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Design and Planning Innovations for Housing Attainability

Innovative approaches to neighborhood and community planning and design can significantly contribute to housing attainability. The following are ways to achieve attainability with innovative neighborhood and community planning and design.

*Leyden Rock (Arvada, CO)

Low Impact Design

Successful low impact neighborhood and community design is more than just building ever bigger houses on ever smaller lots. Low impact design reduces infrastructure costs while maximizing open space and protecting vital habitat, historical, and cultural features of the site. Thereby, creating a sense of place-an amenity valued more than ever by homebuyers and community stakeholders.

Low impact design contributes to attainability by:

  • Reducing the overall development footprint and increasing density. A great example of this is at Leyden Rock in Arvada, Colorado, where low-impact site design resulted in 40% higher density than conventional development in the surrounding area while preserving 3 times as much open space.
  • Reducing the linear feet of street and utility improvements per home, resulting in lower infrastructure costs.
  • Using shared drives, loop lanes, and “Woonerfs” (living streets) for access to homes reduces the number of streets needed for access and the impervious surface area, providing both economic and environmental benefits.
  • Reducing the amount of impervious surface in streets, walks and drives reduces the extent and cost of stormwater infrastructure required and leaves more area in the landscape leading to increased infiltration and reduced runoff.
  • Planning compact lots and xeric landscape design, which reduces the expense of water and maintenance costs to the homeowner.

Design For All Life Stages

Attainability is an issue for all homebuyers, not just first-time buyers.  Designing communities for all life stages contributes to housing attainability by broadening the type of homes and range of costs available to homebuyers. People at different life stages have different housing needs, financial goals, and resources. The needs and finances for a first-time homebuyer may be significantly different than an active adult move-down buyer.

Simplify the Landscape and Preserve Open Space.

Preserving the existing landscape whenever possible ensures it is the most affordable and resilient landscape in a community. Restoring disturbed areas with native landscape whenever possible promotes affordable installation and maintenance.

Be judicious with amenity improvements. The most important and desirable amenity for neighborhoods and communities is space, but it doesn’t need to be filled with all the latest trends. Create simple, cost-effective spaces that will continue to benefit the community and a wide range of users as time passes and resident demographics change.

Light Touch Density

The most affordable homes, neighborhoods, and communities in the United States are the ones we already have. We cannot build our way to attainability solely by building large single-family home communities within greenfield development or with high-density development in the urban core.  New home and infrastructure construction costs are the highest they have ever been, and it is highly unlikely they will go down anytime soon. It is counterintuitive to think we can use the most expensive construction costs, often combined with significant political resistance (Nimbys) to meet our attainable housing needs.

Edward Pinto, Director, AEI Housing Center made an outstanding presentation about Light Touch Density (LTD) at the 2023 NAHB spring meetings in Washington DC this past June. Here’s what was learned from his presentation:

  • LTD is a naturally affordable and inclusionary pattern of development that was commonplace 100 years ago. It’s the triple-deckers of Boston, the row houses of Philly and San Francisco, the brownstones of New York, and the various larger (but still generally walk-up) apartment buildings interspersed into that fabric. Moderately higher density and use by right zoning allows the free market to add substantially to supply. It drives smaller incremental investments by thousands of owners, developers, builders, and others, which allows for flexibility, resiliency, and mid-course correction based on feedback as opposed to relying on fewer, expensive mega projects, often in suburban or exurban locations.
  • LTD does not require subsidies, inclusionary zoning, income limits, rent caps, or complex plans.
  • LTD housing promotes filtering down, which does not happen when expensive housing projects built in limited quantities dominate the market. Instead, it works best when masses of homes are produced at or below the middle of the price spectrum.
  • LTD homes can have substantially lower prices and rents than single-family detached homes or large multifamily projects and adds more supply, diversity in form, and size choices for lower income households. LTD allows for more efficient use of existing and new infrastructure and generates higher tax yield per acre.

