Must-Have Amenities for Multifamily

Four Must-Have Amenities – Multifamily Bisnow.

Bisnow released an email newsletter (see it at the link above) about the “Four Must-Have Amenities” for multifamily tenants. Not surprisingly, they include dog parks and pools. Kudela & Weinheimer has long known the power of amenities that bring the “WOW factor” and entice renters of multifamily developments. The better the amenities the more premium price you can get for the units as well.

#1 WiFi & #2 Fitness Centers:  It’s obvious K&W doesn’t have anything to do with the WiFi or the fitness centers inside of buildings, however we do design spaces for fitness in the outdoors. Those amenities could include sand volleyball, basketball courts, tennis courts, lap pools, outdoor workout areas, and hike/bike running trails; but really the options are endless. So far we have only had a few requests for these types of outdoor amenities but we do get a lot of requests for more passive entertainment amenities such as putting greens, bocce ball, and movie theaters.

#3 Dog Parks:  “About 60% of residents have pets (with most being dogs), and most have at least two dogs and consider them family” says Christina Natal.Dog parks are a highly demanded amenity for multifamily developments right now. With the increase in high density urban apartment homes, dog parks are being placed in very clever places such as garage rooftops, easements, and flood plain areas. Occasionally multifamily developers will even purchase an adjacent partial of land or devote a section of their current land to design and develop a public dog park which offers improvement amenities not only to residents but also to the community, doing this can sometimes lessen community push-back and complaints on the development itself.

#4 Swimming Pools:  Probably one of the biggest selling features of a multifamily development is it’s pool (even if it goes unsaid). Regardless of whether the tenants use it or not, it’s sort of assumed that when renting an apartment that you get a nice pool, especially when renting a “Luxury Apartment Home”. Nine times out of 10, the pool is visible from the leasing office; that is not an accident! First impressions can make or break a deal whether it’s at an apartment, office building, institution or other! Hint, hint, LANDSCAPE IS IMPORTANT.

When multifamily communities are competing for renters the amenities become one of their most important assets, especially amenities that make a first impression. Admit it, no one wants to invite their friends over to a dumpy looking place.

 Kudela & Weinheimer (K&W) is a professional services landscape architecture firm located in Houston and San Antonio. Founded in 1991 by Thad Kudela and Darin Weinheimer, K&W has grown from a two man shop to a thriving firm that has completed over 3,000 projects as they approach their 25th anniversary. With exemplary work on landmark, award winning projects such as Memorial Hermann Medical District in Memorial City, Town & Country Village and Carruth Plaza at Reliant Stadium, K&W is proud to have become one of Texas’ largest landscape architecture firms. 

Psychology of Social Spaces

Author - Danielle Bilot

Author: Danielle Bilot

Landscape Architecture is often perceived as a discipline that chooses plants, lays out sidewalks, and designs pools that gather immense amount of children at your home on your days off. In reality, we are much more than that. We are many disciplines all rolled into one: Horticulture, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Urban Planning, Soil Science, and many others. But the most important discipline that we employ is most often overlooked: Psychology. Beautiful designs do not just happen. They apply the proper use of lines, colors and textures to provide contextual clues to the brain that innately prompt people into performing certain movements to guide them through a space.

One of my focuses in graduate school at the University of Oregon was Understanding the Psychology of Social Spaces. Each time I have to design a space here at K&W, I program spaces according to the desired level of covert and overt socialization and the amount of movement that supports the primary function, depending on if it is a transition or gathering area. Then I use a combination of design guidelines that intuitively cue people into using the space appropriately. For example, when I design transition zones, I do not use many vertical lines because those imply a focus, to stop and look at. Instead, I use more horizontal lines that are easy for the eye to follow and simultaneously encourage movement. I use trees that have more horizontal branching habits, such as pines, white oaks, and some maples, but not a willow or a cypress. I use fences that have horizontal planks instead of vertical ones. I use pavement materials that are long and linear, not short and facing opposite the flow of traffic. Even the simplest details should reflect the use of an area. When choosing colors for splash pad equipment, I use color combinations that are opposite on the color wheel for the stationary objects that are vertical. It implies a focus point, especially with the water falling down around it. For elements like the loops that children are supposed to run through, I choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These imply movement, or transition.  All of these principles create a cohesive, psychologically functional social space.

These are only a few of the design principles that designers can apply to make spaces more comfortable and easy to use. Too often we forget that “the pretty” can and should be functional and fit into the appropriate context of the overall site program. If you would like more information on design tactics like these, I would recommend looking at the book A Pattern Language. The University of Oregon campus is designed according to those principles in the book and has been commended for proper use of wayfinding methods, placement and size of green spaces, and retaining important connections to major buildings on site.

Click on the pictures below to show direct examples of the landscape design tactics talked about above.

