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Calling All Renters: Ideas for a Postgreen Triplex

by Nic Darling on February 4, 2010 · 21 comments

in architecture,Design,Development

This one is for all of you out there who want the joy of living in a Postgreen Home without the responsibilities of home ownership. We are officially considering our first step into the rental world with a possible multi-family building right behind our 100k Project. It will be all the green, modern goodness you’ve come to expect without the “all-grown-up-and-settled-down” feel of a mortgage. So, get ready to call the movers and flaunt your carefree lifestyle in style.

Our current idea for the building will consist of three single story flats and a shared basement with dedicated storage spaces. There will also be a shared back yard in which we may provide a variety of amenities (grill? warshers set? herb garden?). We are looking at the possibility of including all the utilities as well which should simplify the monthly budgeting considerably.

We are still in the early design phases at the moment and all could change depending on the response of the neighborhood, but I thought I would share a few of the floor plan iterations we have been working on with the brilliant minds over at ISA. I won’t taint your response by telling you which one is my favorite until I hear from you in the comments.

One thing I particularly like about these plans is the idea of moving the sinks outside the shower/toilet area. We did this in an effort to make these flats more attractive to those in a roommate situation. Though I think even those who are living with other family members will enjoy the setup for overlapping morning routines.

I also want to point out the effort to make use of the corridors which are normally left as dead space. In each floor plan concept you can see a desk area has been drawn in the hallway between the living space and the bedrooms. We think it is a great use of otherwise wasted space.

Please remember that this is just a concept at this point. We are submitting for zoning and will be having discussions with the community and the planning folks to make sure this is the right use of this piece of land. We currently really like the idea as it encourages density right near public transit, but we are always open to the opinions of others (like yourselves for instance).

That’s all we have so far on this project, but you can bet you will be seeing more as we move forward. For now . . . Which floor plan do you like best? Is there anything missing from these apartments? Who wants one?

Comment time!

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 1 trackback }

Postgreen Triplex Conceptual Rendering | 100K House Blog
April 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather February 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The one with the deck! Outdoor space to sit and drink tea/wine is basically a requirement for any place that I would live.

Also make sure there is a place to store bikes – would they go in the basement? In the common hallway? They’re kind of awkward to just have hanging out in the living room.

2 Eric February 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I love it! Wish you guys were in Rochester!
My fav is C – flex space is a plus

3 stacey February 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I like the option with the deck, but since I suck at living with people, C would probably be my favorite because of the flex space.

4 David February 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Love the idea! I want one! It may sound excessive, but have you considered an option with 2 bedrooms each having their own bathroom? This works well for when one room is shared by a couple with another roommate, or a couple and two children.

5 GreenbuildinginDenverdotcom February 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I really like the idea of NOT selling the homes, just renting them, as you propose.

Since you are working in neighborhoods “with potential” your sales price five years from now will be much higher than it would be today. One of the big reasons for this is that your projects are helping “tip” the neighborhoods toward higher desirability. The best way to take advantage of that is to “hold” until selling prices catch up.

6 RitaF February 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I like the deck but the sinks in the hallway remind me of the girls locker room. Plus chopping the bath room up like that crates a bunch of small spaces with no room whatsoever. I’d prefer that you rearrange the bedrooms so that a larger bath room can be created.

7 Alli February 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I think I would go with A since I like the bathroom layout best, plus the three bedrooms lends itself better to a wider “audience” since one could be used as an office. I feel like you are missing more in the kitchen, I would add an island that could double as a breakfast bar which would reduce the need for having a small table taking up space in the living room. Plus with a breakfast bar, that always adds seating for guests who would be there to watch tv or chat. I would also change the desk in the hallway to a closet with laundry hookups.
I’m an out of work architecture graduate, so thanks for having something that keeps the design gears churning for me! :)

8 Micah February 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I like the layout of “A” as I think one of the bedrooms could be the “flex space” but without the circulation area taking from that area. It is the most efficient. Also, you might have to do some tops or builtins in that flex area to effectively market it – where the bedroom could be equipped with normal furniture (by the renter).

No outside deck is a bummer but those are expensive to construct anyway (especially with living space below), right? You might do something with a large slider or windows at that front “Living” space so it could be opened when the weather is nice. Just a thought…

Lastly – I don’t mind the sinks at all, but living in Europe for a couple years (where it is typical) maybe the reason for that.

9 Goran February 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

We were looking at separating sinks out the way you have for the same reason: its almost like having two bathrooms. One obstacle we ran into was that some female members of the clan were really uncomfortable having a toilet where you couldn’t wash your hands before using the door. An acceptable solution for them was to have a “toilet sink”. This is basically a replacement for the lid of the toilet tank that runs cold water as the tank is filling, giving you the opportunity to rinse your hands after you flush.

Plans B and C are nice because the bathroom sinks have outside windows, and there’s a large living area. My only real issue with A is that the 275 sf may be tight for a combined living room, dining room, kitchen. Its hard to visualize without being able to see the dimensions clearly, it may be fine.

