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The Future of Amenity Spaces

As our world expands and evolves, the amenities in multi-family spaces must also advance to keep residents entertained, productive, and healthy. The way we live, and work has forever changed since the pandemic, and we must keep up with the new standard of multi-family living in conjunction with societal needs. Studies show that a whopping one in eight people in the United States are living in multi-family communities and the demand for these buildings has reached an all-time high.

According to projections from a study commissioned by the National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), many cities, including our very own Washington, DC, will need over a half million new units built within the next 13 years. The team at Hartman Design Group is ready and eager to be part of the evolution of multi-family living.

Our Founder and CEO, Phyllis Hartman, is weighing in on what to expect from the future of amenities and what we are doing as a business to rise above the competition.

What changes are currently being implemented into multi-family amenity spaces that differ from those pre-pandemic, and how does this affect the interior and architectural design?

The lifestyle shift to remote work began prior to COVID and is now a solid sociological change.  Residents expect that developers will provide convenient, comfortable, functional, beautiful, and healthy work area in the common spaces of apartment buildings. Some of the features include podcast and “Zoom” rooms, work lounges, conference rooms and communal tables-all with accessible power.

We are also designing outdoor spaces for remote working with covered pavilions and power.  Work from anywhere and the blur of work and play is the way people live today.

A building that feels and is healthy is critical to residents, especially since COVID.  Indoor air quality and a strong connection to nature has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  We achieve this through thoughtful material selections, views of nature, and open fenestration that allows the interior to fully connect to the exterior.

Social amenities are high on residents list of expectations including convenient package delivery and pick up; prepared food delivery and pick up locations; cold storage for grocery delivery; pet spas; bike storage.  Residents value time over money and want every amenity that allows them to have more time for the things they love to do.

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Lighting Your Way to Excellent Design

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Lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when designing any space, and this important tool is continually evolving. Meeting the requirements of the state, county and national regulations, as well as the electrical engineer’s energy model, necessitates the evaluation of our client’s needs on a grand scale.  This evaluation must balance many factors including budget, aesthetics and energy efficiency.

Though the first cost is still considerably more than conventional fluorescent and incandescent luminaires, LED lighting is the way to achieve both the low wattage requirements and the appealing effect. With this in mind, a realistic approach to the lighting budget is important. Considering that the savings over time will well outweigh the initial cost, LED lighting is an investment that pays off.

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Not only will the cost of electricity be substantially lower, the greatly reduced labor (to re-lamp) and bulb replacement expense quickly help to recoup the initial cash outlay. Additionally, when renovating a building, consider the many retrofits LED lamps on the market. There could be no need to replace light fixtures and Pepco rebates may well be applicable. Whether using retrofit lamps for a renovation or new construction, choosing the right color temperature and rendition is critical to setting the mood and obtaining the desired ambiance. For calm, relaxing spaces, consider using soft, warm lights with orange and yellow hues (2700K or warmer). For a room that is intended to be livelier, like a fitness center, a slightly cooler temperature (3000 or 3100K) is ideal. The color rendition of 80 or higher is recommended for the best color interpretation.

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To create the mood, many different types of lighting fixtures are required. Downlights provide general lighting and pooling of light on the floor, accent lighting is used for special features and art, while sconces and chandeliers are used for additional layering of light as well as decorative elements. The good news is that there are LED lamps for most fixture types today so you can easily achieve the look desired and contribute to the green initiative. If you’re working with an interior design firm, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the mood you wish to create, the budget and required energy efficiency. Your interior designer will know the best way to utilize the natural light coming into the room, and how to properly support that light with general, task, accent, or a combination of all three types of lighting.

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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part II

Multi-Family Renovation: 4 Valuable Questions to Ask Your Team

In our last post, Phyllis shared her insight on a commonly asked question about multi-family renovations: “How much will it cost?” Once the design team has a clear understanding of the project restrictions & goals, they can begin to move forward with planning. Here’s more insight from Phyllis on other commonly asked questions about multi-family renovations.

Question 1: How will you incorporate design & lifestyle trends so that our property is competitive in the marketplace?

