Multifamily Performance and Value

Innovative technologies and products reshape new wave of lifestyles and living units
This course is no longer active
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Sponsored by Bison Innovative Products, ClimateMaster, Cosella-Dörken Products Inc., EFCO, a Pella Company, NanaWall Systems, Pella Commercial Solutions, reThink Wood, Simonton Windows®, and TOTO USA
C.C. Sullivan

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe how overall trends in U.S. multifamily housing are affecting design and building product selection for recent new construction and renovation projects.
  2. List recent trends in fire safety, occupant health, and green building that are leading to the adoption of specific products and materials.
  3. Explain selection criteria for energy efficiency and sustainability that affect the design of multifamily building structures, enclosure systems, fenestration, and HVAC systems.
  4. Discuss recent case studies of multifamily housing that respond to both market trends as well as owner/occupant needs for durability and life-cycle performance.



Is the multifamily market ready for true innovation? The answer lately has been a resounding yes. In the face of a burgeoning market for downtown rentals, luxury condominiums, and assisted living, architects around the country are experimenting with a variety of new apartment layouts and building technologies that help differentiate today's new and renovated properties. From indoor-outdoor spaces and panelized structures to geothermal systems and weather-resistant assemblies, the very fabric of today's residential construction systems would be unrecognizable to an architect working just a decade ago.

The reinvention of today's multifamily offerings may be the most important macro trend. The underlying market dynamic is driven by retrenching, according to Freddie Mac, including the increased demand for apartment rentals “related to economic stress and high foreclosures in single-family housing.”

New multifamily designs reflect that: Starting in San Francisco over the last two years—and now upending the local markets as far away as Charlotte, Boston, and New York—are new ideas in micro-housing, for example, with some apartments as small as 450 square feet. In addition to offering less expensive homes for emerging professionals and seniors alike, micro-units create a need for varied building products that offer the illusion of greater volume—wall-to-wall mirrors, anyone?—as well as shared amenities in common areas and more access to the outdoors.

“In many urban markets, developers and architects are working to maximize outdoor living spaces,” says Lisa von Gunten, general manager of Bison Innovative Products, Denver, which makes pedestal-mounted deck systems that are used on rooftops, as well as other zones in multifamily housing. “Recently this has included access to green roofs, pool areas, walkways to decks, outdoor movie theaters, and even a dog park on an upper floor of one Denver apartment mid-rise.”

The University of Washington's new West Campus Student Housing by Mahlum Architects comprises five upper floors of Type V-A wood construction over a podium of Type I-A concrete, clad with manganese flashed brick.

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider/Mahlum, courtesy of WoodWorks


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Originally published in Architectural Record


Multifamily Performance and Value
Buyer's Guide
Wood—A Renewable and Responsible Choice
Wood typically costs less—economically and environmentally—while delivering more in terms of its beauty, versatility, and performance. It meets code requirements in mid-rise and multifamily buildings, and can be used as a low-carbon alternative to steel, masonry, and concrete in many applications. Wood is more than a building material; it's a renewable and responsible choice.
(Pictured: Marselle Condominium, Seattle, WA. PB Architects. Photo by Matt Todd Photography, courtesy of WoodWorks.)
reThink Wood
The Beauty of Wood Meets the Convenience of Vinyl
When architects want the aesthetic qualities of wood, but the energy efficiency and convenience of vinyl, they specify Simonton ProFinish® Brickmould 600 windows and patio doors. The multi-tiered frame design and broad flat casing surround suggest the classic look of wood windows, while simulated divided lites provide the appearance of separate panes of glass. In the project pictured, five Simonton ProFinish® Brickmould 600 Double Hung windows with interior woodgrain and simulated divided lites provide the rich look of wood.
Simonton Windows®
Ultra High-Efficiency Toilet
Featuring TOTO's superior Double Cyclone® technology, the Drake II 1G™ uses a responsible gallon of water to provide an effective flush. Its uncomplicated design pairs well with any aesthetic, while remaining planet-friendly and respecting water.
Rooftop Deck Solutions
Bison Innovative Products include: Bison Deck Supports, which are made in the USA with 20 percent post-consumer recycled materials; Modular Bison Cubes with recycled content, custom colors, finishes, and sizes; and Commercial-Grade Modular Bison Wood Tiles with Class A fire ratings. Standard and FSC-certified species and custom sizes are available.
Bison Innovative Products
Water-Resistive Barriers and Ventilated Rainscreens
DELTA®-VENT SA (pictured here) is a vapor permeable, self-adhering water-resistive barrier and air barrier with a unique front side adhesive edge. DELTA®-DRY is a ventilated rainscreen for absorptive claddings now available in a "Stucco & Stone" version.
Cosella-Dörken Products Inc.
Water-Source Heat Pump Systems
ClimateMaster's Tranquility® 22 Two-Stage Compact (TY) Series offers the following features and benefits:
  • Used in geothermal and water-source heat pump applications
  • Exceeds ASHRAE 90.1 efficiencies with twostage operation
  • Uses EarthPure® (HFC-410A) zero-ozonedepletion refrigerant, making it an extremely environmentally friendly option
  • Its multiple cabinet configurations and small footprint make it suitable for tight installations and for replacement/retrofit markets
  • Features iGate technology, the next generation in intelligent control by using two-way communication to provide a gateway to the system.
Unitized Curtain Wall
The 8750XD Unitized Curtain Wall is the newest member of EFCO's XTherm® family of products. Thanks to its strut design, with patented Duracast® fiberglass composite, it can offer a best-in-class U-factor. With optional 875X Wall Vent, it is sure to meet your design needs.
EFCO, a Pella Company
Operable Glass Walls
NanaWall operable glass walls are recognized as the brand symbolizing quality, performance, and durability. Every NanaWall system is a single-source product with components produced as a complete system. With over 20 custom systems backed by 25 years of design experience, NanaWall Systems offers a solution for almost any space.
NanaWall Systems