Ms. Bilot, our “Bee Lady” as we affectionately like to call her – you’ll find out why soon enough if you stay tuned to the blog, has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer. Danielle has a passion for alternative methods of transportation (she rides her bike to work daily…IN HOUSTON) and organic, hormone free, non-gmo foods. She is, to say the least, our resident hippie.

Designing a Splash Pad

The Auburn Trails splash pad has a backdrop beautiful trees.

A Splash Pad can also be known as a splash park, water park, spray park or spray ground. However, if you ask a kid, they would probably call it a FUN PARK! With zero-depth water, splash pads are considered safe and eliminate the need for lifeguards because there is practically no risk of drowning. The parks can include ground nozzles, rainbows (semicircular pipe showers), mushroom and flower showers, dump buckets, movable nozzles for squirting and little rotating creatures that squirt water, usually in bright colors, the options are endless! You can spot splash pads at public parks, hotels and resorts, planned housing communities, daycare centers and even at the Houston Zoo.

As safety has become paramount in today’s world, especially for children, private communities have added splash pads, in addition to pools, as amenities offered to the families living in those communities. As well, some public parks have offered splash pads in addition or in place of public pools. Some local Houston public splash parks are at Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Terry Hershey Park area, these parks are always busy with local area families, so having a splash pad in your “backyard” so-to-speak is a great perk of some master planned communities.

When Kudela & Weinheimer designs the landscape for a splash pad several factors go into the concept:  safety, end users, client budget, maintenance and aesthetics. Kudela & Weinheimer usually specifies Vortex equipment, because of their high quality and great reputation. The Vortex equipment can withstand a high level of commercial use and has a “SmartFlow “ adaption to reduce the environmental impact of water usage of splash pads designed with their equipment.

The landscape architecture recipe for splash pads includes tried and true design, as well as a dash of common sense. Here are the main factors the Kudela & Weinheimer team takes into consideration when designing a splash pad:

Surface Material:  Must be nonporous to prevent bacteria and buildup, must also be slip resistant, and have a good grip for running children. Brushed concrete surfaces can be made more interesting by stamping, etching and coloring and are a low-cost choice that has excellent traction and minimal maintenance. Other surfaces might be a rubber safety surface such as Pebble-Flex® which is specifically designed for splash pads and outdoor play surfaces.

Placement of Equipment:  Most of the time spray pads/parks are set up in zones depending on children’s ages.  Usually divided into 3 zones – toddler play, medium action and high action play zones, the right design can entertain children from 1 year of age to over 10 years of age, and some of you adults out there too, as long as you have a plastic mug with a margarita.

Safety:  The splash pad areas drain off immediately, making them “zero-depth” and eliminates standing water and risk of drowning! These parks accommodate the young children who haven’t learned how to swim just yet. Although some very shallow depth pools also integrate water cannons, mushroom showers and dumping buckets. Other criteria to consider for safety are slope grade, drainage, trip hazards, water flow rates and large diameter stainless steel components to discourage climbing.

Budget:  Developers have budgets, of course! When designing a splash pad / spray park / water park, Kudela & Weinheimer considers the overall site which will contain the splash pad and the developer’s specific requirements for water usage (see below). Splash pads start out with a ‘baseline’ cost of the underground system that you cannot see. However, there are several ways our firm can design splash pads to stay in budget; designing  in phases so that the splash pad can be made bigger and better as more funds become available, determining the size and number of components and design for minimal maintenance. Kudela & Weinheimer will never sacrifice the quality of the equipment or materials, which might end up in increased maintenance and repair costs!

Water Administration:  There are a few popular ways to use and/or reuse water on these structures. 1. Potable water that drains to a waste system and uses fresh water each time. This reduces any risks that may be associated with unclean water. This is not usually a good option for large spray parks or parks looking to maximize water conservation.  2. Re-circulating systems are similar to treatment systems used in pool facilities. Water is drained to a holding tank, filtered and chemically treated through one of the following procedures: chlorine, chlorine plus ultraviolet [UV] light, CO2).  A lot of thought goes into the planning of water consumption, to help conserve resources. 3. Controllers and Activation systems: Most splash pads use controllers for activation of the water jets. Of course there can be timing activators and activators used by the children where they push a button to get the water going.

Taking all of the above criteria into consideration, Kudela & Weinheimer can creatively design a splash pad that is fun for all ages but attainable for the developer’s budget and site requirements.

For developers the really different aspect to splash pads is that by Texas code they are not required to be fenced – although we usually fence them to prevent vandalism -and can be separated from the pool area for access all year if the weather is nice (Houston happens to have many nice days outside of pool season)! That brings up another point, splash pads can usually be maintained by the same company that maintains pools and needs about the same level of attention.

And that’s how landscape architecture for splash pads is done!

Kudela & Weinheimer has recently designed and finished construction administration for the new Fairfield Community splash pad with adjacent dog park and recreation center (construction drawings came from the San Antonio office); Lakes of Savannah splash pad; Oak Crest splash pad; and Auburn Trails splash pad and Eagle Springs recreation center and splash pad, which hasn’t been built yet. Visit our website to see more parks and community design.