Due to social media, generational shifts, and market competition, we have found that design trends are rapidly accelerating. In the past, most owners would contemplate a repositioning when the property or previous renovation was 10 to 12 years old. Today’s residents and prospects shop the competition, are extremely informed and expect the very best for their money. Those properties that are beginning to show wear and suffer from an amenity shortage will most likely see a resident exodus and may have to drop rent pricing to compete. Today’s modern resident wants a lifestyle. As units get smaller, great amenities have become critical. They serve as an extension to the resident’s living space. Buildings that opened 5+ years ago are already behind in the trends. These buildings can be updated by transforming every available space to a resident amenity. Lobbies that were previously designed for visual impact can be turned into a socially active amenity by adding the right kind of furniture and creating intimate seating for groups and singles alike. Adding plug-and-play areas and communal tables will turn a dead lobby into space with a great, active vibe. In today’s rental market, we recommend an evaluation of the common areas after 3 to 4 years. If the design has a timeless appeal, a simple refresh (ie: pillows, accessories, art) may be all that is required. At 6 years, it will most likely be time to deeply evaluate the market trends, the competition, resident expectations, and condition of the finishes.

Question 2: When is the best time to start construction?

March through October is the prime leasing season. To avoid disruption during this time, it is ideal to plan the construction start for the end of October and completed by March or April of the following year.

Question 3: What does the renovation timeline look like?

Whether simple or comprehensive, any kind of refresh or renovation takes time. Every client wants to spend their renovation dollars wisely, so it is important to allow time for the design team to program, design, vet, and budget the renovation. If permits are required, additional time should be allotted. Even a furniture refresh takes time to plan, and in today’s furniture world, it could take from 12 to 16 weeks to procure. For example, HDG designed a renovation on the first floor of Gables Dupont Circle Apartments in Washington, DC. Even though the space was a mere 1,500 square feet, the planning, vetting, budgeting, coordination, permit drawings and construction all took one full year. Capture

Question 4: How to keep residents happy during a renovation?

  • Make it fun! Have the staff wear colorful hard hats.
  • Keep the residents informed of work schedules.
  • Have a kick-off construction party for the residents.
  • Plan for extra services during construction, like coffee and bagels in the morning, then cookies and tea in the afternoon.
  • Display finish boards and renderings to get the residents excited about their new home.
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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part I

Renovation Costs: How to Nail Your Renovation Budget

After over 28 years of business, we’ve found that many of our clients come to us in the beginning stages of a project with many questions about what a multi-family property renovation looks like. To give you a glimpse of our process we sat down with our Hartman Design Group president, Phyllis Hartman, to discuss some of the most commonly asked questions. This will be a multi-part series so stay tuned for part two!

Question 1: How much is the renovation going to cost?

Working within a budget when renovating a space or an entire building is usually the owner’s primary concern, meaning “how much will it cost” is usually the first question we are asked. In order to best help our clients set priorities, as well as create a realistic budget and project structure, our design team must first understand many aspects of the project, asking questions such as:

 

What is ownership expecting to achieve by renovating? For instance, is the building being repositioned from a C to a B, a B to an A, or is the goal to make the property the best B in the marketplace?

Will the renovation involve only finishes and furniture, or will spaces be re-arranged?

How old is the building and what is the current condition? A 5-year-old project may only need a quick furniture refresh, while others that are over 10 years or older may require a complete overhaul to remain competitive in the market.

Can the property compete in the current marketplace?

Are you losing residents or prospects? If so, try to determine if the condition of the interior is a factor. What is being said on social media about the property?

What is the schedule? An accelerated schedule can cost more than following a normal design and construction schedule.

Will the work be phased or completed at one time?  Phasing is usually more costly.

Will building operations need to move to another part of the building during the renovation? It is important to factor this into the budget.

Can the contractors and subs work in the building during normal business hours?

Will there be security concerns during the renovation that may require either additional staffing or cost?

 

In an effort to gain the highest return on investment, we encourage collaborative discussions to determine where the clients can best spend their money. Phasing the design and construction is a great way to spread the budget over several years, though it is important to consider that phasing does add to the total cost, and can be frustrating to residents and prospects. Living or working in a building that is in a state of perpetual construction can be difficult.

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The Meridian at Carlyle located in Alexandria, VA is an example of one of our projects that were finished in phases. Because the building was 12 years old when the repositioning began, the first priorities were the lobby and leasing spaces. The corridors have been phased over four years, and the clubroom was renovated two years after the lobby. This allowed the owner to spread the cost of the renovation over 5 to 6 years.

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