Marissa Kasdan – Long Lasting Trends in Multifamily Design

Green Home Builder

December 15, 2021

Covid led innovative and sustainable trends

Trends come and go, but after a year of turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 revealed which changes were temporary and which will continue. We may not stand six feet apart anymore, but we have come to cherish the time spent gathering with friends and loved ones.

We’ve learned that flexibility and adaptation lead to strength and fortitude. As with any significant trends, their importance has grown over time, becoming drivers for development and leading subsequent design decisions.

The combined effects of expanded e-commerce, work from home, social awareness, and lack of housing affordability have changed many of our priorities, economics and lifestyles. City planners, developers, and architects changed and modified certain spaces that better accommodate today’s needs. Restaurants expanded outdoors into streateries, commercial offices welcomed unconventional leasing opportunities, and retail landlords adjusted tenant spaces for smaller businesses and alternative uses.

In response to these trends, KTGY’s R+D Studio researched alternative functions for previously programmed spaces, identifying creative solutions to maximize value and better serve their surrounding communities. The R+D concept, Alt-Way, addresses the challenges of crafting an active urban ground plane in locations where traditional retail fails to thrive.

Alt-Way proposes blending indoor ground-floor spaces of mixed-use, multifamily buildings with the adjacent sidewalk, creating a meandering sidewalk lined with a variety of social and philanthropic functions. With areas designed to encourage community betterment such as neighborhood gatherings, social outreach, and entrepreneurship opportunities, the Alt-Way concept creates a synergistic relationship with the residential units above, increasing foot traffic at the ground level while providing easy access to services for residents.

Additionally, the R+D concept, Flex Flats, proposes a residential adaptive reuse solution for underutilized office spaces. Addressing the challenge of the deep floor plates, typically seen throughout the commercial office sector, the Flex Flat concept design incorporates moveable walls and high windows to allow for flexibility and increased access to natural light.

As the 2021 International Building Code took effect in September, changes to the Type IV (heavy timber) construction framework expanded the use of mass timber to include three additional types of construction: Types IV-A, IV-B, and IV-C. These added variations on heavy timber construction account for modern engineered wood technologies and allow for taller building heights, additional stories, and greater allowable areas when using mass timber as a primary structural material.

The changes to mass timber construction types align with a recent desire for faster, more cost-effective construction techniques as well as an increased demand for environmentally conscious construction methodologies. Engineered wood, such as cross-laminated timber, reduces construction time and cost compared to concrete or steel.

KTGY’s R+D Studio developed Timber Tower, a concept solution using cross-laminated timber (CLT) for multifamily development. A 12-story concept design, the Timber Tower concept demonstrates the Type IV-B option. With a single-story parking level, employing mechanically stacked parking to accommodate additional stalls, Timber Tower fits within a 10-foot-by-13-foot-6-inch column grid and uses five-ply CLT panels.

Addressing issues such as prefabrication, acoustic separations, structural layout, and design aesthetics, the Timber Tower concept highlights the many benefits and opportunities for multifamily buildings using CLT construction.

Both mass timber construction and adaptive reuse intersect under the shared umbrella of sustainable design. With record-breaking forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, and storms throughout 2021, the construction industry has been put on notice. The AIA 2030 Commitment, in support of the 2030 Challenge, points out the critical role of architecture and design to address the impact of construction on global carbon emissions. Reusing primary structures reduces waste and unnecessary ground-up development, while a thoughtful selection of building materials reduces the associated embodied carbon.

Building orientation, energy collection and storage, and alternative water and waste management strategies can also help alleviate the operational carbon of newly constructed buildings. KTGY’s R+D concept, The Branches, combines a variety of green building strategies within a multifamily building design, exhibiting how early design decisions and mechanical systems selection can significantly reduce environmental impacts.

While the strategies of mass timber construction, adaptive reuse, and sustainable design have become integral to so many conversations during this past year, these concepts began long before 2021, and they will continue long after.