TND Tide

By Cati O'Keefe.

Part of "getting" TND is understanding that the architecture of the homes takes a backseat to the quality of life in the neighborhood.

"If a builder thinks TNDs are about a look or amenities, he is missing the boat," says Speck. "You can use those items to sell your TND through zoning but don't forget that it's about quality of life."

That said, TND design is tricky business for builders content with using their own floor plans, product choices, and personal taste when designing and building homes.

"Builders are used to thinking of a 50-acre site, 100 houses, three styles," says Steuteville. "They want to do a mish-mash of styles and don't study vernacular to calm down the houses and make appealing streetscapes."

"The first homes built in a new TND will often be the most important," warns Medick. "Careful construction and quality details will ensure quality and lasting value as the development proceeds. If early execution fails, it is often difficult to regain consumer confidence."

Medick points to three particular design areas that builders should pay attention to: alleys, privacy, and materials.

"Builders need to remember that TND architecture is not a style," says Medick. Calthorpe agrees and steers clear of telling builders what style to build. "[Builders] do have to use different materials," he admits. "For example, they should move from stucco to boards to shingles to add visual diversity. The builders resist this because it's cheaper on the sub side to pick one product."

"It's surprising how easy it is to give the feeling and spirit of classic homes using modern products like vinyl overhangs and cementious siding," adds McClellan. "It's not the material, it's how to proportion it."

Issaquah Highlands started a new trend in TND development when Microsoft Corp. built its new headquarters there.
Courtesy Peter Calthorpe Associates Issaquah Highlands started a new trend in TND development when Microsoft Corp. built its new headquarters there.

In DPZ's soon-to-be-released TBX (town builder exchange), TND experts will work with manufacturers to assemble products and materials acceptable for use in TNDs. The resulting Web catalog will help builders spec appropriate materials and products for their communities.

Barrier reef?

When considering a TND, builders are often put off by the draconian-sounding design guidelines and pattern books that dictate development. According to Calthorpe, there are three levels: "There's the urban design (the massing and type of building) covered by pattern books; there are architectural guidelines (style, materials, fenestration); there are the details, such as landscaping, public features, lamps, fencing."

Calthorpe says projects can do okay without architectural guidelines, but they can't succeed without proper urban design, which is essential for vibrant public spaces. In urban design you can require façade variations without stipulating styles, he continues, "So you have four models with three exterior treatments, or 12 types. You just can't have the same treatment side by side."

On top of guides, many TNDs use design reviews, although some builders find them interfering and costly. Weekley advises builders to find out how the architectural process works and who's running it. He thinks it should be a businessperson. "I've gotten caught in situations where the design review was by outside architects with no market responsibilities. They simply don't have the risk [builders do]. ... They add $1,000 more for a window package that's in their vision but that the public won't notice."

Other builders find reviews useful. "I'd list the design review as a benefit," says Jack Burton of The Burton Co., a small builder in I'On. "There's no helter-skelter building."