Architecture Trends That Help Condo Developers Thrive In a Down Market

By Steve Mandic, Rothenberg Sawasy Architects (RSA)Los Angeles–In today’s competitive housing market, architects are quickly learning new concepts to help buyers. We’ve identified four trends that are increasingly being adopted by our developer clients.1. Create live/work appeal.According to RSA Design principal Mitchell Sawasy, the live/work concept continues to be a growing trend. With more and more people working at home, at least part of the time, the Census Bureau has indicated an increase of 23.5 percent over the last ten years, with the trend continuing.Sunset Lake lofts, a 2007 AIA Honor Merit Award winner from the San Fernando Valley chapter, located in the heart of the artsy Silver Lake district on Sunset Boulevard, is a live/work complex comprised of multi-level units wrapping an interlocking puzzle of multi-level courtyards, gardens, sunny exterior corridors, rooftop patios, two-level full height walls of windows and wide-open live/work spaces. Developed by the Kor Group, this 43-unit community is on a tight urban site. Units went on sale in early 2007 and the project was completed in November 2007. It is currently 70 percent occupied.”The project responds to this trend, with many of the homes locating their front doors on the street frontages, so the residents can accept customers there, while the backdoors lead to the courtyards and garages,” says Sawasy. “The layouts are flexible. You can have a back bedroom or a back office. You can expand the kitchen or hide your bedroom in the mezzanine-style loft above. The units have windows along the front and the rear of the units for maximized light and ventilation.”2. Provide a sense of community.This sense of community can be in a building, a complex or a larger community-based environment settled with others who share their interests or lifestyles. Additionally, nearby retail amenities are crucial, as are nearby destinations for entertainment needs and all the essential services of city living. Quite often, these services have been previously established in the existing urban context where many of these projects can be developed.3. Offer something unique.A distinctive, unique quality that often is in an architecturally significant, historic or creative loft building offers a blank canvas where residents can express their attitudes toward lifestyle and design.4. Appeal to a buyer’s sense of social responsibility.This trend is now becoming a purchase-driven priority by the growing demand for green and sustainable living. By definition, historic and renovated buildings meet that objective. These projects reuse existing resources and are generally within walking distance of services and near public transit lines.”Sustainable design is quickly becoming a hot topic for the development community. The many factors and strategies that are involved with sustainable design are becoming less of a mystery for developers, with the gap in costs narrowing,” explains Sawasy. “Especially in today’s housing downturn, developers are seeing the financial benefits with sustainable projects, giving their projects the competitive advantage over their non-sustainable competition,” he adds. “We all know that sustainable design makes sense for the environment, but the developers that are only bottom line-driven ignore this discussion often.  This is slowly changing, as demonstrated by the fact that most of RSA’s residential projects are achieving some level of sustainability, which is supported by the developer.”Steve Mandic is the studio director of strategic facilities at RSA in Los Angeles.