In the Bisnow Multifamily News

MULTIFAMILY MONDAY – Real Estate Bisnow (HOU).

Kudela & Weinheimer makes the Bisnow news! We are honored to have been mentioned in the Houston Bisnow e-publication as the first article for this June 18th edition.

In fact, even though we weren’t mentioned we are also working with Ziegler Cooper on the 3 projects for Gables also mentioned in this e-publication! Working with Ziegler Cooper Architects is great, and having a good collaboration with the building architect is necessary to create a successful project.

 

 

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It’s Off to Work They Go

At Kudela & Weinheimer we really treasure the level of service we are able to give our clients. Our firm has enough staff power to handle large, complex projects yet we are small enough to provide a high level of personal service. We promise that we always put the “A” -Team on every project, and we do! With a lean, mean, well-oiled office machine -of currently 18 employees – we are expanding our office personnel – soon to be 23- to keep deadlines on time and make sure clients continue to receive extraordinary customer service! With a Texas size welcome, we have 4 new people coming to the Houston office, well actually 3, but if you count Nick Weinheimer (seasoned intern extraordinaire, and Mr. Weinheimer’s son), we’ve got 4.

We are very excited about all of our new employees but Michael Averitt is a special addition and will be joining our conceptual design studio. He will work under the direction of Thad Kudela, doing schematic design, we are looking forward to seeing his innovative ideas. Mr. Averitt comes to us from SWA, where he was based in Shanghai, PRC. With a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas and a Master Degree of Landscape Architecture also from The University of Texas at Austin, he has a well-rounded education and life experience to compliment that. His work experience has included “hands on” nursery experience, as well as working at famed Peter Walker and Partners (PWP Landscape Architecture) in Berkeley, California. Just for reference, PWP designed the National 9/11 Memorial and is currently working on redesigning the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Mting “Miki” Fan has a Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Although Ms. Fan is young, she is a bilingual, bright and talented student with a knock out portfolio that includes being a finalist for design of the Mercer Butterfly Garden. She researched, designed and presented her submission to the board of the Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Harris County. We are looking forward to mentoring her and expanding her skills within our fast paced office.

Danielle Bilot is joining us from Oregon, and will work as an intern for six months. Ms. Bilot has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and is currently working on a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer and we’re happy she is coming to spend 6 months with us in Houston, starting in the summer. Hopefully the winter will win her over and she’ll actually want to come back.

Nick Weinheimer has grown up around landscape architecture, from being a wee-tyke hanging out at the office with dad during the after-hours, to learning the ropes of CADD working as an intern during the summers. Mr. Weinheimer is following in his dad’s footsteps by going to school at Texas A&M University in College Station to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. He’s currently a Junior, becoming a senior in the fall and has been working summers at Kudela & Weinheimer for 6 years.

The San Antonio office is adding one employee.
Kenzie Porter is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. Ms. Porter has hands on field experience and landscape design in-office experience. She has also had the opportunity to study abroad in Bonn, Germany. The San Antonio office of Kudela & Weinheimer is excited to have her joining the team, and is looking forward to teaching her the way it’s really done, Moczygemba style! Watch out, Kenzie, he’s a slave driver.

Kudela & Weinheimer scours the US, and apparently China, looking for highly qualified talent with extraordinary portfolios. We are insistent about only hiring the best for our team. A big “welcome aboard” to our new guys and gals!

Fresh Student Housing at SFA

Study while you catch some rays!

Dormitories are not what they used to be, and that is a good thing! Stephen F. Austin State University is opened a new 400 room dormitory this fall. The Lumberjack Landing freshman only dormitory is packed with modern amenities such as larger rooms, microwaves and mini refrigerators, community kitchen, and according to the SFA website, a room designer. Say WHHHAAT?

The freshman only dorm also has a parking garage and outdoor amenities. Kudela & Weinheimer had the pleasure of designing the hardscape and softscape for the student housing facility, which was designed by Kirksey Architects. Although many of the amenities planned for the outdoor space were value engineered (a fancy architectural way to say eighty-sixed) the facility still ended up with a pretty swanky fresh air space. Just look at the pictures! Originally planned, the outdoor spaces included amenities like an outdoor movie theater which would project onto the garage, grilling stations, sand volleyball courts and a conversational fire pit area. The outdoor student space ended up with some great gathering spaces, none-the-less, with modern furniture, study spaces, and sunning areas.

Check out more Higher Education projects click here!

Development Magazine Shows Off KW Design

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We are proud to say, several projects that Kudela & Weinheimer designed the landscaping for were featured in the July/August 2011 Urban Land Magazine! Most importantly, the feature picture of the article shows the pool area of The Broadway Condominiums in … Continue reading