The MFECC plan put extra thought into flexibility so it would be relevant to any demographic in any life stage.
SOM The MFECC plan put extra thought into flexibility so it would be relevant to any demographic in any life stage.

Reflecting on the past year, the Multifamily Executive Concept Community project has included countless experiences that have pushed me as a sustainability and real estate professional. While every discussion served as a catalyst for another, there are certain ideas we'll continue to explore at AMLI, and others that piqued my interest personally.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the project:

1. Multigenerational Housing Requires Flexibility
The floor-plan studies completed by our partner on the project, architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), are pushing to find market-ready solutions that enable all generations to adapt as their families age. More flexibility means that families are more likely to stay and enjoy the benefits of urban, multifamily housing, with homes growing and adapting just like the families that inhabit them.

2. Buildings Can Enhance Public Health
Organizations such as the Center for Active Design, Delos, and the Living Future Institute understand that buildings and infrastructure offer subtle and often silent cues for day-to-day habits that affect an individual’s health—and the overall public’s health, as well.

To address some of the key issues in public health today, we included a design that encouraged residents to take the stairs rather than rely on elevators. Additionally, we reduced the size of the residential units and repurposed the additional square footage in centralized, “community” spaces every three floors. These features encourage more physical activity and enhance the feeling of community among residents.

3. Timber Is Becoming a Taller Player
Mass timber is being explored and implemented in high-rises for the benefits of less energy use in production and faster construction. Many building codes don’t currently permit wood as an option in high-rise construction, but new advances in technology are beginning to change such restrictions.

The MFECC team chose a timber frame for the project for the sustainability benefits and the advanced speed of construction.
SOM The MFECC team chose a timber frame for the project for the sustainability benefits and the advanced speed of construction.

4. Sustainability Isn't Just for Millennials
The sustainability rage is often associated with the millennial generation, but surveys and apartment dwelling statistics show an increased interest from other generations, as well, particularly baby boomers. Embracing generations beyond millennials is important in ensuring sustainability for all.

5. Modular Is on the Move
Whether it’s modular kitchen and bathroom combos or apartment walls, modular construction is gaining momentum. Benefits include lower construction costs, faster construction schedules, and efficient energy and material usage, factors that are becoming even more attractive as labor costs rise.

6. Cost Matters
In keeping with the intent of the study, with the Concept Community we wanted to find real-life solutions for real-life sustainability problems. We realized such an approach also incurs real-life costs, so we asked Walsh Construction to complete a cost analysis, which enabled both AMLI and SOM to understand the economic hurdles involved in the project's design. Through that process, we knew a development–design team could collaborate to find savings and efficiencies to make a concept like this project a reality.

7. Collaboration Is Key
Strong partnerships between architects and developers can lead the multifamily industry to greener, healthier buildings. Collaborating often and early in the design process is key to ensuring that goals are clear and that roadblocks are identified soon enough to be overcome.

During the Concept Community exercise, we leveraged every area of expertise within AMLI, SOM, Walsh, and several health and sustainability organizations. Without this collaborative approach, we wouldn't have been able to maximize project synergies while minimizing our costs.

8. We Need to Design Beyond Today, Inside and Out
Apartment units have great benefits when designed for flexibility, but the areas beyond the individual units also influence the value of a development—to residents, investors, and the neighboring community.

A key element of the 2018 Concept Community is the availability of parking and transportation. The future of single-use vehicles, autonomous cars, ride sharing, and expanded public-transit networks is uncertain, but what is certain is that the transportation picture is changing—quickly! With the CC, we designed the parking deck to accommodate a grocery store and an urban garden while affording it the adaptability to add solar features or an additional community space in the future.

9. Multipurpose Balconies Rock!

SOM designed balconies that could act as a thermal buffer during cold months.
SOM SOM designed balconies that could act as a thermal buffer during cold months.

The CC project was actually a redesign of AMLI's existing AMLI 900 Clark in Chicago, and it included many enticing features, but my personal favorite is the balcony design.

In order to better connect with nature, the new design, AMLI 900+, includes a balcony with green space at each unit. However, it also serves two additional purposes: Windows on the balcony allow for fresh, natural ventilation, and since balconies won’t be utilized as much in the winter due to the extreme temperatures in Chicago, it’s designed to be a thermal “buffer” that improves energy efficiency and comfort for the building. Win-win-Win!

10. There Are Endless Opportunities Ahead
AMLI and SOM have only scratched the surface on sustainable, health-focused multifamily design with the 2018 MFE Concept Community. With budgets big or small, developers and architects can include building features that will change the health and wellness of the residents, community, and neighborhood in which a building resides. We have an opportunity and an obligation to save the world, one building at a time.

Review the rest of the design, engineering, and thought processes behind the 2018 Multifamily Executive Concept Community at