Light-Touch Density is useful in modestly increasing density in multiple ways:

  • In-fill: providing additional units such as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or adding a second unit to an existing single-family detached lot.
  • In-fill: tearing down an existing unit and replacing it with duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes, or townhouses.
  • In-fill: a lot-split to allow increased density.
  • Greenfield: increasing as-built density.
  • Greenfield and Infill: increasing density by adding additional floor(s) or reducing the size of the units in a planned new apartment or condo building.

All these LTD strategies would moderately increase the as-built density of the land, thereby enabling owners/builders to construct smaller, less expensive units that are more naturally affordable & inclusionary without requiring subsidies.

Daniel Herriges is Editor-in-Chief for Strong Towns. His recent article in Strong Towns, “What’s the “Sweet Spot” For Building Housing Inexpensively?”  supports the concept of Light-touch Density.

Overdependence on high density housing can be counterproductive to affordability. Mid and high-rise construction technology is generally the most expensive construction form used in home building, and it is often built on the most expensive residentially zoned property in the marketplace, yet many communities focus their housing goals solely on this housing form. Most missing middle homes use basic construction techniques and doesn’t require features like elevators, steel-frame construction, or structured parking that add expense and complexity.

On the opposite end of the supply spectrum is the single-family home. In most parts of the country, new single-family homes are constructed in suburban conditions. Land may be more affordable, but water and infrastructure expansion costs add significantly to land cost, and ultimately, home cost. Exorbitant tap fees and other impact fees further drive up the per-home cost of building which then pushes builders to build larger homes to offset these costs. Adding supply at the high end yields few new homes and fewer move-ups from less expensive housing. Think of it this way:  Imagine if car manufacturers could only legally build Ferraris. Filtering down would be limited as few new cars would be sold, existing car prices would sky-rocket, and few could afford new or used cars.

The sweet spot for affordability is in “Missing Middle” housing, in all its forms from duplexes to small apartment buildings, as well as other arrangements like cottage courts.

It can fit on a regular urban lot, without the developer needing to buy up multiple lots to combine them, and can be done by a relatively small-scale, semi-amateur developer without a huge amount of capital. LTD adds to supply in the middle and yields a greatly increased number of move-ups from less expensive existing housing—making the most affordable housing we have attainable for new homeowners or renters.  It offers many more ownership opportunities, helps close the socio-economic status wealth gap, and reduces homelessness.

Low impact design, design for all life stages, simplifying the landscape and preserving open space, and light touch density all can play a part in providing more attainable and sustainable homes, neighborhoods, and communities.

The Backbone of Community: Great Public Spaces – Part 2

Public Spaces are where life happens. From playgrounds to musical performances and public demonstrations, they serve as the focal point that communities form, develop, and thrive around.

As a continuation of our series on public spaces, here are two projects we have worked on that embody our philosophy that public spaces should be designed to be lived in – not simply be looked at. This means our design should 1) respond to the cultural context of the site and its surroundings, 2) simplify the landscape and amenity program, and 3) prioritize sustainability goals and objectives.

Stanley Marketplace

Consilium Design and the Stanley Marketplace development team truly raised the bar for adaptive reuse, sustainable redevelopment, and great place-making with their plans for the historic Stanley Aviation facility in Aurora, Colorado.

Several principles of sustainable site and landscape development included:

  • Preservation and restoration of the native landscape condition
  • Adaptive reuse of salvaged materials and structures
  • Minimize impervious surfaces
  • Reduce the urban heat island effect
  • Enhance water quality

Julian Farm & Orchard

Julian Farm and Orchard’s goal is to support the Julian community by “encouraging a continuing rural atmosphere by planning for a balanced ecological community and a healthy environment for all forms of life”. The Julian Farm and Orchard plan includes a unique gathering and sustainable place in a dark-sky historic mountain town where visitors enjoy gourmet food, craft spirits, and the arts with a rustic, agricultural vibe.

