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Published on April 2022

Maximizing Use of Space Drives New Design Trends

APRIL 29, 2022

Shifts in architectural and interior residential design can seem to materialize magically. Suddenly, new-build projects all have rooftop patios or purpose-built recycling centres or dedicated yoga spaces — all of which seem plucked from the mind of a creative visionary or the feeds of social media apps. In actuality, many practical and social factors precipitate a significant shift in residential design.

Though certainly not the only significant, influential event, the last two years of living with COVID compelled people to use their living spaces differently — for work, study, and retreat — and that in turn led to reassessing how we can best utilize space in our homes.

“The pandemic has shifted our wants and needs when it comes to space,” says Jamie Squires, president at Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing in Vancouver. “People are wanting more efficient space than prior to the pandemic as their home has now taken on several functions.”

Shane Styles, president of Epic Real Estate Solutions in Kelowna, concurs, “(It’s about) being focussed on how we’re going to make our homes more liveable and more efficient.”

Tony Zarsadias, CEO of Island Realm Real Estate in Victoria, believes working from home will be a permanent (though perhaps not full-time) change. To be competitive in attracting workers, employers will need to allow a split between time in the office and working remotely. Homes will need to be tailored for this purpose.

“People having these professional workspaces within their homes or within their (condo) buildings is super important,’ Zarsadias says. “So, yes, that dedicated space is critical. It’s not just sound transfer.

It’s also natural light. Even the way homes are being wired is changing. You may be wireless, but how many people have lost a Zoom call because of poor wireless signal?”

This trend is already showing up in many new builds like The Hive, Apcon’s development in Langley, which will feature a communal workspace with a board room, a video call room and individual workstations.

In addition to living space functionality, buyers are also concerned about how living spaces can affect their health, according to Jacky Chan, CEO of BakerWest Real Estate in Vancouver, adding that developers are already addressing that concern.

“They have been incorporating very unique things like a much higher level of air filtration systems in their buildings,” Chan says. “The HVAC system will be incorporated with much higher-level air filtres. We have sold projects that go as high as level MERV 13, which is the highest level of air filtration that you can go before you hit the medical levels that they use in the hospitals.”

A recent project that Chan’s firm sold, REVIVE by Belford Properties, introduced a unique two-level water filtration system for the building. “We had water filtration (that) when it came in from the mainline it’s filtered once, and when it goes to the kitchen sink, it’s filtered again.”

Location, specifically regional location in the province, affects what design trends are incorporated in a new building project. Owing to a more temperate climate, areas like Victoria and parts of the Lower Mainland have seen the use of retractable windows around balconies to expand living space (Concord Pacific’s Metrotown, and Oasis in Burnaby and Hayer Town Centre in Langley).

“You can open them when it’s sunny and hot, and then you can close them when it’s breezy and cold, and you can actually expand your living space by fully utilizing your exterior space,” Chan explains.

Overall, there has been more focus on indoor-outdoor living, Zarsadias says. “We’re seeing more rooftop townhouse patios.”

Even multi-family projects are incorporating communal rooftop decks as part of the amenity package to increase access to outdoor space beyond individual balconies. Some developments have expanded outdoor space by including communal garden plots around the property or on rooftops.

“One of the buildings we recently sold out in north Saanich, near Sidney (Casman Properties’ Regatta Park), had multiple garden plots, Zarsadias recalls. “They’re just in a shared community garden. There was no rule for what people could or couldn’t do.”

As cycling has become a popular, year-round mode of transportation in Victoria, that too is reflected in the range of bike amenities offered in new buildings: think bike lockers, bike stands, bike paths, and bike washes. “Cycling has become integrated into the design now of multi-family (developments),” Zarsadias says.

Perhaps a nod to all those who embraced the idea of a family pet during stay-at-home measures, many multi-family communities are integrating pet-friendly amenities like dog parks, dog washes and dog runs.

Soon Vancouver will have the largest, perhaps most dramatic, example of passive-home design, engineering, and construction with the arrival of a 61-storey residential tower in the heart of the West End.

The project, Curv, by Montreal’s Brivia Group, will not only be the tallest residential building in Vancouver, it will also be the tallest passive-house building in the world, Chan says.

“The goal is to lower the carbon footprint and energy consumption,” he explains. “It’s the most energy-efficient and sustainable engineering design for a dwelling. This is going to be a new flagship for Vancouver and will alter the skyline.”

Though social and practical factors ultimately drive changes in design, social media can’t be completely discounted, says Squires, but perhaps not for reasons one would imagine. While social media may not heavily influence design trends, it has created an opportunity for developers to showcase their projects and also peruse the work of their competitors.

“Social media is a great platform to compare new offerings quickly,” Squires observes. “Developers are always watching others for inspiration for new concepts and designs. It has made research easier to see global trends in seconds, instead of having to go in person or rely on still images. It has also allowed more public engagement and feedback from buyers to keep on improving communities over time.”
Stay tuned: the next revolutionary, design-forward home could be just a scroll away.

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