USA Today recently posted this article about how popular small, single occupant apartment rentals (Micro Apartments) have become in urban centers across the US. We will be building our “My Micro NY” Micro Apartment building in Manhattan in 2014 and thought you might enjoy hearing how those outside New York have embraced the case for small footprint living.
Mini-apartments are the next big thing in U.S. cities
Could you live in a single-car garage? That’s about the size of tiny apartments popping up in major U.S. cities where many residents live alone. Inhabitants say the key is keeping only stuff you use.
NEW YORK — When Gil Blattner hired a housekeeper for his elegant apartment with 12-foot ceilings, tall windows and marble fireplace mantle, the woman looked at the living room and asked, “Where’s the rest of it?”
There was no more. She’d seen all 250 square feet of his cocoon, located on a tony, tree-lined street in Chelsea near restaurants, art galleries and bookstores. His monthly rent: $2,500.
“It’s all that I need,” says Blattner, 29, who moved in last year. “I feel very happy when I’m in this space,” he says.”The name of the game is being selective about what you hold onto. It’s helped me stay away from being a hoarder.”
Though tiny has long been typical in Manhattan, mini-apartments are popping up in more U.S. cities where land is finite, downtowns have regained cachet and rents have risen. In a digital age when library-sized book collections can be kept on a hand-held device, more Americans see downsizing as not only feasible but also economical and eco-friendly.
How small? Many anti-McMansions — also known as “aPodments,” “micro-lofts,” “metro suites” or “sleeping rooms” — are about 300 square feet, which is slightly larger than a single-car garage and one-eighth the size of the average new U.S. single-family home (also shrinking in recent years).
City officials often welcome this mini-sizing, which is common in Tokyo and many European capitals, as a smart-growth, lower-priced solution to a housing phenom: people living alone. Nationwide, the share of households occupied by a single person reached 27% in 2010, up from 8% in 1940 and 18% in 1970. The number exceeds 40% in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, according to Census data.
In Seattle, which has led the nation with hundreds of dorm-like “sleeping rooms” as minuscule as 150 square feet, a backlash has taken hold. Boardinghouse-style buildings have replaced single-family homes in residential neighborhoods, prompting complaints by neighbors about parking problems, transiency and fire-safety hazards. Officials have responded by drafting building rules they’ll publish this summer.
“It’s an accelerating trend in the industry, especially where space is at a premium,” says Ryan Severino, senior economist at New York-based research firm Reis. “You’re seeing an urban renaissance,” he says, adding Millennials (typically younger than 30) are drawn to cities where they can both work and socialize.
They’ll sacrifice space for ‘”quality” location, says Doug Bibby, chief executive of the National Multi-Housing Council, a trade group, noting apartments overall are getting smaller. He says young city dwellers manage with less room by renting rather than buying stuff. “They rent everything,” he says — Zipcars, even wedding dresses.
Mini-sizing “is not a fad,” says John Infranca, assistant law professor at Suffolk University in Boston who’s studied projects in New York, Washington, Denver, Austin and Seattle. He expects demand for tiny apartments will continue as more people, young and old, live alone. Yet he says building codes — often requiring larger units — were set decades ago when households were bigger and haven’t kept pace with “radical” demographic shifts.
Boston, Chicago and other U.S. cities are experimenting with change:
•In the Big Apple, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who once lived in a studio for nearly a decade — launched a micro-housing pilot project of 55 units that range from 250 to 370 square feet. The city usually requires apartments be at least 400 square feet.
•San Francisco, where new studio apartments rent for at least $2,400 monthly, recently approved a trial run of 375 micro-units as small as 220 square feet. In September, Berkeley-based developer Patrick Kennedy plans to begin building 120 units, each about 270 square feet, with rents starting at $1,800.
•In Austin, where rents are soaring as the population booms, the city’s first affordable downtown housing project in more than 45 years breaks ground this week. It will be a complex of 135 studios, each 400 square feet. “We have Texas-sized micro-housing,” says Walter Moreau of Foundation Committees, a non-profit group shepherding the project.
Developers say they can’t build micro-housing fast enough.
“We don’t do any advertising, and we’re 100% occupied all the time,” says Jim Potter, manager of Seattle-based Footprint Investments. He’s finished six buildings, each with 40 to 60 units, in Seattle and is developing similar projects this year in Portland, Ore., Oakland and Jersey City.
