4 Ways to Create Communities That Work


The past year has provided the home-building industry with ample ideas to help create housing that meets multiple needs, from working from home to providing a safe connection to the outdoors and creating a livable community that can adapt to changing interests and uses.

As home buyers continue to embrace these trends, builders and developers will need to plan communities and housing options to address them. Top design professionals have addressed many of these growing trends as part of the ongoing Design Bites series. Use the following tips to help create an eye-catching community that lives as well as it looks:

Offer a mix of housing choices.

This includes not only a mix of housing types, densities and price points, but also creating elevations and streetscapes that catch prospective home buyers’ attention.

“When you’re talking about grabbing somebody’s attention within 10 seconds, a colorful, bright, bold streetscape is one of the ways we do that, with bright doors,” shared Alaina Money-Garman, founder and CEO of Garman Homes and Fresh Paint by Garman Homes. “We’re looking to capture people’s personalities and separate us from the sea of sameness — or the sea of beige-ness, as it usually is.”

As with any project, make sure you do your research as well — not just on buyer preferences, but what you’re able to develop as well.

“As you begin your project, ensure that there’s flexibility in zoning to respond to changing market conditions,” added Chris Grady, principal and director of land planning at Kephart.

Consider your indoor and outdoor connections.

“In higher density neighborhoods, the relationship with indoor and outdoor space is critical,” Grady stated, whether through walkability, gathering spaces or parks.

Indoor and outdoor connections are important for the design of the home as well.

Front porches are becoming increasingly popular in the wake of COVID-19 as not only a place to enjoy the outdoors, but also as “the new kind of public living area of your house,” noted Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning.

“It gives you the opportunity to meet those public people coming to your home without them coming into the home," he added. “If it’s furnishable, you can create kind of that outdoor living room right at the front of your house.”

Design special spaces.

“Think about how we live,” Grady noted. “That’s the way to create meaningful and memorable places — and it’s how we provide awesome amenities that residents can really enjoy.”

These can range from clubhouses and pools to community farms, depending on the appetite of the market. An example shared by Jared Carlon, principal at Norris Design, included a community in Colorado in which a community farm was not only an important amenity, but also interwoven into the community through an agriculture-themed pool design and streets named for growing seasons.

“Keep in mind the importance of being outside, especially right now, and connecting with nature with everything that’s going on in the world and programming those activities in neighborhoods,” Carlon added.

Apply flex spaces to outdoor design, too.

COVID-19 has changed not only the way that people live in their homes, but also how they utilize the spaces around them. This includes walkways and streets throughout their area. "One of the interesting things that happened last year — if you want to call it interesting — was that we started to see ‘flexible’ streets,” noted Chris Moore, CEO and director of planning for DTJ.

“If you went out to a restaurant or a bistro or a coffee shop, that coffee shop spilled out into the sidewalk. It spilled out into the parking lot.”

“We learned how to flex that space,” he added. “And I think we can learn a lesson from that.”

Such flex spaces offer relief, especially as builders and developers look to increase the density of projects to meet increased housing demand. They can be used as gathering spaces, playgrounds or places to walk pets, Moore shared, or anything to help give residents a break from their homes and get a breath of fresh air. “So create something quirky,” he advised. “Think about that odd little place that happens within your neighborhood.”

Get these and more great tips each month by registering for NAHB’s Design Bites series. Held the third Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. ET., these 15-minute segments cover the hottest topics, including kitchens, small spaces and storage solutions, curb appeal, floor plans and more. Registered users can attend the webinars and have access to each webinar replay.

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