The report emphasizes that good design goes far behind what a building looks like, encompassing considerations such as “access to light, air, views, pleasant circulation patterns and spaces that are safe, easy to maintain and suitable for the activities that take place in them.”
Elements of good design, according to the report, can include:
- Paths and walkways that are pleasurable to use
- A visually complex and interesting building façade
- Open spaces designed like “outdoor rooms”
- Unit layouts that provide access to daylight and views in every room
- Parking plans that minimize interaction between vehicles and pedestrians
The report advocates designs that meet the needs of occupants, respond to the building’s physical context and enhance their neighborhoods. Projects should also be “built to last,” the report says, “by using materials, systems and finishes that are durable, easy to maintain and energy-efficient.”
As evidence that good design is too expensive for affordable projects, community development organizations often point to the high cost of well-designed, market-rate housing, the report says. But costs of market-rate housing are higher primarily because they provide more and better amenities, such as larger spaces, more expensive appliances, better finishes and fixtures. “None of these amenities, however, is central to achieving design quality,” the report says.
The report recommends the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Affordable Housing Design Advisor as a resource; the Web site contains 80 case studies of well-designed projects that were developed within the cost constraints confronting affordable housing developers.
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