architecture blog

Phasing a Future Small Lot Subdivision: The Fay 3X Homes

Posted by Michael Scott on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 18:07 PM

As we started design work on phase two of the Fay Ave project earlier this year, we had to keep in mind that the project’s overall mission was still the same: affordable, interesting, modern housing that pencils out as rental apartments or for-sale Small Lot Subdivision homes.  

Keeping that in mind, whenever we start a new project, we like to take a fresh look at things. This is no different for a phased project. So, we hit the ground running, establishing the following new project goals.

  • Decrease the number of phases from four to three in order to reduce the nuisance of construction for the neighbors and take advantage of economies of scale in construction pricing.

  • Incorporate improvements from feedback received from potential end users (the tenants of phase one) and subcontractors.

  • Retain ideas and elements that were successful from the first phase.

Modern Apartment Site Plan Los Angeles

One of the best things about a phased development is that we were able to analyze and learn from round one (Fay 2X Homes) and incorporate the new knowledge into phase two. Outside of internally looking at the project through a critical eye, we also received feedback from potential renters of the first phase. The Developer and Modative both talked openly with prospective tenants about what they liked and, more importantly, would like to see improved. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, but  as problem solvers, we focused on the areas needing improvement. Slightly larger bedrooms, increased storage, more yard space, and a master suite topped the list of most-desired improvements.

For us, the project working in a spreadsheet is just as important as it working in architectural plans. Phase two wasn’t going to happen if it didn’t make financial sense.

To keep costs down, we knew that we only wanted to add square footage where we needed it. Most of the spacial concerns were in the private rooms, so we knew that the additional area should be on the second floor. We accomplished this by cantilevering above (front unit) and bridging across (rear units) the carports. This move shifted the spacial balance, which was essentially 50/50 public/private in phase one, to lean towards the private space. We offset this shift by connecting the ground level living areas to large (by urban standards), usable outdoor spaces, creating a nice indoor/outdoor flow.

Small Modern Homes Diagram


Upgrading one of the bedrooms to a master suite was another high priority item. This meant a larger bedroom area, an upgraded bathroom and a walk-in closet.  At the minimum, we wanted the upgraded bathroom to have a dual sink, but we were also able to fit a larger shower and a linen closet. We also placed the wet walls back-to-back, a move that will make the plumbing subcontractor very happy.

Modern Small House Plans Improvements

So, after adding all this area to the bedroom level, we crunched the numbers and found that  the master bedrooms are 32% larger and the secondary bedrooms are 11% larger in phase two than phase one. While the walk-in closet naturally increased the master storage, we also grew the storage in the second bedroom by over 50%.

Homes Modern Apartment LA Fay 3X

We kept the elements people liked from phase one: simple forms, interesting facade treatments and a cost-effective building design.

Phase two has three units and three door and window types, thus earning it the nickname 3X Homes, which is a spin-off of the 2X Homes concept of phase one. Construction on this phase will start in the fall of 2012 with construction completion scheduled for spring 2013.

Post by Michael Scott. Contributors to this post include Krystal NávarDerek Leavitt and Christian Návar.

Tags: Development, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, small homes, Small House, affordable modern architecture, los angeles architects, modern architecture firm

Fay 2x Homes - Future Small Lot Subdivision Construction Complete!

Posted by Krystal Navar on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 @ 06:02 AM

In November 2010, we posted about our cost-effective solution to reviving a project that had completely stalled due to the housing bust (see: Modative Architecture Provides Stimulus Package.) Well, since this last post, our sister company, Modative Build, has completed construction of Phase One of this new Fay Ave. project! 

To recap, the “2x” concept came out of finding a simple, creative, cost-effective solution to this goal: to re-imagine a pre-housing-bust development for a much different market. Fay 2x Homes is the reincarnation of the Fay Ave Art District Dwellings, a seven-home Small Lot Subdivision project, which was designed before the real estate market crashed. Our challenge, as architects, was to reinvent this project for a changed economy. 

The seven-home project would ultimately utilize three adjacent lots; however, the center lot was sitting vacant, and, as such, was not providing any income for the owner while the development stalled. Our client asked us to propose a simple, cost-effective design that would add immediate value to this vacant lot and start generating rental income. We decided to drastically simplify the design of the homes and to phase construction in a way that made the most financial sense for our client. The two homes pictured make up Phase One of a four-phase project. 

While the modern design of the project was inspired and influenced by its’ location near the Culver City Arts District, the straightforward design is a direct result of providing a cost-conscious solution for our client.  We decided to limit certain building components to only two variations as a way to minimize the overall project cost. This self-imposed limitation is evident throughout the design of the homes: phase one consists of two homes, each utilizing just two exterior materials, two interior materials, two colors, two window sizes, and two door sizes. Further emphasizing the “2x” concept, each home contains two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms on two floors, for a combined total of 2,000 square feet. These smaller, more affordable homes are being rented as apartments until all four phases are complete and the properties are ultimately subdivided into seven lots/homes per the Los Angeles Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.

As a burgeoning design/build firm, we were also able to act as the General Contractor on this project. This helped to keep the cost of construction down for our client by drastically minimizing the cost of change orders that are typically a part of a traditional architect/contractor construction project relationship.

Phase One of this project was completed December 2011 and is now fully occupied.

