What will the apartment of the future look like to accommodate the needs of the looming wave of Echo Boomers and Gen Y renters? Expect to see buildings in urban areas with smaller units with trendy finishes (ditch the traditional crown molding and granite countertops for the Gen Yers); plenty of green features including electric hook-ups for cars; shared amenity spaces; and less parking spaces, according to a panel of architects at the MFE Conference last week in Las Vegas.
Moderated by Sharon Dworkin Bell, senior vice president of multifamily at the Washington, D.C.-based NAHB, the panelists included Manny Gonzalez, principal of Irvine, Calif.-based KTGY Group; Mark Humphreys, CEO of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects; and John Lahey, chairman of Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz.
“We’ve reached the beginning of another boom,” Humphreys said, noting an influx of 70 million active adults and this past June marking the largest high school graduating class in history with three million students. To accommodate these renters of tomorrow, Humphreys designed the eMAX multifamily concept. One such model offers four-stories over parking with 176 one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 340 square feet to 1,080 square feet. The project achieves 86.6 percent efficiency with 70 units per acre.
Smaller units are also expected to be the trend in high-rise product, as well. “High-rises have really evolved,” said Lahey, whose firm specializes in high-rise design. “What does the high-rise renter want? Before they wanted privacy and security. Now, as people move from the suburbs back to the cities, they want a sense of community and plenty of amenities.” In fact, smaller unit sizes allow the firm to design better amenities—everything from fully-loaded fitness centers to clubrooms and green rooftops with entertainment areas.
Lahey did warn the audience not to build units too small. “In the next cycle, as people earn more money, they will want bigger units,” he said. “High-rises are up for 30-plus years so we have to be sure to think of tomorrow, too.”
Gonzalez offered several tips for how to outfit smaller-sized units including installing shower stalls instead of tubs, moveable closets, and stacked washers and dryers. He also suggested partnering with nearby vendors to offer residents discounts at gyms, for instance, if space doesn’t allow for an on-site fitness center.