“It’s really about price point,” he says, noting his Seattle units with a bed and bathroom but no private kitchen rent for $600 to $900 monthly (including utilities and Wi-Fi) while regular, larger studios start at $1,200.
“There’s a substantial waiting list,” says Evan Granoff, who has redeveloped the historic 1828 Arcade building in Providence to include 48 micro-lofts as small as 225 square feet. He says the units, which will open this summer, are modeled after efficient boat interiors and include built-ins such as a futon that converts into a table for four. “It doesn’t feel cramped at all,” he says.
HOW DO MINI-DWELLERS DO IT?
In Manhattan, where many itsy-bitsy apartments were either built before the current size requirements or illegally subdivided, residents speak with a bit of bravado about their space-saving savvy.
“We don’t necessarily look at them as mini-apartments, but as standard, live-in-New York apartments,” says real estate agent Jason Saft.
“I lived in about 250 square feet for five years. You really learn how to make it work,” he says, recalling how he once held a dinner party for 10 and even cooked all the food in his tiny kitchen.
Changing the ceiling height or flooring materials in different areas can make a studio feel larger, says Donald Albrecht,curator of the Museum of the City of New York. The museum’s “Making Room” exhibit features a full-size, 325-square-foot studio with tricked-out furniture such as an ottoman containing four nesting chairs, a fold-out dining table tucked under the kitchen counter and a TV that slides away to reveal a bar beneath.
“What’s important about New York is what’s outside your door,” says architect Eric Bunge, who shared a 350-square-foot unit with his wife for five years. He says they spent a lot of time in their East Village neighborhood and, when friends came over, moved seats around to accommodate them.
Bunge, co-partner at the Brooklyn-based nArchitects firm, won Mayor Bloomberg’s adAPT NYC design competition for the city’s micro-housing experiment, which is directed at low- and middle-income residents. His units have built-in storage, 10-foot ceilings and 8-foot windows that open onto a Juliet balcony.
“The whole building is your home,” says Mimi Hoang, Bunge’s co-partner, citing communal areas such as dens, rooftop terrace, fitness room and bike storage. She says the project, which will be built as prefabricated modules, aims to break ground before Bloomberg leaves office in January 2014.
Severino, who has a 3,300-square foot house in New Jersey, says he and his wife had a “good experience” living in a 450-square-foot Manhattan apartment for three years when they were younger. Yet he adds, “It was nice to move back to the suburbs. I have to admit, I like my space.”
‘NOT FOR EVERYONE’
So do a lot of people.
Though environmentalists say density can reduce pollution per person, some Seattle residents oppose micro-housing as “density on steroids.” They say the lilliputian units cause crowding in already congested neighborhoods and the month-to-month leases don’t encourage people to put down roots.
Also, opponents say developers circumvent a design review process that entails community input. No such review is needed for projects with a limited number of units, and Seattle allows each unit to house up to eight unrelated people if it has a communal kitchen and living quarters for each.
“It’s a severe bending of the rules,” says retired resident Bill Bradburd, adding one residential lot can house 64 residents without any parking spaces./REALLY? Seattle doesn’t require ANY parking for such a development? dk/wk: in certain areas, no He says he favors affordable units of about 400 square feet but says these units often charge more, per square foot, than regular apartments.
Seattle planning official Bryan Stevens says the city, which has permitted 28 such projects since 2008 and has 17 more under review, has responded by drafting rules that would require a public design review for each building.
Potter, the Seattle developer, says his micro-product provides an affordable option without government subsidy.
“It’s not for everyone,” he says. “This is intended for people who are busy and want a place to sleep and take a shower.” He says the units attract a mix of people, but the average age is mid-30s.
Joe Rose, 27, a college student, loves his 190-square-foot space that — in his words — is “smaller than a hotel room” and rents for $880 a month. He shares a balcony with a neighbor, cooks in the communal kitchen and, for the first time in his adult life, gave up his car for public transit.
“My father is a buy-everything-gadget guy. I’m the opposite,” he says. “I’m very minimalist.”
Cars are built in a controlled environment and are customized to meet the end-user’s needs and requirements. At Capsys, with our Greenflex residence hall system we apply the same concepts!
