Design is a big factor in keeping affordable housing costs down. Shared housing, smaller units, modular construction, sustainability and adaptive reuse are just some of the ongoing trends that builders and architects are putting into play to reduce the costs associated with construction and building operation. Here are seven design trends we’re seeing in the world of affordable housing.

design trends in affordable housing

Knickerbocker Commons, a 29,705-square-foot project in Brooklyn, New York was constructed with StoTherm ci Lotusan, an exterior insulation and finish system facade (EIFS). The building uses 90 percent less energy than a comparable New York City building. Per EIMA, while offering support to the 700-pound triple-pane windows, EIFS provides the appropriate insulation to keep the building’s interior warm during the frigid winter months. All of these characteristics help in pushing the project beyond the 75 percent energy savings required by national passive house standards.

1. Modular construction – With building components fabricated in temperature-controlled factories and shipped to the jobsite, modular construction can greatly reduce costs and offer faster speed of installation.

2. Adaptive reuse and repurposing –
Adaptive reuse – where an existing building is repurposed for a use other than its original design – can net huge benefits for cost savings and the environment. For example, when an aging industrial building outlives its initial use, a building such as this can be given a new lease on life and rebuilt into a multifamily development.

3. Shared housing – Shared housing is where unitholders rent individual rooms, be they one or multi-bedroom units, and share spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms which can be ideal for large families or roommates. Amenity spaces are also often provided.

Per Multifamily Executive, “Single-family for rent is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. housing market, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute, which reports that growth in single-family rentals has outpaced the growth of both single-family for-sale and multifamily housing in recent years – and it’s predicted to keep growing in the years ahead.

4. Smaller units – Small units, sometimes referred to as micro-units, offer living spaces around the 300 to 400 square foot mark. They’re often open concept with a bedroom, living and kitchen area separated by a bathroom.

5. Designing with the neighborhood in mind – Public-private partnerships, or P3s, are where governments and the private sector team up to build affordable housing while delivering services to the public at the same time. Libraries and other neighborhood hubs are housed within these projects, which get the benefit of tax subsidies and use of city land while benefiting the area.

6. Mixed-use developments – Mixed use developments, which have commercial spaces such as retail, often grocery stores, on the ground floor, can add economic revitalization to a neighborhood. This type of development can offer both an employment hub and the addition of an attractive element to rejuvenate what may be a lower income neighborhood.

7. Sustainable design – Sustainable design may add to up-front costs, but can offer costs savings over the life cycle of the building. This doesn’t just apply to new construction. Many older affordable housing buildings are in need of repair. This presents an opportunity for property managers to renovate the building with an eye to adding efficiency measures such as upgrading hardware or the building envelope to reduce operating costs. These costs can also greatly benefit unitholders who need it the most, with the prospect of lower utility bills.

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