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House Review: Multifamily for the Single-Family Builder

House Review

House Review: Multifamily for the Single-Family Builder

For single-family builders that haven’t yet ventured into multifamily, these designs offer an approachable introduction

By Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD, House Review Lead Designer July 28, 2017
The Santa Rosa from EDI International
The front elevation of the Santa Rosa from EDI International shown here has a contemporary look, but a variety of architectural styles can be used to fit any region.
This article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Pro Builder.

Though most single-family builders are currently enjoying a backlog of work, it never hurts to diversify and gain some experience with multifamily housing. Smaller projects, easily scaled to fit a variety of building sites, offer a smooth transition because the builder can rely on the same subcontractors and building techniques.

The following ideas from our Design Team range from an economical townhouse with a single garage to a three-level design that’s ideal for an infill location. Well-conceived designs like these are often welcomed by communities that have become reluctant to approve massive apartment projects. High occupancies, rising rates, and a growing desire for high-quality rental housing may just inspire you to venture into the world of multifamily.

(Click images to enlarge)

Wonderland Townhomes at Superior Town Center

wonderland townhomes AT SUPERIOR TOWN CENTER

Seth Hart
DTJ Design

Width: 25 feet
Depth: 38 feet
Living area: 1,800 sf to 2,000 sf

For most builders, townhomes offer a reasonable transition to the multifamily realm. The construction type is similar enough to single-family detached, and there’s the flexibility to keep unit counts lower per building to allow for phasing of buildouts. Natural light is often compromised with multifamily, yet by distributing living areas on multiple floors, it’s easier to set big windows on the front and rear of the home so that even an interior unit feels bright and spacious. This home has a 5-by-9-foot skylight on the roof that lets natural light spill through the spaces; though an interior unit, it remains light and bright. The product offers a fourth-floor bonus room and roof terrace, with a large living space, wet bar, and great indoor/outdoor connections. Optional upgrades include elevators and dumbwaiters to ease connection between spaces on multiple floors.


wonderland townhomes AT SUPERIOR TOWN CENTER

A. Oversize garages allow for extra storage and flexibility
B. Open kitchens with generous islands and lots of glass
C. Open, linear great room concept makes each space live larger
D. Fourth-floor bonus room with wet bar and powder room
E. A combination of covered and open-air roof decks allows for flexibility in outdoor living

The Santa Rosa


Richard Handlen, AIA, LEED AP
EDI International

Width: 42 feet
Depth: 22 feet
Living area: 1.422 sf

This compact plan with a one-car garage is the perfect starting point for a single-family builder to venture into the multifamily market with a small step. The first and second floors stack for ease of construction. The design incorporates a contemporary exterior, but a variety of architectural styles can be used to fit any region. As shown, the sloping roofs could align with the optimum orientation for solar panel access. The plan can be grouped in many configurations. Duplex and triplex buildings are exempt from accessibility requirements in most jurisdictions.


The Santa Rosa floorplan

A. The first-floor living space is divided enough to provide some visual and acoustical privacy between the kitchen and living areas
B. The foyer has a dramatic two-story opening for views up the stairway
C. The laundry alcove can accommodate side-by-side or stackable units
D. The secondary bedrooms are spacious and can be divided off from the rest of the second floor. This works for small children or bounce-back kids, not to mention roommates
E. The master suite faces the front of the house for eyes on the street to promote neighborhood security

The Bloomfield

The Bloomfield rendering

GMD Design Group
Scott Gardner, AIA
Donnie McGrath

Width: 35 feet
Depth: 81 feet
Living area: 2,216 sf

The Bloomfield floorplan


This 35-foot-wide attached plan, focused on main-floor living, nicely accommodates the needs of a multigenerational buyer. The courtyard driveway minimizes the impact of garage doors on the street. A separate suite with bedroom, living space, and separate entry, all on the main level, can flex to changing needs as time goes on. The plan is illustrated as a triplex, but can be used as a duplex or in a larger unit-count building.

A. Courtyard driveway with sideloaded garage
B. Separate entrance to suite
C. Main entrance to the home
D. Separate suite with bedroom, bath, and living room
E. Dining room or flex room
F. Large, open family, breakfast, and kitchen area
G. Main floor owner’s suite
H. Covered outdoor-living space
I. Bonus room/loft
J. Second-floor bedroom


Courtyards rendering

Donald F. Evans, AIA
The Evans Group

Model A 
Width: 16 feet
Depth: 90 feet
Living area: 1,165 sf

Model B 
Width: 20 feet
Depth: 90 feet
Living area: 1,688 sf

One- and two-story multifamily in a six-unit configuration is a perfect introduction to multifamily building for the single-family builder. These homes provide a simple starter home for young buyers or a perfect downsized home for senior buyers. Model A is a one-story, three-bedroom, two-bath home with a keeping room, dining room, and kitchen at its core. Model B is a two-story home with the master suite on the first floor with the gathering place, a keeping room, and kitchen, while the two guest suites and leisure room are upstairs.


Courtyards floorplan

A. Six-unit configuration with one-story homes on the end and two-story homes at the center decreases the appearance of density while providing architectural interest and giving buyers a choice of product
B. Gated portico entry sequence creates privacy and visual appeal
C. Private courtyard between the garage and living space
D. A large, open core space with keeping room, dining, and kitchen is perfect for singles, couples, families, and seniors alike


Hemingway rendering


Todd Hallett, AIA, CAPS
TK Design & Associates

Width: 42 feet
Depth: 56 feet
Living area: House, 3,415 sf; porches, 652 sf

Often single-family builders take on a multifamily project to seize an opportunity; a deal presents itself that’s just too juicy to pass up. To keep costs low, we will often design homes that have the chops to stand on their own as a single-family home with the option to convert to multifamily when required, which saves the single-family builder considerable money in the long run. This design fits that bill. It easily can convert from single-family to multifamily and vice versa.


Hemingway floorplan

A. Outdoor living provides additional living area and an overflow space while entertaining
B. The open plan creates opportunities to gain natural lighting from other spaces
C. A large family entry space is perfect for organizing the family
D. The elevator offers accessibility to the second-floor spaces



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