We start with the basics; what are the student housing requirements, what does the school need and when do they need it?
We go to the next step; what is the culture and what are the features we need to incorporate into the Greenflex system?
We finalize a plan; let’s combine the requirements, the schedule, the culture, the features and of course the budget.
A plan is born; All this done and the Greenflex design becomes unique but budget and schedule conscience!
We get it done! That’s the end result, the Greenflex system from Capsys gets the job done! No need to worry about where the students are going and what the cost is, let’s do it together with this innovative Greenflex system! It’s built to your needs, based upon your budget and on your schedule!
Public/Private Residence Hall construction is a fast growing trend in the academic world. Below is a link to a New York Times article about this trend. Our non-combustible modular construction system is the perfect solution for providing precision-built, green and sustainable residence halls while minimizing campus disruption by using our system that reduces construction times by 50%
Our friends a Building Design+Construction magazine do a great job and we recommend that you keep up with their highly informative website and magazine. The article linked her is entitled: “Rental Renaissance, The Rebirth of the Apartment Market”. It details how the Rental Market is finally starting to pick back up since the 2008 collapse of the entire housing market. It’s definitely recommended reading.
Safety and efficient response will always be paramount in fire safety. Getting occupants to a safe area and allowing dedicated professionals to effectively extinguish fires and other hazards are number one!
Capsys is engaging in thorough research and study to increase the efficacy of passive methods for ensuring this. Sprinkler systems are a highly effective active protection measure, but not the only one. We must spur innovative passive measures and research to provide for safer and more safety.
The International Code Council (ICC) will in early November, be finalizing choices for inclusion in the new International Green Construction Code (IgCC) which will be available in 2012 for adoption by various states, municipalities or any jurisdiction charged with adopting regional building codes. The following article is an interview with Allan Bilka, RA who is a Senior Staff Architect with the ICC and is the Secretariat to the IgCC working in the ICC’s Chicago office. The new IgCC will offer choices and tradeoffs toward accomplishing the goal of supporting safe and sustainable buildings including for the first time whole building life cycle assessment. Capsys, as a leader in green / sustainable modular construction whole-heartedly welcomes IgCC. Read the interview and see a little of what’s in store for future construction.
This month, we came across an excellent article by Nancy B. Solomon, AIA that was first published in the July/August 2011 issue of GreenSource magazine and is now located on-line at the GreenSource website. We are providing a link to the article below.
The article, entitled Code Green reviews several recent attempts byCities, states, and national organizations who are working to establish minimum, enforceable sustainable construction requirements to complement—not replace—highly popular above-code incentive programs such as USGBC’s LEED certification program. The article describes the process behind such newly implemented codes as:
The California Green Building Standards Code, or the CALGreen
The Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code
New York City’s attempt to review the existing code and recommend advances that would advance sustainable construction by asking the Urban Green Council to establish a task force to that end,
ASHRAE Standard 189.1 “Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,”
NYSERDA and PSC has begun distributing from a $150 Million fund to pay for up to 50% of the cost of large-scale Solar and Biogas Power projects for private businesses who are large users of Electricity in NYC and Westchester County.
Earlier this year, NYSERDA launched the $150 million program encouraging large businesses, especially manufacturing facilities; colleges and universities; schools; and other large buildings to take advantage of renewable energy incentives specifically for New York City and the lower the Hudson Valley. The incentives are for large-scale photovoltaic and biogas power initiatives. NYSERDA will award up to $30 million each year, of which $25 million is targeted for New York City or southern Westchester County. The idea is to promote more clean-energy production in a part of the state that traditionally has been a large consumer of fossil fuels. The projects are meant to produce power for on-site use, not for direct sale to utilities. Under certain circumstances, however, unused power can be added to the grid in exchange for future utility credit. The NYSERDA incentive pays up to 50 percent of the cost of a project, up to $3 million. PV systems are also eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit and a 25 percent state tax credit.
For more information on this program you may click on the following link.
US Department Of Energy is leading a new research program to reduce the cost of solar power generation to a commercial equivelant of one dollar per watt generated by 2017 and to make Solar power less expensive than fossil fuels by 2020. The link below leads to a good article about this research and process.