Sorry to see the long single stair go, but I have to admit the double flight leaves a lot more useful space than the single stair would have.

Build it in NJ, and you can sign me up for the 3rd floor apartment :-)

10 Alix February 9, 2010 at 11:18 am


I would say Plan A but the living space is sacrificed. Therefore I would go with Plan B but with a few modifications.

Move a full bathroom into that nook where those two sinks are (why two sinks need so much space is beyond me). While I understand the European lure of having the sinks set outside of the bathroom – the kitchen sink is like 5 steps away so how realistic is it to assume that you would need access to water and not have it in such a small flat. I would set the tub against the wall with the window. This would allow the “flex space” you speak of in Plan C – perhaps a library/ office?

Love the blog and your skinny house!


11 Mike February 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

Thank you for this! As a renter I’m always discouraged by my relative inability to make green choices in housing (whether I’m stymied by price, existing appliances and developer-driven design). I hope you encounter a groundswell of interest in greener-renting and the idea proves marketable to developers on a wider scale.

I think A is a perfectly viable 3 bedroom, but if I had the means to rent a 2 bedroom, I’d go with B over C.

I never put flex space to proper use, and in the spirit of many comments made in your small bedroom thread ( I favor the maximum amount of concentrated and shared space. Also, as mentioned in that thread, the availability of a deck to take advantage of seasonal space is a real blessing.

I know some avid urban gardeners who wouldn’t mind doubling that deck to 90 square feet at the cost of 45 square feet of interior space…

12 Nic Darling February 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Great comments. I’m actually surprised by the number of positive responses to A. We were worried that the reduced living space would be unattractive, but it seems that three bedrooms has an audience in rentals.

Now to finally answer a few of these questions:

Heather: I think bike storage would be possible in the basement depending on how much other stuff you had in your assigned space. There are also some other interesting options that we may look into as we get further along.

David: I think it would be tough to get another bathroom in without undue sacrifice of other space. We are also of the belief that something as expensive (relatively speaking) as a bathroom should be a shared amenity whenever possible.

Rita: The bathroom is definitely a bit of a strange one, but we have always liked the idea of the separate sink area and this seems a good place to test it out. Hopefully it will allow different people to “get ready” at the same time.

Alli: I think we would possibly include a movable island/breakfast bar in the kitchen or leave it up to the renter to furnish one.

Micah: Love the large slider window idea. We had talked about that at one point but I had forgotten.

Goran: I love the toilet idea. I had thought about the hand washing thing myself.

Alix: I like the thoughts. I think the sink space would also provide some much needed storage which might justify its size.

Mike: You hit on one of our main questions in this project . . . Do renters care about green? Glad to hear that there is at least one.

13 Tim February 28, 2010 at 9:26 am

Is there a reason that the staircase has to be in the middle and enclosed within the walls – unless it’s security? Although it does provide a natural division to the space.

And what about the roof space above the top floor flat? Could you have some sort of communal space up there, or are there services, etc. that would preclude using it?

14 Nic Darling March 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

The stairway will be clarified in the next post on this building. We just met about it the other day and have some cool ideas on the way from ISA.

Roof access is out for a few reasons . . .

1. We will probably have a bunch of solar (thermal and/or PV) up there. That will take up a lot of space, and we want to protect it from inadvertent damage/shading and advertent (that isn’t a word) theft.

2. Roof decks are a liability in rental situations. One drunken fall and you are in a mess.

3. Creating the stair tower exit would require an additional zoning variance for height which could slow/stop the project.

15 GreenbuildinginDenverdotcom March 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Solutions to 2 & 3:
2. A railing built to code absolves all liability.
3. A Bilco roof hatch is inexpensive yet fairly easy to use, while reducing the cost of any solar or roof maintenance.*84

16 greg chasen April 14, 2010 at 2:12 am

are you sure you want toilet and bath/shower in the same compartment? morning showers and toilet time gonna get way backed up especially in the 3 bdrm. in our space now we have a toilet compartment with sink outside – and then another room with just shower and sink – works really well with 3 family members…

17 Chris April 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’d like a place like “C”. The flex space would be nice for me, as an artist, and my husband needs a lot of desk space because he’s a writer. If “C” had a deck space it would be perfect, since having a grill is essential in our family.

18 J April 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

as someone with a roommate and who likes coffee i would rather see a toilet separated from a shower. i can’t tell you how many mornings the coffee wants out but the bathroom has a shower going on and i have to pace around and contemplate using a jar. i also don’ see a reason for two sinks in a 2 bedroom apartment – the space could be better used by some counter with storage underneath and good lighting for make up application. i don’t really support makeup but most women wear it and want a space to lay out the stuff.

19 Carolyn April 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

LOVE the idea of green rental!!! One of the things that irks me most about renting is my inability to make it green. B is my favorite layout, as outdoor space is a must (even if it’s small). My only concern so far is a possible lack of storage.

Don’t give up on this project, it’s SOOOO important! & keep us posted!

20 Goran May 26, 2010 at 9:36 am

Great video on space saving furniture. May make more sense on the Skinny or Awesome projects.

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