Signature development features include:

  • DC Fast EV charging
  • farm-to-table chef-driven restaurant and bar
  • 350-person event center
  • Lodging
  • retail space
  • hospitality center and recreation hall
  • on-site craft distillery & tasting room
  • guided educational workshops
  • U-Pick pumpkins, apples, berries, and a multitude of additional sustainable agricultural offerings

Consilium Design Presenting at IBS 2023

At This year’s International Builder Show, be sure to mark your calendars so that you don’t miss Consilium Design’s innovative session on water management and sustainability, featuring Craig Karn and other leaders in the home building industry.

Turning the Tide: Addressing Water-Related Affordability & Development Challenges

Date: Wednesday, February 1
Time: 3:00 – 4:00 PM
Room: LVCC – West 225

Water continues to be a critical issue facing builders and developers throughout the country. Water is becoming more scarce particularly throughout the western U.S., while increasing rainfall (and flooding) is prevalent in the south and the east, damaging homes and overwhelming antiquated and under-maintained stormwater infrastructure. The impact—diminished water quality, increased construction costs, a slower pace of building, and reduced home affordability. This session will address how the home building industry can respond to these challenges through innovation, community design strategy, and advocacy to meet the demand for safe, affordable homes and communities.

Learning Objectives:

  • Examine how climate change and related water issues across the U.S. impact home building and community growth.
  • Learn how innovations in home design, landscape architecture, community planning, and infrastructure design are responding to the growing challenge.
  • See how others are successfully advocating for policies and resources to meet the increasing demand for healthy, affordable, and resilient homes and communities
  • Discover how climate change-related innovations create value for buyers and drive sales.

Click Here to Learn More

Consilium Design is Growing and Expanding

Here at Consilium Design are we constantly growing, and today we are excited to announce that our team is expanding with us.

Julie Hendricksen

Julie Hendricksen Has Been Promoted to Managing Director

For four years, Julie has been a critical contributor to the design and philosophy of Consilium Design, and today we’re proud to have her step into her first executive role as Managing Director.

Julie was one of the first landscape architects in Colorado to gain her Green Roof Professional certification and values her involvement with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. She is involved in food equity and supporting pollinator habitats. An avid beekeeper, reader, and hiker. Her expertise in this important role will be invaluable to our firm.

W. Richard Martin III

W. Richard Martin III Has Been Promoted to Associate Project Manager

Despite joining our team recently, Richard has quickly demonstrated a unique eye for design, a collaborative spirit, and a knack for creating memorable spaces. For these reasons – and many more – we are promoting him to Associate Project Manager.

His outdoorsman personality draws him to rivers, forests, mountains, and open roads for exploring, connecting, and recharging.

In addition to our two internal promotions, we are proud to introduce you to two new members of the Consilium Design family.

In addition to our two internal promotions, we are proud to introduce you to two new members of the Consilium Design family.

Shahla Bowen

Shahla Bowen, Associate Project Manager

Shahla Bowen has ten years of landscape design experience including design-build, high-end residential, and large-scale planning in multi-disciplinary firms. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest and has worked in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona and recently moved to Colorado in 2022. Shahla believes that designed spaces can be artistic, thoughtful, practical, and ecologically healthy for the environment, and strives to incorporate all those elements in her work. Her love for adventure, art, and the outdoors drew her to Colorado and she is excited to call Denver her new home.

Hannah Taylor

Hannah Taylor

Hannah is a current student of architecture and learning firsthand the world of landscape architecture through the experienced staff of Consilium Design. In her downtime, she enjoys going for walks with her family, sitting around the fire pit, cooking, and embroidery. She is grateful to use her proficiency in AutoCAD to provide assistance to the team at Consilium design so they can continue to do great work.

The Backbone of Community: Great Public Spaces

Public Spaces are where life happens. From playgrounds to musical performances and public demonstrations, they serve as the focal point that communities form, develop, and thrive around.

At Consilium Design, we believe that public spaces should be designed to be lived in – not simply be looked at. This means our design should 1) respond to the cultural context of the site and its surroundings, 2) simplify the landscape and amenity program, and 3) prioritize sustainability goals and objectives.

