Elevate your architecture

Multi-family housing


A selection of multi-family housing types

These images show how we are formulating ideas and concepts for housing. As your architect, we don't deliver a building to you, that is what the contractor does. We provide a design service, and we will explain our design process here. We focus on the sensitivity to the existing site conditions, minimizing grading, and making desirable places to live. Our design approach differs from the status quo approach of using stucco and mission tile throughout.


The benefit there is in increasing the desirability and identity. Individual housing on fee simple real estate lots command higher than median market rate prices. We see that for many valid reasons which can be used for multi-family housing. The older neighborhoods tend to have higher resale prices whereas the monotony of the cloned tract housing is less attractive. On single-family lots we would provide the ability, for each homeowner on a separate lot, to add on, for example, a room addition or be able to paint their house the way they want it and give them the liberties of single family ownership which are not present in the status quo homeowners association tracts.


The dream of single-family home ownership for many is to be freed from the landlord, to be free from someone who has authority over what they can do with their home. Therein is the appeal to the buyer of autonomy. This recapitulates an older type of planning in which over the years each owner is free to add a story if the zoning laws change. The current paradigm is that home ownership regulations in homeowners associations put ownership into a time capsule which does not allow for individual expression and prohibits an investment from being capitalized on and increased, for example in floor area.


Among the many problems with status quo single-family tract housing approach is again, that we are not providing sufficient natural space around the home to be perceived and occupied with adequate space for personal lifestyle amenities. The side yards become an issue of privacy. They are too close together. Sound can be heard from neighboring windows. In the fee simple neighborhoods, this is not the case. In fee simple real estate the side yards are typically more extensive. In the status quo tracts, the side yards are minimized, and the housing is too big for the lots. So this becomes what we call the obesity of single-family housing, where the housing is just too fat for the lots. For the Multifamily housing, we are looking to capitalize on the value of having light and air from both sides of the unit. This is a strategy used in older multifamily housing and we are bringing that back. It allows the occupant to capitalize on the unique microclimate that is specific to the coastal region. Only within 2 miles of the coast line in this particular location are you able to go through almost the entire year without climate control if the floor plan is arranged to provide light and air from 2 sides. By having light and air on both sides of a multifamily unit it allows the occupant to open windows on both sides of the unit and draw air through the unit. The result eliminates the need for air conditioning almost entirely. In this climate zone, it can be nearly a net zero air conditioning bill.


When a realtor presents the units to potential buyers they can say this unit comes with substantial energy savings and requires minimal use of air conditioning. Another part of the energy savings is in having light on both sides of the unit minimizes, almost entirely, the dependence on artificial illumination. This is another savings. The quality of natural light is a more balanced spectrum and it becomes more attractive when looking at the ambiance and feel of the unit making it more desirable. In status quo multifamily a hallway runs the length of the building and the units are backed to the hallway. That is known as a double loaded corridor or double loaded hallway. Our proposal has a single loaded exterior terrace to circulate which allows the building construction costs to drop significantly. A big portion of what we look for in terms of efficiencies is the minimization of interior circulation. Interior circulation has to be climate controlled and monitored with security cameras. It becomes a home owners association cost and a higher first cost for construction. The exterior circulation reduces the initial capital outlay and maximizes the gains.


Volume creates an experience in most single family dwellings with cathedral ceilings, and this appeals to buyers. Realtors will sell the multi-family units with higher ceilings as an amenity, so floor space is not the only aspect which generates desirability, revenue, and a shorter time to market. The approach for us is to vary the volumes through the use of higher ceilings and to use loft floor plates on the upper levels. The first and second-floor plates of most of the multifamily housing blocks will be for the most part similar. Another option we are offering in the floor plates are the 2 story loft units. Lofts can be one story or two stories or considered a mezzanine to the floor below. The benefit with the loft is it allows flexibility in the floor plan, and it doesn’t limit it to a particular known type. It allows more freedom to design for the needs of a dynamic market. Through invention and a creative approach we also look to capitalize on the return on the investment. The specific design approach here is to step away from the creation of storage buildings where as many people as possible are fit into a floor. Our approach takes a sensitive direction in responding to the specific site conditions and the particular desires of the buyer. We have observed that there is a saturation of housing product on the market in the form of mission tile and stucco. We find no shortage of that thoughtless approach and see an opportunity for our single loaded units with natural light, air, terraces, and volume.


The floor plates terrace back. We offer an extensive area of terrace for the premium units, far more than the status quo can provide with the typical hotel style balcony. The terracing creates something that is missing in multifamily housing. In status quo multifamily housing the buyer doesn't get to have a yard of their own, no space for pets, no landscaping. If any of these amenities are provided in multifamily housing, they are shared and often unused and become an underutilized cost burdened. The terracing successively steps back the massing of the building. With each floor plate becoming smaller it allows the use of the roof from the floor below to be utilized as an exterior terrace for the floor above. Drain tile is used which is a durable walking surface. On the terrace, the buyer can let their pets out and grow an herb garden. The possible uses of the terrace are up to the individual and offer freedom and the liberty to do what they want with their purchase. What people are buying represents the largest portion of their income, larger than any other individual expense. Offering them something with higher desirability leads to a greater return, lower vacancies, and shorter time to market. This specific design approach is about right-mindedness, integrity, and being rewarded for that.


This development will require a planned unit development process which means the zoning regulations are up for negotiation in proportion to some extent with what we offer as a public amenity. The public amenity is an exchange for increased height limits and densities. There are also density bonuses available from the state. We are considering offering within the riparian buffer a nature trail with amenities such as a fitness course. By providing the public an amenity, it gives them access to a nature trail to walk along the slough. We would negotiate with the parks and trails engineer, and the planners to construct what they find would be a public amenity. The benefit in doing this is there is already a riparian buffer where we can't build, so there is no tangible net loss of buildable area. The public amenity would be negotiated to increase density levels or increase the height limit which would allow us to put in a mezzanine or loft floor level. By working with the planners through a more intelligent way of doing things we find that we have more flexibility and more acceptance from city planning and the community because we are making the city a better place. Where we get resistance from the community is the typical thoughtless approach with no right-mindedness to making this a better place in the city. The tradeoff becomes increasing the public good, aesthetic value, and access to nature. The goal is in meeting these desires that planning has been aiming for, meeting the desires that the community has conveyed to parks and recreation, and in working with the desires identified in the general city plans and specific plans for the area. By meeting or exceeding these community values, we can approach the planned unit development process and be met with far less resistance. Our interests are in creating a situation of mutual exchange of mutual benefit for the city, for the buyers, and the investors.


We want to avoid a row of garage doors facing the street. We want to address the street through visibility into communal areas to reduce crime and reduce the sense of fear. Once you know that your neighbors can see the street, there is a sense that the community comes together to make for safer multifamily housing. There is also an aesthetic consideration. When you have all garage doors along the front or tuck under parking, it creates a vehicle base environment in conflict with the desires to have families with children at play. A popular planning agenda is street closures where people can promenade, and in residential areas, we want to slow traffic for children, have enough green space for children to play and to have pet-friendly communities. Many people are deeply attached to their pets, and in creating a pet-friendly community, there is higher resale value. One of the benefits of ownership should be that you don’t have a landlord that prevents you from having pets. People find that pets are a rewarding part of their lives and a substantial benefit to ownership.