Gen Y is coming. And, according to studies and a lot of anecdotal evidence, they want to be near the action.
“This generation wants to live where the amenities are,” said Rohit Anand, a principal with Irvine, Calif.-based architectural firm KTGY Group. “The amenity is the city.”
The problem is it’s expensive to live in the city. With entry-level salaries, it may be tough for echo boomers to live near the urban core. While it’s tough to totally build for the Gen Yer’s budget, Anand and his fellow architects on the “Size Matters: Inside the Smaller, More Efficient Apartment of the Future” panel are certainly trying.
Their main method of giving this new generation of renter their apartment in the city is rather simple. They’re building smaller apartment. Anand made the point by showing two properties he designed in the Washington, D.C., area. One property, built in 2009, was around 850 square feet. Another, built in 2011, was about 600 square feet—a significant drop.
But Anand cautioned that developers and architects needed to look beyond just reducing the size of these units and think about where the bedroom is placed, the open space, and the kitchen. “If you are rethinking the project, it’s not just rethinking the size,” he said. “You have to completely rethink the product.”
Studios and one-bedrooms were at the top of the list of products to rethink. Anand said he had designed a studio at only 368 square feet. Using a screen to separate their sleeping area, a renter could afford a unit of about $1,000 a month near Washington, D.C.
In California, the small apartment market may be even more nature than what’s in Washington, D.C. Daniel Gehman, principal with Los Angeles-based TCA Architects, will be adding to that though with an adaptive reuse project at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles that could serve as a model for future development. Thirty percent of the units in the 478-unit project are studios and each floor has a cluster 375-square foot “micro loft” units, with kitchenettes, grouped together in the corner. If a resident needs a full kitchen or living room, there is community living room and full kitchen for those units.
“They’re [the residents] one step up from dorm life,” Gehman says. “The units small enough that you don’t need a roommate.”
Moderator Mark Humphreys, CEO of Dallas-based Humphreys and Partners Architects, shared his e-Max product which has density of 62 to 70 units per acres and is 87 percent efficient by cutting out hallway space. The unit sizes, at 593 and 737 square feet are smaller than his past units, but not as cramped as Gehman’s micro lofts.
Technological advances have helped Humphreys reduce space. For instance, being able to mount a flat screen to the wall is a huge space saver. “With the advent of the flat screen, we’re throwing out our old idea of the 12-foot wide living room,” he says.
But there are some things that need to stay the same size. “Bathrooms cannot be shrunk because of fair housing,” Anand says.
Michael Ytterberg, a principal with Philadelphia based BLT Architects, said that even with the focus on units, developers can’t forget about the fitness center, pool, and community rooms with kitchens. “Everyone wants up-to-date kitchens and baths, technology, and green features,” he said.
Humphreys agrees, suggesting amenities like juice bars, billiards tables, and video game areas get a lot of use in a community populated with Gen Yers. “With echo boomers you need to beef up the amenities,” he says.