Five Unconventional Real Estate Developments

There are times when we wish we could be flies on the wall at various places and just observe what’s going on.  I wish I could be a fly on the wall in the development offices that built the projects below. They just had to have some very interesting discussions about breaking away from the norm (and likely some painful ones about if it was even possible).

We’re keeping it simple and sweet. Here are five unconventional real estate developments:

Moho – Manchester, UK

Developer: Urban Splash

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Moho looks like a normal apartment building. However, under its belly lies a cutting edge construction technique that’s gaining momentum in many real estate sectors–prefab.  Once the super structure was erected, prefabricated module living units were inserted into the building to complete the project.  These units, built on a factory floor, were pre-assembled craned in! While engineering and design time increased on the front end, this made construction and scheduling quicker and more predictable over the design/development of the project.

Tokyo Apartment Building – Japan

Developer/Designer: Sou Fujimoto

This 5-unit apartment project oozes Japanese design across many levels.  Its quirky stacking of A-frame housing volumes, white aesthetic, and simplistic spaces aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, one can’t knock its originality–there has to be a waiting list for this one (likely keeping those excel models happy and on target).

The Bullitt Center – Seattle, WA

Bullitt Foundation

The Bullitt Center is billed as the greenest commercial building in the world. That’s an ambitious charge to take on.  From our pals over at Wikipedia, it’s easy to see why:

The Bullitt Center is designed to be the greenest commercial building in the world when completed in 2012, qualifying for classification as a “Living Building” by the International Living Future Institute. The Bullitt Center is designed to have a 250 year lifespan. With construction begun in July 2011, the building is designed to be energy and carbon neutral, with a water and sewage processing system that allows the building to be independent of municipal water and sewage systems. Energy neutrality is achieved with a large solar panel array on the roof of the building along with energy conservation measures that will cut the building’s energy consumption to approximately 1/3 of a typical office building of similar size. Although the building will be connected to the electricity grid and may at times draw more power than it produces (especially during the winter), at other times it should produce enough surplus to “repay” such withdrawals, yielding annual energy neutrality.

adAPT NYC – New York

Developer: Monadnock Development LLC

Micro apartments are all the rage these days in cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. With density rising, rents reaching astronomical levels (I can attest to that here in SF), micro apartments–units under 350 square feet–are becoming more viable in dense urban centers.  adAPT, developed initially through submission/competition, is a strong collaboration between the city, developers, architects, and planners. As one of New York’s first micro apartments, it’s breaking new ground in multifamily development.

Mill Valley Cabins – Marin CA

Feldman Architects, (private client)

While this project wasn’t developed (it was built for a private client), its design and execution are at the heart of eco-tourism development both in the US and abroad.  The project exemplifies a move towards experiential, sustainable living.  The condensed footprint is enhanced through smart design moves. Elements such as building orientation, use of glazing, and a clever floorplan elevate the tiny space and make it feel bigger. The result is a thoughtful, well-executed project with characteristics that are quickly becoming attractive to many travelers looking for more ‘experience and substance’.

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