The United States is at a turning point in regards to its housing needs and desires. There is a growing trend in people less apt to own their home and more likely to live in a multi-family building. This trend is not being driven by millennials alone, a large portion of this move consists of baby boomers. For years now we have been seeing Minneapolis explode with apartment buildings. This push is to serve a market that for a long time has been under served but also is accommodating a shift in thinking. At Firm Ground we have been riding this wave.
The big driver of this move it a change in life style. Both millennials and boomers are looking for the same thing. They want to live in vibrant high energy communities with building and neighborhood amenities. People are moving out of their houses to downsize in space and maintenance. Once the kids have moved out many couples are left with large unfilled single-family homes. This change is giving people the option to choose an encore living arrangement. In these new apartment buildings, people are benefiting from on-site exercise facilities, common rooms, pools, roof top decks, and the opportunity to live in an urban location. All these appeal to a broad audience.
The other sector leading the push for apartments is the catered living and memory care facilities. For early baby boomers this is becoming a needed service. One in 10 people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s. With a large portion of the population aging, companies are looking to fill this niche. These facilities are all about adapting to the residents and their specific needs. An important factor in the built environment that we are designing for is around the change in sight. As eyes age they need more light. The best light to provide is natural sun light in a controlled way. The natural light helps aid in circadian rhythm for sleep and alertness during the day.
It is not necessarily a new trend but there is a larger focus on incorporating natural light into the entire building. Some of our current projects are adding clearstory windows to bring light into the center of the building instead of just the perimeter. There have also been advancements in LED technology that can shift light sources throughout the day from a cool blue light in the morning to a warm orange feel in the evening. These subtle changes help reinforce the body’s natural cycle and improve the resident’s health.
With these changing needs and attitudes on housing the American dream is shifting. Owning a piece of property is not seen as a necessity to fulfilled living. It is the environment we live in that is the largest contributing factor and people are putting a higher value on that. While we can’t expect apartments to continue to be built at the same rate they are currently, I think an increased percentage of people will find themselves wanting to live in multi family buildings in more dens environments in the decades to come.
-Jeff Schuler, Project Architect, Partner