Green Oasis: Multifamily Trends in Outdoor Spaces

Experts on how to create inviting environments that enhance the resident quality of life.

In the realm of residential architecture and urban planning, courtyards and gardens have evolved beyond mere aesthetic enhancements to become integral components of modern living spaces. These outdoor areas are meticulously designed to create serene retreats, foster community interaction and promote physical and mental well-being.

Ankrom Moisan’s Senior Principal Rachael Lewis. Image courtesy of Ankrom Moisan.
Residents seek to maintain that connection to nature at home with access to courtyards, views of the mountains, and abundant natural light, said Lewis. Image courtesy of Ankrom Moisan.

According to a study conducted by Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program, individuals facing isolation and loneliness are at a higher risk of encountering both physical and mental health challenges. These results emphasize the significance of residing in communities that promote in-person interaction and nurture interpersonal bonds. Such environments contribute to the sustained resilience and prosperity of residents over the long term. “As apartments have gotten smaller, and more units feature in-board bedrooms, shared outdoor spaces have become very important,” Portland-based architecture, planning and design firm Ankrom Moisan’s Senior Principal Rachael Lewis told Multi-Housing News.

As technology is becoming increasingly integral to our lives, we’re spending less time in nature, so people are looking to include nature as an integral part of the urban life. That’s why, lush landscapes, both indoor and outdoor are in very high demand in today’s market, according to Ben Hutchens, principal at ArquitectonicaGEO—the landscape team behind ORA by Casa Tua in the heart of Miami that offers the first four-story Sky Garden for Miami. While hybrid or remotely workstyle continues, “there is also a strong focus on enabling residents to work outdoors with amenities like Wi-Fi, shaded areas and work-height furniture, catering to those who want to take advantage of nice weather while working remotely,” said Lewis.


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Additionally, residents are searching for an indoor-outdoor lifestyle that can enjoy year-round, regardless of the weather. “Hardscape and softscapes are shaped to reflect the brand identity of the residential community while promoting livability,” mentioned Lewis. “The goal is to create sophisticated outdoor environments that the story of the project and enhance the resident experience.”

For example, in Arizona, Michael Wilson, Mark-Taylor Residential’s vice president of asset management, observes that “current courtyard and garden design trends emphasize multifunctional green spaces that serve as versatile gathering areas for social events, fitness activities or quiet relaxation.” There is also a heightened focus in environmental stewardship, where residents prefer sustainable landscaping with native plants that require minimal water and maintenance.

Michael Wilson, Mark-Taylor’s vice president of asset management. Image courtesy of Mark-Taylor Residential.
Our residents particularly value green spaces that offer a resort-inspired experience, inviting residents to spend their days exactly as they desire, said Wilson. Image courtesy of Mark-Taylor Residential.

Developers are integrating outdoor entertainment amenities like firepits, summer kitchens and outdoor theaters to foster community engagement and enhance luxury living experiences.

Biophilic design, which incorporates natural elements into indoor and outdoor spaces, is gaining popularity, according to Wilson and the President of Related Group’s Condominium Division Nick Pérez. “Biophilic design is no longer confined to traditional outdoor settings; it’s becoming a prevalent trend permeating indoor spaces,” Pérez told MHN. The intentional integration of natural elements like plants, interior water features, maximizing natural light and using materials like wood and stone enhances residents’ connection to nature and their well-being, mirroring the benefits of being in the courtyard itself. 

There is also a focus on creating resort-inspired experiences with features like shaded spots, walking paths, water features, rooftop terraces, shared community gardens and dog parks. “Our residents particularly value green spaces that offer a resort-inspired experience, inviting residents to spend their days exactly as they desire,” noted Wilson. “These trends reflect a growing interest in maximizing the use of spaces that promotes an undeniable sense of luxury and leisure.”

Enhancing social interactions, and physical and mental well-being

The pandemic has resulted in an even more increased interest for outdoor activities regardless of the weather, time of year, or time of day. Pacific Northwest’s residents are known for their love is the outdoors, often spending weekends trekking through rainy forests and exploring mountains. “They seek to maintain that connection to nature at home with access to courtyards, views of the mountains, and abundant natural light,” said Lewis.

