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World Architecture Day 2022 - Reflections on Architecture for Well-Being

October 3, 2022 - Article
Montreal, 2022 - 10 - 03 - According to the Government of Canada, Canadians spend around 90% of their time indoors. (Government of Canada, 2022) The high percentage of time spent indoors is relevant as the built environment directly impacts the physical and mental health of those who use it and experience it. Furthermore, access to shared public spaces has changed drastically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced access to shared spaces has taught us their importance to our daily lives. Their priority is especially true for individuals who live in urban settings, such as apartments, condominiums, and other multi-unit residential buildings. These individuals rely on access to common elements to enhance their personal living space.

In recognition of World Architecture Day 2022, we are exploring how shared spaces in multi-unit residential buildings support overall health and well-being. Every year the International Union of Architects selects a theme that represents contemporary global issues in the field of architecture. This year's theme is "Architecture for Well-Being." (UIA, 2022)  

The purpose of shared spaces or amenity spaces in multi-unit residential projects (apartment buildings, mixed-use buildings, stacked dwelling units, and retirement residences) is to provide residents with a communal indoor or outdoor space for recreational and social activities. (City of Toronto, 2022) Communal spaces can be any shared space, including gardens, patios, theatres, party rooms, spas, fitness rooms, pools, and landscaped spaces intentionally designed for occupant use.  

Over the years, the rising costs of construction and land, and the changes in the mortgage rates, have meant that individual living units have shrunk to fit into a specific price point for renters and buyers. But, as units have shrunk, amenity space has become even more important. Properly designed spaces create a more social environment, offering opportunities to get to know neighbours and bring people out of their units. At Le William Condominiums, Figurr included an urban chalet and pool, ample outdoor gardens that promote socialization between residents, and access to green spaces. So, how can integrating amenity space in multi-unit residential buildings encourage health and well-being and positively impact the overall health of occupants? Adequate access and programming (We-work space, art studios, dog walking area, family spaces, gardening spaces, security spaces for packages, theatres) add significant value to a person's daily life. A healthy lifestyle is something that Figurr Architects Collective considers with every multi-unit residential building.  

Since Figurr's offices are based in Montreal and Ottawa and work globally, our team has gained a unique perspective on integrating amenity spaces in multi-unit residential buildings in different urban settings. Integrating amenity space in multi-unit residential buildings in Ottawa and Montreal presents two markets with varying approaches and needs. In Ottawa, amenity space has been mandated by a City of Ottawa By-law since 2014. (Ottawa, 2022) Conversely, in Montreal, no by-laws mandate the integration of amenity space for residential buildings (Although there are requirements for amenity space in social housing projects driven by funding conditions).  

The local market conditions generally drive the construction of multi-unit residential buildings. In Ottawa, where there are a lot of government employees, a generally stable market, and ample green space, there is often less demand for highly programmed amenity space. In Montreal, where real estate is typically more aggressive and driven by a healthy rental market (Montreal has been a rental city for the past 40 – 50 years), developers utilize unique amenity spaces to entice prospective occupants. Buildings often include (multiple) pools, rooftop terraces, big lobbies, and landscaped exteriors. By offering top-notch amenities, developers can attract more buyers and renters. However, due to the rising costs of maintaining amenity space, there is currently a shift taking place from quantity to quality. Emphasis is now being placed on the types of amenities offered rather than an all-inclusive feel.  

For example, developers can look at amenity spaces tailored to promote specific lifestyles. Projects that include an indoor dog-walking facility support those who have a furry companion, and buildings with stroller parking and playrooms support young families. Community gardens, workshops, and storage attract residents who want space for outdoor hobbies. In one design concept, Figurr examined the creation of an aquaponic and vertical farm capable of generating many local foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and fish, 365 days a year in a multi-unit residential project. The concept puts forth the principles of a circular economy which rests on rethinking our production and consumption methods to consume fewer resources and optimize the use of the ones already there. The concept attracts a particular lifestyle and supports building residents and the local community. Finally, the integration of specifically planned we-work or office space generally attracts working professionals and entrepreneurs looking for shared workspace and want a "work-play-live" concept. (Ascott, 2021) 

Amenity spaces have always existed in multi-unit residential buildings. Still, their importance has become more apparent, and it's found a new life in well-designed spaces for specific target markets. Well-designed and integrated amenity spaces in multi-unit residential buildings are critical to enhancing residents' well-being. At Figurr, we understand how the built environment impacts the physical and mental health of those who use it. We strive to design buildings that positively impact the community, businesses, and residents who use them.  

World Architecture Day: 

World Architecture Day is an opportunity to recognize how architecture contributes to our daily lives and the architect's important role. World Architecture Day was created in 1985 by the International Union of Architects (UIA) and is celebrated on the first Monday of October in parallel with UN World Habitat Day. As a means to focus the conversation on a relevant and meaningful discussion point, the UIA introduces a theme for World Architecture Day every year. 

References:  

Ascott, Emma. "Developers Are Betting On Live-Work-Play Communities To Attract New Tenants," (September 20, 2021) All Work, https://allwork.space/2021/09/developers-are-betting-on-live-work-play-communities-to-attract-new-tenants/  

City of Toronto. (March 9, 2022) City of Toronto Zoning By-law 569-2013, as amended (Office Consolidation), https://www.toronto.ca/zoning/bylaw_amendments/ZBL_NewProvision_Chapter800.htm  

Croce, Brian. “Amenity Evolution,” (March 23, 2016) Multifamily Executive,  

https://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/property-management/apartment-trends/amenity-evolution_o  

Friedman, Robyn. “Case Studies in Multifamily Amenity Design,” (October 27, 2021) Multi-Housing News,  

https://www.multihousingnews.com/case-studies-in-multifamily-amenity-design/  

Government of Canada. "Indoor Air Quality," (August 29, 2022) Canada.ca, https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/campaigns/canadian-environment-week/clean-air-day/indoor-quality.html  

Ottawa. “Section 137 – Amenity Area,” (2022) Part 5 - Residential Provisions (Sections 120 to 146),  

https://ottawa.ca/en/living-ottawa/laws-licences-and-permits/laws/laws-z/part-5-residential-provisions-sections-120-146#section-9122bb21-a213-4c59-ac66-001b6c6ca3b7  

TCU Development Corporation. “HOW THE PANDEMIC HAS CREATED UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INVESTORS TO CAPITALIZE ON THE NEW NORMAL,” (October 14, 2021) 2021: THE STATE OF REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT IN OTTAWA, 

https://tcudevcorp.com/blog/2021-the-state-of-real-estate-development-in-ottawa/