North Cortez Music Venue

Our client invited us to create a vision for a downtown premier outdoor music venue, mixing contemporary building expressions into the existing building fabric. Two historic buildings will have their exteriors fully restored.  The three-story hotel that has been vacant for decades will be restored to increase foot traffic and offer much-needed downtown lodging options.   Our idea was to keep the historic structures as artifacts and fill them in with very contemporary new building forms and landscapes evoking something new and compelling emerging from these rustic relics.

Sustainability goals are to capture as much solar energy as possible with rooftop photovoltaics, which doubles as shade for people and buildings, lowering summer a/c costs. An underground cistern is designed to capture and store rainwater to meet all the project’s irrigation needs, evaporative cooler demand, as well as addressing stormwater detention requirements.

This great public space will be a year-round must-see attraction and a huge asset for the city and region.

Pointe Plaza

​At Pointe Plaza and The Commons, wind-friendly design was priority #1. We minimized the impacts of NW winter winds and took advantage of warm SW winds by rotating building orientations to define the space and provide wind-friendly outdoor spaces.

Design features include:

  • Upper floor bridge connections between buildings at the plaza
  • Point Place is “Main Street”-we maximized the orientation of buildings to this street
  • Existing Townhomes and a new building fronting Point Place create a gateway effect
  • Point Place can be closed for events from the parking entry to parking entry
  • Offices & apartments over daycare facility
  • Apartments at upper levels at the Plaza
  • Central plaza extended through Point Place to create a pedestrian-friendly zone
  • First-floor commercial has good visibility in all buildings
  • Windbreaks have been planted at all open space opportunities

Larry Levin Park

Connectivity is the overriding design intent of Larry L. Levin Park. The park provides surrounding businesses, residences, and commuters with a meeting place for recreation, play, and conversation where individuals can connect to create larger groups while experiencing nature. Connectivity is addressed on-site through accessibility and the convergence of a variety of transportation options, bike lanes, and sidewalks make experiencing the park inevitable.

Landscaping has been arranged for clear lines of site, access, and openness with prominent lighting in all areas to promote a sense of safety and well-being at any time of day or night. The surrounding businesses and residences provide eyes-on-the street and a sense of a safe community. A prominent corner monument provides wayfinding and identifies the space.

The large open lawn area invites nearby residents to participate in pop-up games and create social connections with other users. The dog park provides a place for pets and their owners to connect through play and observation. Children and parents can connect while playing on the natural features of the playground. The natural play features provide connections to nature through experience and activity that are not found in traditional play equipment.

The pavilions provide an area to meet, bring take out from a local business or find shelter from the elements when commuting. A 4’ tall bear cub with a stone faux finish is a corner feature of the playground and will greet visitors exiting the light rail at RidgeGate Station while creating photo interactive and memorable experiences to share with friends.

The Consilium Design Difference: Featuring RidgeGate

Consilium Design is grateful for our involvement at RidgeGate, a 3,515 acre master-planned community in Lone Tree, Colorado.   The opportunity to work with Keith Simon, Darryl Jones, and the entire Coventry team allows us to experience continuing professional growth, contribute to sustainable and resilient “city building”, and demonstrate the Consilium Design difference in our work every day.

Our involvement at RidgeGate encompasses multiple roles.  Craig Karn, our founder, is a member of the RidgeGate Design Review Committee, offering guidance and insight for applicants, helping them to elevate their designs, have a successful entitlement effort with the City of Lone Tree, and set a higher standard for community development.

Ridgegate Station Apartments

Consilium Design is the Landscape Architect of record for the Rampart Range Metropolitan District at RidgeGate.  Our role includes the design and development of District managed streetscapes, parks, and other public spaces.  Working with the District management team, we develop new design and maintenance protocols, coordinate streetscape improvements with adjacent developments, and move projects through the city entitlement process.

Promenade park at RedgeGate

Consilium Design works directly with the developers of individual development sites within RidgeGate.  We are the landscape architect for the 228-unit Novus apartment community at the Sky Ridge Station, The 540-unit RidgeGate Station apartment community at the RidgeGate Station, and the Pinnacle medical office building near the Sky Ridge Medical Center. Our familiarity with the design review committee and city entitlement processes allows us to effectively guide our clients through those processes.  Julie Hendricksen, Senior Landscape Architect, leads our work for this and the Rampart Range Metropolitan District.

