What To Do When Your Outdoor Space Isn’t Working

What To Do When Your Outdoor Space Isn’t Working

After years of work and a huge amount of effort, your multifamily real estate development is approaching the finish line. Construction is wrapping up and only a few finishing touches remain.

Among these final steps is prepping the outdoor amenities to increase your property’s sales-ability. But, imagine the frustration when you realize that your outdoor spaces aren’t working right. First, there’s not enough space for the furniture you bought. Then things don’t align between the outdoor spaces and your interior leasing center and clubhouse. There’s no clear brand or coordinated theme, just a bunch of disparate fragments of a design that were clearly not very well considered.

If you’ve ever experienced this common pain that plagues multifamily developments, you may be looking for new strategies to ensure your project comes together correctly in the end, both inside and out.

Outdoor Amenities Require Specialists

One reason your outdoor amenities don’t always turn out great is because of how distinct and different they are from other portions of the project. Few consultants have the unique experience required to get them right.

As real estate development becomes more and more complex, so has the specialization of consultants in the field. Where once architects had the full responsibility of most of the building design, contract work is continually split up amongst a myriad of expert consultants – each with their own speciality.

The rooftop and outdoor living experiences, though, can easily become a “no man’s land,” a singular portion of the project where many trades intersect without clear delineation. It’s not always that other consultants couldn’t do an excellent job designing the outdoor amenities; we’ve witnessed architects, interior designers, and landscape architects successfully pull it off. But more often, it’s not seen as part of anyone’s scope, or it’s unclear who is leading the charge.

Whatever the reason for this disconnect, the important thing is finding a way to give outdoor amenities the attention they deserve. As one of the key differentiators of your development project, your rooftop and outdoor amenities need to be a standout.

Outdoor Spaces Need to Fit, Flow, and Function

While working with developers to create better outdoor spaces, we’ve learned what makes the best amenities. Our proven process is focused on creating the rooftop and outdoor living spaces where people want to be. We design outdoor spaces that fit, flow, and function.

Outdoor Spaces that Fit

It’s ironic when those responsible for designing a space don’t provide the right amount of space for the intended use. This is frustrating for property management and can make or break a space for the residents who will use it. If something feels off with your outdoor amenity, addressing proportion, spacing, and scale is a great place to start.

Here are some examples of a few of the considerations we make to avoid common mistakes when designing rooftop and outdoor amenities:

  • The height of overhead structures – 9′ is typical, but go higher (up to 12′) for larger and grander spaces
  • The distance of seating from fire pits – 2′ is typical for fixed seating, between 18″-3′ for movable furniture
  • The height of fixed seating – 18″ is preferred, 2′ max.
  • The height of fixed tables (30″) and the associated seating (18″)
  • The height of fixed counters (36″) and the associated seating (24″)
  • The height of fixed bars (42″) and the associated seating (30″)
  • The width of joints between segmented walkways – 4″
  • The distance between hammock poles – 12.5′
  • The distance between catenary lights – 4′
  • The depth of barbecue counters – 2.5′ min.
  • Typical pool step riser (9″) and tread (12″)

The list goes on. Code requirements for accessibility add another layer. Suffice it to say there are many parameters involved in designing a successful outdoor space for people. It is critical to the success of a space that the proportion and scale are correct at each moment of interaction between the user and the environment.

Apart from learning these guidelines through experience, we’ve made it a part of our process to research the proper size and scale of each design element. When no outside resources are available, we often produce our own physical model or create one virtually to vet our ideas.

Outdoor Spaces that Flow

Blending your outdoor space with those indoors requires careful collaboration between various disciplines. Technically speaking, each outdoor element must be connected to the building system — especially on a rooftop. To avoid the common mistakes that arise from a lack of communication, we make sure to coordinate our outdoor designs with the civil, mechanical, and structural engineers.

But, we don’t just need to connect things from the technical side. Just as important, the interior and exterior spaces should be blended to create connected experiences for users. We study user experience to help us anticipate how a space could be used. Circulation, privacy, and comfort are examples of experiential aspects that we constantly evaluate.

Despite trying to form the optimal arrangement of space for the highest quality experiences, we are sure to build in some flexibility into the design to allow for people to interpret it differently. In the end, it is less about prescribing certain activities for a space and more about crafting a welcoming environment that give people the opportunity to connect with it in their own personal way.

Outdoor Spaces that Function

Too often outdoor amenities are relegated to the position of sales eye candy, superficially attractive but lacking in practical value. It’s always nice to see the crystal blue water of a pool on a sales walk or view images of a dog park online. But what does it feel like to actually be in the space?

When the purpose for creating a space is just for looks, it can be surprisingly easy to produce. There is an inherent value in viewing outdoor scenery that makes almost any outdoor amenity look fairly good. That can be enough for some people to be attracted to your property.

But outdoor amenities deserve to be so much more than a sales tool. Instead they can primarily serve as a community building mechanism. When outdoor amenities work, your tenants fall in love with their apartment home and never want to leave. They make friendships and memories with neighbors by spending much of their free time in the space. It becomes valuable to them and central to their lifestyle. (And, these types of spaces tend to sell your property even better.)

We never stop advocating for the many details that make an amenity space function. And we never stop exploring ways to make them better. In the end, for your amenities to really be working for you, they must be usable spaces for people.

At Loft Six Four, we help multifamily developers create immersive rooftop amenities and outdoor living experiences that help their projects stand out from the crowd. Check out some more of our work to see how we create spaces that matter to you, to your stakeholders and investors, and to the people that use and enjoy them everyday.