The good times won’t last forever, however. As the recovery ekes its way back into single-family construction over the next decade, and more apartment builders horn in on the action, the ramp-up rebate is likely to disappear quickly. Lumber and copper, in particular, show historical volatility and price inflation on the front end of a surge in new home building. “We’re not seeing it yet, but labor and materials cost increases could happen quickly and show extreme volatility over the short term,” McCadden says. “If you’ve got a long-term vision, it’s a great time to go vertical now.”

The Swinging Single

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    Credit: rmeeks

Gen Y doesn’t care who sees their laundry. This concept unit used as a design template for student housing and urban market-rate properties shows how the typical one-bedroom pad can save the best for last, pulling residents and visitors through laundry, kitchen, and bath areas before finally opening up into a living space with a balcony. Designed by Meeks + Partners, the unit plan departs from the idea that renters want or need separation between cooking, dining, and chilling spaces—an island without any other interior boundaries serves as the sole transition between kitchen and living room, with the expectation that 20-somethings will eat wherever they want. What’s more, a dual-entry bathroom offers an illusory master-suite feel to what otherwise is a typical one-bedroom unit.

New Design DNA: Non­traditional entryway; no physical separation between eating and living areas; blends private and public spaces.

The Dense Den

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For a YWCA Annex redevelopment in Philadelphia, BLT Architects went with microsized apartments that allow for efficiency in living, renter affordability, and unit density. The eight-story, 160-foot-deep building, which will be converted into 70 units, only allows for windows at the two ends, so the solution for Philadelphia developer Aquinas Realty Partners was to implement an internal courtyard but then feature as many one-bedroom “plus den” apartments as possible. “The units have all of the functionality and appeal of a typically planned apartment with private bedrooms but can be shared by two young people as if they were two-bedroom apartments,” says BLT principal Michael Ytterberg. “So you have a two-bedroom apartment that is as small as 661 square feet without any real compromises.”

New Design DNA: Extreme density; adaptable living spaces; reduced square footage; high functionality.

The Row House

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    Credit: GTM

This apartment unit, designed by BLT Architects for The Victor, a 341-unit luxury, adaptive-reuse property developed by Philadelphia-based Dranoff Properties, shows how elongating floor plans can maximize square footage in older industrial buildings with deeper column spaces that don’t coincide with standard residential widths. “We designed what we call ‘platform’ units to use up the deep space,” says BLT principal Michael Ytterberg. “These are different from plain loft-type units, or even what is called ‘soft loft’ units, in that they take advantage of taller ceiling heights in older buildings by raising the bedroom a couple of feet, so that in addition to borrowed light from the living spaces, one gets a clear view out the window over the kitchen.”

New design DNA: Tailored for urban infill; bedroom off exterior wall; blended living spaces.