RidgeGate Parkway Station

We collaborated with the Coventry Development team, City staff, and other stakeholders to create a landscape master plan for RidgeGate Parkway and Havana Street. This master plan is now guiding us through phased design and construction encompassing over three miles of multi-modal corridor development. Over 2,800 street trees are included in the design.

Happy St. Patricks Day – The Irish Miners Of Leadville

In 2019 Barnabas Kane of Consilium Design submitted the winning entry for the design competition sponsored by ‘Irish Network Colorado’ INCO.  The Mission was to honor the nearly 1500 unmarked graves of the, mostly, Irish immigrants scattered through the woods of the Pauper section of Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville, CO. The Design vision is a mound with spiral walkways leading up to 8 glass panels with the names of the honored, encircling a  flagstone plaza and plinth with a bronze sculpted centerpiece of a kneeling miner.

We’re excited to see the Irish Miners of Leadville getting highlighted in this St. Patrick’s Day segment from the Fox 31 News team. Click Here to read the original article.

DENVER (KWGN) – As you raise a toast on this Saint Patrick’s Day, we suggest you salute the Irish Miners Of Leadville. 150 years ago, at the height of the gold and silver rush, it was Irish immigrants who answered the call. Thousands made the trek to Leadville, Colorado. When they arrived to work the mines, they found low pay and harsh conditions. The mines could reach temperatures of 100 degrees below, and -20 degrees at the surface. Many of our Irish pioneers didn’t make it. And nearly 1,500 were buried in unmarked graves, too poor to afford a burial. Average age of a person in the paupers grave: just 23-years-old. But now, there’s an effort to honor the lost, remember their efforts, and celebrate their contributions. The Irish Miners Memorial set to open this fall.

The Consilium Design Difference

Consilium Design is small by design.

We are a small firm that does big things and get big results. Our practice structure is designed for performance with the skills and resources of a world-class firm. We strive to be better, not bigger, with high standards, unmatched integrity, and a drive to deliver the best.

We provide direct principal and senior staff involvement at every step in the design and implementation process.

Our design teams are involved from acquisition through the built work, providing design continuity, solid institutional project knowledge, and superior execution of the vision for your project.

The Met at Blvd 1

Awards and Recognition

It’s one thing to say your way of doing things is better than others. It’s quite another when highly respected 3rd party sources say it for you.

  • 2021 National Homebuilders Best in American Living Gold, The Met at Boulevard One
  • 2020 Best in American Home Living (BALA) Multifamily Development up to 3 stories, Built for Sale, The Met at Boulevard One
  • 2018 USGBC Local Leader Award for Outdoor Environments – Stanley Marketplace, Aurora, Colorado
  • 2017 Best in American Home Living (BALA) Gold Award Single-Family Community, 100 units and over for Leyden Rock in Arvada, Colorado
  • HBA of Denver 2016 MAME Community of the Year for Leyden Rock in Arvada, Colorado

Our Design Philosophy is Doing Simple Well

  • We create simple, executable designs that maximize value and your return on investment.
  • Our design solutions get you yes votes for your entitlement.
  • Our design solutions perform well and “age well” so you build your reputation and open future possibilities.
  • We have the experience, recognition, and reputation so people will trust your choice in working with us.

Leyden Rock

We listen well.

We are committed to strong communications and project management. We build redundancy in our internal communications and project management so more than one person can address an issue at any time.

We do our homework.

We are experienced and skilled at thoroughly researching all applicable plans codes and regulations for each jurisdiction, so we know the rules as well as or better than the staff and stakeholders we work with.

Stanley Marketplace

Consilium Design Presenting at IBS 2022

At This year’s International Builder Show, be sure to mark your calendars so that you don’t miss Consilium Design’s innovative sessions on design and water management, featuring Craig Karn and other leaders in the home building industry.

