Many of us have experienced dull and drab apartments - with tiny box-sized bedrooms, dark and unlit corners, and upstairs neighbours who sound like they live in a bowling alley. For those who have the luxury of choice, one could be forgiven for rushing to the suburbs, to the safety and security of a semi-detached house. In fact, there is a world of wonderful, affordable apartments out there. When well-designed - they can bring many unexpected benefits. Wonderful views. Close-knit communities. And a cornucopia of wonders at your doorstep.
But how can developers balance the need for density with the need for high living qualities? How can architects design apartments that demonstrate the benefits of apartment-living instead of the potential challenges? These questions have plagued the industry for far too long. With the release of Apartments V2.0 we truly believe we are now closer to solving these problems than ever before.
A new approach to apartments in Spacemaker
Increasing flexibility around apartment design has consistently been a priority of ours. Admittedly, up until recently this aspect of the platform has been a little limited. We automatically populated buildings with just a small number of apartment layouts. We were conscious this wasn’t ideal, but we wanted to build out our analytics (e.g. wind, noise, etc.) and generative design tools (e.g. Explore, Height Studies) before moving on to Apartments V2.0.
We're thrilled that we've reached that all-important milestone. We have now released Apartments V2.0 to all our users, and with it comes a whole new world of possibilities for developers, architects, municipalities and engineers.
Here’s a brief overview of what’s new:
A wide selection of predefined floor plans to choose from: Users can easily choose the apartment layouts that best suit their needs, and even drill down to individual floor plans to refine at their required level of detail.
Apartment options and functionality within Explore: We have updated our generative design tool, Explore, so that it can now take into account user preferences for apartment sizes. Users can now define a desired mixture of apartment sizes and Explore will generate a range of options that accommodate this, alongside other selected parameters (building heights, typologies).
Better insights on apartment mixes: The right sidebar will clearly show the distribution of apartment sizes within your site, allowing you to iterate as needed.
It’s important to note that the features contained in this release were created with the help of feedback from our users. We were asked to provide more control over generated apartments. We were asked to help make early-stage designs more relevant. We were asked to provide even more insights to enable better design iterations. This new update to Apartments brings all of that, and more.
Relevance, spontaneity, feasibility
Beyond the more practical functionality updates to the platform, we see the introduction of Apartments V2.0 as supporting in three areas:
Relevance: Apartments are a major factor when demonstrating value. Drilling down and resolving buildings to the scale of apartments is important for the relevance of any proposal. We recognise this as a fundamental need within the Spacemaker platform - if our users cannot prove that apartments work, then this raises questions for the entire design. Likewise, if the layout of apartments can be validated (as they now can within Spacemaker), then the design can pass a vital “quality check”, and can meaningfully create value for architects and developers.
Spontaneity: Designers often aspire to have spontaneity, to have creative flexibility, and be able to iterate and stay agile. Typically, the process of laying out apartments is not only highly demanding, but also quite tedious. It can certainly require designers to slow down their creative process. Instead, Spacemaker is able to run vast calculations and test numerous apartment permutations in a matter of seconds. This means the platform takes the heavy lifting, giving designers back their creative flow - enabling them to drive their designs to a higher level. Furthermore, deciding on a massing or a site layout does not happen at the expense of more technical aspects like program mix, or apartment repartitions. Spontaneity and rigor can live harmoniously with each other.
Feasibility: Having apartments specified early on in the design process re-asserts Spacemaker as an essential tool for feasibility studies. Designs created in Spacemaker can output tangible proof of concepts. Questions such as: “Does such a program fit on this site?” or “Does such a site allow for certain typologies?” can now all be answered natively within our app.
Getting ahead of the challenges of tomorrow
According to an EU-wide piece of research in 2015, 42% of us live in apartments. Across the Atlantic in the US the popularity of apartments varies wildly, but in New York state around 24% of residents live in apartments. Norway itself has seen 120,000+ new multi-dwelling buildings between 2010-2020, a 19.2% increase. Apartments are a reality of urban living, increasingly so.
No matter your thoughts on them - as we see increased urbanization, the demand for apartments will grow. The pressure on developers and architects to retain high living qualities, and balancing this with higher density, will grow with it. Apartments V2.0 is another way we are alleviating this pressure.
Despite our excitement for this update, we see it as only a step (albeit an important one) towards something far greater. We have plenty of future updates (to apartment functionality and otherwise) that will continue to make Spacemaker the best platform for early-stage planning.
Espen Kristian Wulff Wold is a data scientist and product manager at Spacemaker. He works on product development and mathematical modelling. He holds a master’s in Physics and Mathematics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Stanislas Chaillou is a data scientist and an architect at Spacemaker. Stanislas holds a Bsc in Architecture from EPFL (2014), and Master in Architecture from Harvard University (2019).