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WREN | Architect: Togawa Smith Martin | Photo: Kevin Korczyk
Market Opportunities: Multifamily Coming out of the economic downturn, the multifamily housing market has remained healthy, and experts like the economists on Freddie Mac Multifamily’s research team project it to remain healthy for the foreseeable future.
New multifamily properties coming online are being readily absorbed due to the growing economy and a labor market that continues to spur the formation of new households at a high rate, most of which are renters.
The young households prefer living in higher-density, walkable communities, whether in urban cores, city neighborhoods or suburbs. These trends have supported a steady increase in multifamily starts and completions since 2011.
Designers and developers who want to capitalize on these trends have a friend in wood construction. Even as the material has become accepted for use in taller, higher-density buildings thanks to high-strength engineered wood, it has also become easier to work with and faster to build. And safety and speed to market matter when it comes to leasing in a tight market.
In Jacksonville, Florida’s, Brooklyn neighborhood, the 310-unit Brooklyn Riverside apartment development uses almost no steel and minimized concrete. The creative use of wood-frame construction gives it a distinct look while offering the developer excellent value and meeting all code requirements.
Market watchers see strong demand for apartments in walkable communities near job opportunities, generally in urban or urbanized environments where high land values demand higher density.
—PricewaterhouseCoopers real estate outlook
New Opportunities for Taller Multifamily Buildings
The tall wood movement has created new opportunities for multifamily builders. Central to tall wood is the development of next-generation wood such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber (NLT), dowel-laminated timber (DLT) and glue-laminated timber (glulam).
These innovative products have strength that makes them suitable for use as major structural components, are lighter than steel and concrete, and have spawned a revolution in how buildings are constructed. Instead of assembling components one by one on the jobsite, whole panels can now be finished off site, including cutting out openings for windows and doors. Those panels are then trucked to the site, where small teams of workers assemble them. As a result, these projects can be faster, quieter and cleaner to build than traditional methods.
The first two buildings of the WREN development in Los Angeles consists of five floors of wood-frame construction on a double podium to achieve density of 195 units per acre. Built quickly, safely and economically with wood, the project includes several innovations that allow for large windows while still meeting the code for this seismically active region.
Based on population growth, immigration and lifestyle trends among both retirees and young households, researchers estimate the U.S. will need 4.6 million more apartment units by 2030.
—National Multifamily Housing Council study
In an era when many clients and occupants place a premium on sustainability, using wood can help make a building more desirable and improve ROI. Wood grows naturally, can often be sourced locally, sequesters carbon and consumes less energy to create and build with than steel and concrete.
Wood offers insulation properties that can make buildings more comfortable without using additional energy, and it’s extremely durable. Aesthetically, many homebuyers prefer an environment made with wood. It also has acoustical properties that are important in multifamily housing, where managing noise between units is critical.
From structural design to project execution to occupancy, wood can be a smart multifamily solution.
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