5 high-density housing concepts

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High-density developments have grown in popularity in recent years. Professional Builder’s House Review design team presents five cutting-edge concepts.

February 24, 2012

The mere mention of high-density housing can stir a range of emotions. Residents near a proposed project often assume higher-density development will have a negative impact on their neighborhood. As a result, it’s often difficult to gain approval from local planning and zoning boards.

However, in many communities, residents are taking a far different attitude toward high-density housing when they see projects that have been thoughtfully designed to become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. Although this change in attitude is partially due to economic conditions, it’s important to understand that a growing number of buyers truly find higher-density housing appealing. This is especially the case with well-designed projects located in walkable neighborhoods and communities.

Of course, the term high-density housing is hard to define. Each community has its own interpretation of the term. This is evident in the concepts featured in this month’s House Review report. The following concepts range from detached cottages at 13 units per acre to an innovative mid-rise design at 40 units per acre.

1. Bungalow Court


Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD





Density: 13.4 units/acre

Site width: 150 feet

Site depth: 130 feet

Plan LWG-635-CP

Living area: 635 sf

Width: 18 feet

Depth: 36 feet

Plan LWG-983-CP

Living area: 983 sf

Width: 18 feet

Depth: 36 feet

Bungalow courts were the dominant multi-family dwelling type built in Southern California in the early 1900s. Grouped around a common courtyard, these cottages blended beautifully within neighborhoods of larger single-family homes. 

Reminiscent of these delightful historic projects, this concept features 635- to 1,050-square-foot homes that provide privacy while at the same time promote a sense of community. They are ideal for buyers who either can’t afford a traditional single-family home or simply desire a home with less upkeep.


2. Senior Rentals


Donald F. Evans, AIA

The Evans Group





One bed/one bath units: 627 sf

Two bed/one bath units: 932 sf

Density: 40 units/acre

The location of this tax-credit housing has instant appeal for the area’s senior market because of its proximity to the workforce housing of their family members in this area; nearby amenities include churches and shopping. But price and location alone will not attract renters, therefore, these apartment homes were created with a strong design identity and security. The exteriors feature a tropical resort feel with the use of bright colors and metal roofing, a look not often synonymous with senior, rental, or tax-credit housing. The resort lifestyle of the community is further accentuated by the numerous amenities, including a clubhouse/library, computer lab, exercise room, laundry facilities, mail kiosk, swimming pool, shuffleboard court, picnic pavilion, and a playground for visiting grandchildren.

The apartment homes are arranged in a spoke design around a completely secure courtyard featuring mature landscaping, fountains, and outdoor gathering areas for residents to mingle. This mid-rise design exudes elegance and charm, offering one- and two-bedroom apartment homes with distinct and unique floor plans, complete with elevator access, private entries, washer/dryer connection, ceiling fans, cable-ready hook-ups, fully equipped kitchens, spacious closets, and mini blinds throughout, as well as a monitored alarm system in every unit with emergency call buttons in every bedroom.

This community challenges the belief — widely accepted in the industry — that high-density, infill, subsidized rental housing can’t be safe, affordable, stylish, and comfortable.


3. Minturn, Colorado Plan

High-density means different things to different people. In this case, we maximized the density of a site in Minturn, Colo. The builder’s pro forma required three homes to make this deep, narrow site work financially. The footprint had to be minimized, so the concept was developed to include two stacked flats (one over garage space, the other over a live/work office) and a two-story home.


Todd Hallett, AIA, CAPS

TK Design and Architecture





Unit A

Living area: 1,267 sf

Live/work area: 676 sf

Porches: 120 sf

Unit B

Living area: 1,951 sf

Porches: 75 sf

Unit C

Living area: 1,892 sf

Porches: 140 sf



4. Heron’s Nest


Rick Garza

RPGA Design Group Inc.





Living area: 2,217 sf

Porches: 182 sf

Garage: 508 sf

Width: 31 feet

Depth: 78 feet, 10 inches

Heron’s Nest was designed to capture the feel and authenticity of a single-family home within a higher-density environment, and to also include views of the golf course.


5. Capitol Park


Richard Handlen, AIA, LEED AP

EDI International Inc.





Plan 2 (of four typical plans)

First floor: 504 sf

Second floor: 1,017 sf

Third floor: 575 sf

64 single-family detached units

Three of the four plans have optional commercial/residential units on the first floor

The concept for this urban infill project was driven by the need for density and the market resistance to attached product. The solution is a community that achieves the townhouse density of 17 units per acre with single-family homes.

To accomplish this, the existing infrastructure of roads and alleys was utilized to its fullest potential and the houses were spaced as little as 2 feet apart. All front doors face either the streets or the gentrified alleys, thereby eliminating the need for new roads and continuing the neighborhood contacts. The homes have rear-facing private garages that ring secure mid-block motor courts accessed off the alleys.

The separation of the homes, while minimal, gives each owner full control of their single-family home, which would be lacking in a condo project. The separation also avoids the liability of sound issues common with attached units. The spaces between the homes are fenced at either end and utilized only for maintenance.


Read past House Review reports at www.HousingZone.com/HouseReview.


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