The Great American Dream - Garage Space

The garage - once a humble, inconspicuous space - has become the latest industry battleground for builders and architects alike.

By By Donald F. Evans, AIA | April 28, 2000
Don Evans, AIA, is founder and president of The Evans Group, an architectural and planning firm headquartered in Orlando, that has built an award-winning reputation as one of the most diverse firms in the country.


The garage - once a humble, inconspicuous space - has become the latest industry battleground for builders and architects alike. Just as the car has become the latest symbol of competitive affluence in American culture, the garage has become the symbol of home owning and home building. To understand just how overwhelming this phenomenon is, letÆs examine the numbers.

In one generation, the average family size has decreased 20 percent while our homes have grown by a whopping 50 percent. Homes with 11/2 baths have given way to three baths. Kitchens have grown - although no one wants to cook. And in 1989, 10% of American homes boasted three-car garages. By 1998 that number had grown to 16%, and now over 30% of households have 3-car garages. The benchmark is now being set by the percentage of homes with a four-car plus garage space. And if those numbers arenÆt mind-boggling enough, NAHB researchers predict a sharp rise in these percentages.


The flexibility of this plan allows for as many as six cars, or provides a space for a wood shop or even indoor sports court.


For the forty-, fifty- and sixtysomething buyers that are enjoying life and chanting the mantra that "they deserve the best," wallowing in garage space is an affordable extravagance. Most of these four-car garages wonÆt actually be full of cars, but they offer space and square footage available for mass customization at an inexpensive price per square foot. Their uses vary from the Florida "basement" for much needed storage, for a Harley Davidson or wood working shop for Dad. The uses are endless, and the garage becomes the flex space that meets the needs of our ever-changing lifestyles. Although this trend is partly driven by practicalities, many believe it has more to do with bragging rights and keeping up with the Joneses. Who knew?


Although this Tucson, Arizona builder may not sell a six-car garage with every house, the much-touted option draws the curious to his models.


Where is this trend going to lead us? Will we be forced to practice garage architecture once again? WonÆt a four-, five- or even six-car garage destroy the streetscape and the community? No! The featured solutions prove that gigantic garages wonÆt harm the community.

1) The first example, a 6600 square-foot home in Orlando, provides an alternative solution with a two-plus-two configuration that can be easily converted to a three-plus-three, offering either a four-car or six-car garage. The plan can also flex to move the guest suite backward and allow a four-car tandem configuration on the house side, providing extra space without cluttering the streetscape with garage doors.

2) This home in Tucson, Arizona appeals to the Midwest buyer suffering from culture shock when unable to find the basement. The builder set his homes apart from the large national builders by offering two-, four, and six-car garages.


This Florida garage belies its five-car capability with only one wide, side-entry door.


By providing a veranda and porte cochere on the front of the home and moving the garage to the back of the lot with the addition of a motor court, this 1978 square-foot home boasts 1374 square feet of garage, plus an attractive fatade devoid of garage doors. A sliding glass door leads to the backyard/pool area, allowing the garage to serve as more than just a place to park cars.

3) This preliminary design sketch of a 3190 square-foot, single-family model on the east coast of Florida, includes a five-car, side-entry garage with only one 168 wide door. From the street, one canÆt tell if it is a typical two-car garage or this impressive five-car solution.

4) The builder of this 3500 square-foot model home in Washington, D.C. needed an edge to compete with very large nationwide builders that only build a maximum of a four-car garage. The plan boasts the option of expanding the rear garage to a four-car tandem.


Designed for a Virginia-based builder, this 3500 square foot home banks on its garage space to make it competitive.


Remember that for three-quarters of all Americans, owning a home is still the Great American Dream, the newest symbol of which is the garage. And as dream merchants, we are responsible for developing four- and six-car garage solutions that will fit into todayÆs neighborhoods.

Where will this trend end? The auto industry can give us many clues as to what to expect, and with the prevalence of SUVs, some of which are two cars in one, maybe four- and six-car garages arenÆt enough! Only time will tell!


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