We are currently at a brand-new juncture of architecture and design. Though we are still in the thick of it, the global coronavirus pandemic has already engendered changes in what we expect and require from our living spaces across the board.
At an infrastructural level, the way we go about the design of housing supply is poised to shift indefinitely. As it pertains specifically to apartment supply, current and upcoming, the multi-family segment can expect to see changes and amendments to apartment amenities, physical and mechanical design, and building density, amongst much more, spurred by new norms such as remote working and social distancing.
From an investors’ standpoint, understanding how housing supply will be adapted is key in identifying opportunities that are poised to emerge strong post-pandemic. Below, I explore three facets of apartment design that are registering progressive change as a result of these times.
Amenities catering to technology and lifestyle trends
While renters past may have coveted location, location, location as their topmost amenity, being close to the highway or public transit holds far less clout than it did pre-pandemic. With much of the workforce realizing the viability of telecommuting, renters who pay a premium are gravitating towards amenities that reflect the technological advancements of the time.
Smart apartment technology ranges from pre-installed smart home assistants to tech-enabled concierge services to smart lockers—the latter of which can be configured to store anything from packages to laundry to perishable groceries.
On the front of security, smart locks are becoming increasingly commonplace, enabling streamlined access for residents and guests and reflecting the mass shift towards app-centric living. As far as tech-centric amenities go, these are just the tip of the iceberg. As technology gets more advanced, so will amenities.
Upgraded physical and mechanical systems
In addition to technological changes and advancements ensued by the pandemic, social distancing measures have given rise to physical changes in apartment design. These changes extend to include the layout of common spaces and shared amenities, such as gyms and party rooms, as well as upgrades at a mechanical level. Speaking to the latter, optimized ventilation and air filtration systems and the use of UV disinfection will become a priority—soon to be commonplace—for new builds, existing supply, and retrofitted properties alike.
Other physical upgrades being implemented in apartment complexes throughout the country aim to bolster safety and hygiene for residents and staff. Amongst more, these include the introduction of sanitizing and temperature-monitoring stations, touch-less faucets, physical barriers at reception and concierge, hands-free elevator technology, and automated doors.
Building better density
In an interview for Canadian Apartment Magazine, Quadrangle’s Dev Mehta speaks to what exactly “better density” entails, explaining that it hinges on optimizing the spaces we build to promote mental and physical health and well-being. Says Mehta,
“We will need to think more creatively and less prescriptively about how we define spaces in our residential buildings and units,” he says. “Unit layouts will have to consider adjustable partition elements that allow users to define and change their space in a way that is more fluid throughout the day. A bedroom is not always a bedroom and a dining space is not always a dining space. We have already overcome this psychological barrier of delineating and rigidly programming our spaces, and architecture will have to catch up to and embrace this.”
To this end, residential units that will be considered the most livable and the highest in demand will be the ones that intelligently optimize the space at hand. Amongst much more, desirable features will include open, unencumbered layouts, plenty of access to natural light and nature, and enough square footage to accommodate multi-use spaces, making it possible to facilitate anything from work to working out without stepping foot outside of the home.
Steady demand in the multi-family segment
In today’s environment, people are far more hesitant to put their savings toward a down payment to buy a house given the uncertainty in the economy. As such, the demand for rentals is expected to rise and the nature of that demand will evolve as well.
What we’re left with is a heightened expectation from the multi-family segment, which puts technology, physical safety, and psychological wellness at the forefront of priorities. For existing and upcoming supply, these types of features and developments will render apartments far more competitive, leading to high occupancy, low vacancy, and rent increases.