Here are some photos of the first completed phase of the Fay 2x Homes. Enjoy!

small lot subdivision architects modern los angeles fay

The simplicity of the Fay 2x Homes allowed the property owner to start earning rental income ASAP.

small lot subdivision los angeles cement board siding fay

The wood 2x vertical fins, while hiding the connection details of the cement board siding, also create a graphic pattern on each building face. The patterns are dynamic and change with the time of day, especially on the south walls.

small lot subdivision LA fay ave 2X

A view of the back of the property. Check out all that vehicle back-up space required by the city! It's a crazy amount of space dedicated to the car, but I could throw a mean bbq shindig back there, so it's not totally wasted space.

small lot subdivision modern architect cement board siding

The home entrances are punctuated by bright green doors. 

small lot subdivision modern interior architecture

The concrete floor, plywood ceiling, and IKEA kitchen were all cost-conscious moves to keep the homes relevant in today's market.

small lot subdivision architect modern home

The front home's living area opens out onto a ground-level patio that engages Fay Ave.

los angeles architects small lot subdivision interior

The back home's living area is on the upper level, taking advantage of views toward the Baldwin Hills and the Helm's Bakery sign.

small lot subdivision modern bathroom architect

The bathroom finishes land just below custom-home level, but well above apartment-grade on the finish quality meter.


Post by Krystal Návar. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .

Tags: Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, contractor, small homes, Small House, los angeles architects, culver city, construction

Modative Architecture Provides Stimulus Package

Posted by Christian Navar on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 @ 06:11 AM

Modative Fay Ave 2 Unit

Spent too much on land?

For years in our industry I used to hear how architects know close to nothing when it comes to staying on budget, that overspending is commonplace for most designers. With the severe downturn in the real estate industry it seems like architects finally aren’t the only ones who can be accused of overspending!

Like many Los Angeles architecture firms, many of our prize projects have been scrapped in the last couple of years. Our projects became victims of overspending, and this time, you can’t blame the architect for over-designing, ignoring budgets and having cost overruns.

These days it is now clear that spending too much on land and planning oversized projects has become the real project killer.

So, you bought too high you say? Now what?

So, you bought a property at the height of the building boom and now your budget numbers don’t  look so good and you need to put the project on hold? Hmm, if I had a dollar for every time I have heard that in the last year, Modative could bail us all out of this crisis.

Being designers, we of course naturally believe that you can design your way out of anything. Here at Modative, we believe that if the government hired more designers, or real problem solvers, we would need less “financial experts” and definitely less slow-moving bureaucrats. If you think members of the Obama Administration are the only ones offering bailouts these days, you should check out our new 2-unit small lot subdivision “stimulus package”.

Modative’s stimulus package

The project site is currently vacant land that sits between two other lots that combined were once part of a 7-unit small lot subdivision project on Fay Avenue in Los Angeles. After the economy crashed, the project was placed on hold, and our client found themselves with an overpriced and underutilized piece of dirt.

Fay Avenue Property

In classic boomtown fashion, the original project consisted of seven luxury three-story units that were slated to be between 1,750 and 1,900 square feet each. After the bust, the client asked us to reevaluate the site, specifically the vacant dirt lot, and propose a simple, cost-effective solution that would bring added value to this property which wasn’t generating any income.

Creative solutions can revive a project

This isn’t our only revisited post-downturn, multi-unit housing project currently on the boards. In fact many of our recent projects have come to us as previously-approved condominium projects designed by other firms. Aside from being asked to turn defunct condominium projects into small lot subdivisions, we hear the same thing over and over, how small can we make a residential unit and still have it be marketable?

In the case of the Fay Avenue project, we proposed starting out with just two very simple two-story, 1,000 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath units that could be offered at a price point more favorable in the current marketplace. We then devised a creative phasing option, placing the proposed units on the site so that the owner could utilize the other two lots as part of a future phased expansion, that in the end will total 7 units. In the meantime, they could continue to rent the units on the other lots and wait for the economy and the current lending situation to improve. We have always believed in smaller units, but now, with the current state of the economy, we can finally get people to believe that bigger isn’t always better.

 

small lot subdivision phasing diagram

 

We were proud of our original 7-unit project, but sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. In the meantime, we’ll continue to take pride in knowing that our redesigned 2-unit “stimulus package” will help provide an added income stream for our client.

An architecture professor of ours from USC once said, “I am teaching you how to solve problems, not so you will become good architects, but so you will become great politicians.” Well with the current unemployment rate in California hovering somewhere around 12.4%, anything Modative can do to be part of the solution is something to be proud of.

“The first phase of the Fay Avenue project is slated to begin construction in the Spring of 2011. The Obama administration is still running some calculations to determine the exact number of jobs this project will add once construction begins, but thanks to Modative, we are pretty sure not only will this project be beneficial to job creation, but maybe, just maybe, it will even help stimulate small businesses lending again!” - Unknown Politician

We plan to post project updates on our website regarding this project, so if you’re interested, continue to check back for more info.

Fay Avenue Property Rear

Contributors to this post include Derek Leavitt, AIA, Michael Scott and Krystal Návar.

Tags: Property, Development, Los Angeles, Multi Family Housing, Small Lot Subdivision, Modern Design, Architectual Practice, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, small homes, home size

Small Lot Project Added

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 @ 10:01 AM

The Fay Ave. Art District Dwellings small lot subdivision project has been added to the projects section of our website. This project is currently in the tract map process in the City of Los Angeles. The design for these seven homes is inspired by the growing art district in the project's surrounding area.


Tags: Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing, Fay Ave Art District dwellings