up. Opportunities for small gathering spaces – indoors and out – will continue to grow in popularity. Firepits, bbqs, or small covered areas with a few tables offer freedom and flexibility for residents. Virtual fitness systems such as Peloton can help your fitness center stand out.
Let the Outdoors In
With the reality of a stay-at-home order, direct access to outdoor space is more important than ever. Put balconies in as many units as possible, even entry level units. If a balcony is out of the question, can you increase the number of operable windows instead? Or, consider a juliette balcony to add the illusion of more space and natural light. Fresh air equals health, which equals safety.
Upgrade the Mechanical Systems and HVAC
Upgrading the mechanical and ventilation systems throughout a building is paramount in maintaining a healthy indoor environment. This goes for both public and private spaces. Incorporating a HEPA filtration system and scheduling proper maintenance is essential. The use of UV filters could also be incorporated into large HVAC systems. We may start seeing HVAC systems in apartments that mimic those in hospitals.
Lower Density and Suburban Locations
Multifamily communities are typically driven by cost and density. Suburban locations where land is less expensive are more realistic for lower density developments. Renters no longer willing to pay a premium to live in the urban core will be looking to the suburbs. Increased flexibility and the ability to work from home will also make many people rethink their location. Lower density solutions such as garden apartments with exterior entrances that allow residents to avoid common indoor spaces and elevators may gain appeal.
Whatever the future holds, multifamily development will continue to be a large part of the construction industry. The key to standing out amongst the competition and attracting tenants to your next project is listening to the market. Today’s consumers have an overwhelming desire for safety and hygiene, whether it’s at home, on a plane or in the office. Simple changes in design, maintenance, and operations, communicated in the right fashion, will show your community is responding to evolving needs.