By including amenities that encourage outdoor activities contributes not only to residents’ physical well-being, but also their mental and overall happiness.” To meet the demand for physical fitness and enhance the indoor-outdoor experience, we’re opening fitness centers to outdoor patio decks via large garage doors and sliding glass walls,” Lewis mentioned.

ORA by Casa Tua. Image courtesy of : Fortune International Group & The Boundary.
ORA by Casa Tua offers the first four-story Sky Garden in Miami. Image courtesy of Fortune International Group & The Boundary.

In urban areas where every square foot counts but not at the expense of the experience, it’s important to ensure a balance between gardens and fitness areas, according to Hutchens. “Proper space must be allocated to allow for the presence of nature.”

“Outdoor yoga areas are also gaining popularity, responding to residents’ desire for versatile and engaging outdoor amenities,” said Wilson.

In addition to this, residents tend to have an increased desire for social connections within smaller groups who want to mingle on patios and decks with their dogs or taking in the beautiful landscaping. “Pools play a big part in this, not only from the wellness perspective of exercise but also as a focal piece and another location where residents can meet up after work or on weekends,” noted Lewis.

Amenities like coworking spaces, libraries, outdoor workspaces, and entertainment lounges with bars and private dining areas encourage residents to engage with each other and enjoy shared experiences.

Thoughtful landscaping and sustainable practices contribute to creating inviting and environmentally friendly outdoor environments.” Adding a tranquil color palette of flowers and trees contributes to a soothing and relaxing atmosphere,” said Wilson. “Further, greenery not only enhances the visual appeal of outdoor spaces but also promotes a sense of calmness and well-being for all residents and their guests.”

Ben Hutchens, principal at ArquitectonicaGEO. Image courtesy of ArquitectonicaGEO.
Lush landscapes, both indoor and outdoor are in very high demand in today’s market, according to Hutchens. Image courtesy of ArquitectonicaGEO.

At Mark-Taylor Residential, outdoor areas within their communities play an important role in enhancing residents’ physical and mental well-being, especially in those locations where summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees for months on end. “Thoughtfully planned spaces with suitable greenery offer natural insulation and shade, creating inviting environments,” mentioned Wilson. This can be done by selecting plants and landscaping that thrives in arid conditions.

For the cooler months, fireplaces are commonly utilized outdoor amenities. Each carefully curated area is specifically designed to promote relaxation and reduce stress, while allowing residents to immerse themselves in their surroundings.” Within our garden and courtyard spaces, we anticipate residents primarily using secluded seating areas and taking interest in water features as popular spots year-round for relaxation and stress reduction,” said Wilson. “These shaded oases provide tranquil settings, ideal for reading, meditating or enjoying nature’s beauty.”

Balancing Aesthetics with Functionality

Aesthetic and functional considerations are harmonized through a holistic design approach that integrates architecture, interior design, and landscape design to create beautiful and practical spaces.” Aesthetics and functionality are not necessarily at odds with each other,” said Lewis. “We take a holistic approach between architecture, interior design, and landscape design, looking at how they work together to create something beautiful that will support the everyday needs of residents.”

This can mean incorporating flexibility in the design of spaces so they can work for various activities and taking cues from nature while keeping in mind the project concept and overarching brand story. “To achieve this, we consider different-sized spaces within buildings and how they can be optimized based on their location and intended experiences,” she continued.

Biophilic design is no longer confined to traditional outdoor settings; it’s becoming a prevalent trend permeating indoor spaces, said Pérez. Image courtesy of Related Group.
Biophilic design is no longer confined to traditional outdoor settings; it’s becoming a prevalent trend permeating indoor spaces, said Pérez. Image courtesy of Related Group.

For example, a fitness area and outdoor yoga deck might be placed where residents can enjoy the sunrise, while an entertaining space with outdoor kitchens could be located with views of the water or sunset. This thoughtful design approach ensures that aesthetics and functionality are seamlessly blended, creating a harmonious environment for residents to enjoy.

Flexibility in design allows spaces to cater to various activities and experiences while maintaining the project’s concept and brand identity. Plants are a great example in this direction as they are esthetically pleasing but also can help filter the air and the water. They can convert harmful chemicals into elements that we depend on for healthy living. “Vegetation helps remediate and mitigate urban heat island effect, carbon emissions and other forms of pollution found in urban areas fostering a healthier and more sustainable environment,” noted Hutchens.

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