Turning the Tide: Making Water an Asset for Your Project, Not a Liability

Date: Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Time: 9:15 AM – 10:15 AMRoom: OCCC – W304-G

Water has become a critical issue facing builders throughout much of the country. Home builders and community developers are impacted by issues of ongoing drought and aridification, water quality, stormwater, and aging infrastructure. These issues are influencing the pace of building and housing affordability across the country. Through a diverse set of regional perspectives, this session will demonstrate how to maximize the value of water as an asset instead of treating it as a design and development liability. A panel of industry experts will address key water challenges and innovative steps to overcome them. Discover how innovations in water planning and management can support the entitlement process and community sales and marketing.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explore how a water-driven design approach can be used to help enable continued community development and home building in all regions of the country.
  • Define how to think of stormwater as an asset for building more resilient communities, rather than as a liability and “waste product” of development.
  • Demonstrate the role that water conservation and sustainable landscape design can play in affordability.
  • Determine how a water-focused, resilient community design attracts buyers and accelerates sales.

Outdoor Living Designs Solutions for Every Scale

Date: Thursday, February 10, 2022
Time: 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Room: OCCC – W307-C

With the renewed need for outdoor spaces throughout the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that designers and builders are offering a variety of right-sized, well-programmed outdoor living amenities. During this session, panelists will share their highest impact design ideas for outdoor living, discuss the importance of programming outdoor spaces, explore the latest trends in outdoor living and outdoor spaces in larger communities, and address outdoor living and privacy even on smaller lots. Make the most of dog-friendly amenities or get inspiration of otherwise empty, grass yards — regardless of your typical project size, the ideas shared will provide inspiration for outdoor living in your next projects.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify trends and buyer preferences in outdoor living spaces, from smaller lots to larger communities.
  • Discuss the importance of programming and right-sizing outdoor living spaces.
  • Understand how privacy can be included in outdoor living design, even in closer lots and multifamily living.
  • Identify what makes the “wow factor” in outdoor living, even with a smaller budget.

North Cortez Music Venue

The owners invited us to create a vision for a downtown premier outdoor music venue for 300 to 1000 spectators. They liked the notion of mixing contemporary building expressions into the existing building fabric, so did we.  Two of the historic buildings are to have the exteriors fully restored.  The three-story hotel that has been vacant for decades we recommended restoring back into a hotel to increase foot traffic and offering much-needed downtown lodging options.  A number of the remaining buildings were assessed and recommended for removal, except for a masonry storefront which will be preserved as a historic fragment and will act as a grand entrance & threshold into the courtyard performance space where the stage looks onto a treed cloistered brick-paved plaza.  Our idea was to keep the historic structures as artifacts and fill in with very contemporary new building forms and landscape evoking something new and compelling emerging from these rustic relics.  To activate the space, we employed the ‘power of 10’ Project for Public Spaces framework, integrating, retail, museum & gift shop recognizing local musical artists, food, and beverage establishments, and more.

After developing a pattern language and design principles for the design we created 12 potential site plan diagrams settling on a courtyard scheme expressed by a creative arrangement of buildings as objects which define the spaces.   The central space is an oasis, a green space with trees and water, activated by people using the shops, restaurants, bars, and other retail businesses. The courtyard is partially ringed by a ground-level arcade and contemporary storefronts, and a near-continuous second-level balcony above for circulation, offering a variety of social and commercial activities with great views for people watching in the courtyard, stage events, as well as the western horizon and surrounding cityscape.

The sustainability goals are to capture as much solar energy as possible with rooftop photovoltaics, which double as shade for people and buildings, lowering summer a/c costs.

An underground cistern is designed to capture and store rainwater to meet all the project’s irrigation needs, evaporative cooler demand, as well as addressing stormwater detention requirements.  It may also act as a business incubator for the hospitality sector.

This project has the potential for making Prescott an entertainment destination.  It’s not just a cool outdoor music venue but a year-round must-see attraction and a huge asset for the city and region.  It is good quality urban redevelopment like this that local leadership is looking for to reinvigorate underutilized urban real estate. It drives tourism, increases foot traffic, and gives local families a much-needed, fun social place that also attracts local and world-class performers.

Watch The Video Walkthrough