Emphasis on multi-functionality key to micro-unit apartment design

 

The Home Front: Smaller housing solutions

News · June 19, 2024
The Home Front: Smaller housing solutions

Housing affordability is never far from the headlines in Canada, and it’s something architect Andre D’Elia, co-founder of Toronto-based firm Superkül, hopes to address with a micro-unit design they recently prototyped.

 

D’Elia and his colleagues designed units ranging from 200 to 300 square feet for a rental development for Forum Asset Management

Construction costs are what they are and don’t seem to be coming down. Land value is going up. Reducing the size of the units can make them more approachable (financially),” he says.
Co-founder and partner at Superkül Andre D’Elia. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER WAHL /sun

Micro units aren’t new

Designing tiny apartments isn’t new, says D’Elia. Places more dense than Vancouver and Toronto, like Japan, Korea, London and New York, have been building them for years.

We’re hoping it starts to catch (on) here in Canada as a viable option.”

A Swiss army knife approach to apartment design

D’Elia says designing the interiors of these particular micro-units, which come fully furnished, requires the same approach as creating the interiors of a sailboat cabin or camper van.

Every square inch has been thought out.”

Using products already on the market, Superkül has utilized coffee tables that become dining room tables just by lifting them up, Murphy beds that drop down when residents are ready to sleep, and the Ori floating bed system. These beds float to the ceiling when you’re not using them, “liberating the floor,” says D’Elia. These fittings allow the units to become bedrooms when people want to sleep and dining rooms or offices when they don’t.

The micro-unit market

Micro-units will most likely appeal to first-time buyers or people moving to dense urban areas who are looking for affordable, fully furnished rental housing.

 

D’Elia says these units will also likely appeal to empty nesters or those who spend most of their time in a cottage elsewhere and want a small place in the city.

 

The first rental project Superkül designed (they now specialize in it) was a small building of 49 units, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, in Toronto’s hip Leslieville neighbourhood.

 

Superkül and the client thought the demographic they targeted with these units was young professionals. However, when they finished the building, more than half of the people who lived there were over 65.

They wanted to be closer to their kids who lived in that neighbourhood,” D’Elia says.

Shared amenity spaces are hugely important in these micro-unit buildings, says D’Elia. The communal or shared lounges become an extension of your living room.

 

And where they are located is key. Close to parks, cafes and libraries, making them really in tune with urban living.

 

Consider how a camper van helps you fully experience the outdoors and enjoy a beautiful spot in nature. It’s the same with these micro-units, says D’Elia. They allow you access to the place you want to spend time, providing all the amenities you need to eat and rest.

 

Quality fittings are a must

D’Elia says good-quality furnishings are a must, as they allow you to have the functionality you need for the micro-units to be comfortable and work well. The Ori floating bed, for example, is not cheap.

 

Developers designing rental units have durability at the forefront of their minds, he adds, and increasingly, sustainability.

 

One we’re doing right now, in Kitchener, the facade is solar panel, generating energy through the skin of the building.”
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