Designing Covid resistant apartments-Ground up? Fad or future?

19 Replies

We are a small developer in Salem Oregon. We are lining up some incredibly sweet projects setting up over the next year. With the help of our first syndication (all the other projects are self funded). We are currently 1/2 done with Keizer Oregon's first mixed use project! 5x office/flex spaces with 13 single bedroom apartments above it- all wrapped in a cool modern style with 14' ceilings on the top floor (Shed style roof). Looking to see if anyone has put together a list of additional "Add on" improvements to support a Covid resistant building. (CRB) (maybe move away from the negative and call it a "Health Protected Building" HPB, my wife no to the "Bubble Boy Building" BBB- She is clearly not a boy. (Not that there is anything wrong with that) (PC).

OK- Back on target-  

Here is my list-  I will try to add to it as a resource- Maybe put a link together-  

1:  Air circulation/Heating-   PTAC, or MiniSplits (Anyone make one with a UV-C virus bypass/intake)? Air moves too quick? or kills a % overtime

2: Well sealed front door- (should already be according to energy code- maybe an extra layer, antimicrobial insulation around door?)

3: Build 1 bedroom units as roommates become a liability-  (so build smaller units as price is a factor)

4: Antibacterial materials on items you touch- (Metal is naturally antibacterial over time) some more than others- which is best? or a antimicrobial coating (I do not like chemicals)

5 UV-C disinfectant lighting system.   (Floods room with UV-C to kill exposed virus )  Motion sensor or timer 1 fixture per room or a dual light/UVC sanitizer mode?

6.  Ozone Ozonator   EPA says NO.  need more research

7. Individual heating systems for each bedroom PTAC or miniSplit.

8.  UV-C lights in Elevator (we are doing woody walk ups) (But elevators are coming soon to help our silver wave (older retired generation)

9.  A cute little hand sanitizer station at the front door? also spot for masks (washing hands is better) (could just be a shelf)

10. find out what hotels are doing?

11... Anybody have any input?

Chris Blackburn  Clutch Industries  Salem Oregon- coming soon- GMF Good Morning Fridays-

Weekly VLOG on commercial real estate in the Willamette Tertiary Market (Yes- that means not Portland)

for all 3 of the people who made it this far-  Here is the  weekly update- from our company on that mixed use project.

Shows our progress

I heard on a podcast the other day that developers are going to look into adding soundproof flex workspaces/meeting rooms/huddle rooms into apartment buildings. 

As a millennial, I can tell you this would be an amazing perk for folks who work from home, especially if you add some video teleconferencing units or the ability to share to a bluetooth projector, etc. This is especially useful if both spouses work from home and they don't want overlapping background noise, or if you have kids, excess noise, etc. It allows you to get away from your living room couch and get some work done without having to pay for the square footage of an increased apartment unit. 

Most laptops have a built-in camera nowadays, so hardware for videoconferencing might be a bit much. But having the ability to work with other teammates in an apartment complex would be a pretty sweet feature. 

Similar to how self-storage units moved from dedicated buildings to in apartment complexes, I see these co-working spaces possibly moving into apartment complexes as well.

Hello Increased NOI, it's your old friend the apartment investor :)

Thank you

@Jordan Burnett

  That is a great thing to consider that would work better for the 2 or 3 bedroom units.  You could design a 2 bedroom to be offered as a 1 bedroom with a home office? (not sure why you would need 2 bathrooms.  I think you have to re-educate the way people think about working from home-  It's not a bedroom! It a home office-  (Plus the Tax write off?  I like it!

Originally posted by @Chris Blackburn :

Thank you

@Jordan Burnett

  That is a great thing to consider that would work better for the 2 or 3 bedroom units.  You could design a 2 bedroom to be offered as a 1 bedroom with a home office? (not sure why you would need 2 bathrooms.  I think you have to re-educate the way people think about working from home-  It's not a bedroom! It a home office-  (Plus the Tax write off?  I like it!

Hey Chris! I actually meant dedicated co-working spaces in common areas as an added amenity (similar to fitness centers, etc.). However, I can see and have heard some folks talking about building more home/office type apartments.

Personally, I see the value of having a completely separate physical space to work in that's not within the door of your apartment but that you still don't have to commute to. 

I can also see in-apartment cafes becoming a bigger deal. 


Seems like a vaccine according to Fouci is coming in the near future..  so not sure I would be going to great lengths on this aspect. But I am not a MF developer so just personal thought.

One thing we did with our project in Canby is have one floor plan with with a Casita / office with an external entrance and an option to enter from the main house..   just sold one of those floor plans yesterday to a couple that will work from home here on out..

Of course that space can be in laws quarters as well. 

There were a few  office condo developments in Sherwood I owned one  Office space at street level 2 storys of condos same concept.. One I did not own got caught in the 08 melt down and sold for about 50 cents on the dollar or less as they never got it up in running in time.  But of course that was then now is now.

Wish you the best on your project sounds exciting.. 

@Chris Blackburn

1 bedroom demand will not increase enough to develop those. I firmly believe that is a terrible idea. Even if you target this route, find an existing bld with a crappy mix and buy that at a discount instead. Lots of 70’s buildings with 40- 60% 1 bedrooms that nobody wants in my area.

Don’t run ozone generators around living things. The resulting death and/ or health problems will be a real downer.

I've seen stuff getting floated, but I don't know if it'll survive once (god, I hope) COVID passes.

Things like:

- Interior workspaces in units

- High-speed networking (like fiber runs inside)

- Tightly controlled common areas like party rooms and gyms

- Making entrances less common.  Like you don't walk past a row of front doors to get to your place.  This'll be tough since it goes against the cut-n-paste design a lot of developers like.

Originally posted by @Chris Blackburn :

We are currently 1/2 done with Keizer Oregon's first mixed use project! 5x office/flex spaces with 13 single bedroom apartments above it- all wrapped in a cool modern style with 14' ceilings on the top floor (Shed style roof)

You on River Road?  Our office shares the same parking lot I think :)

I'd love to see the place since I think mixed use is hard to do right, but govt loves it.


Thank you for the Ozone info.  Where is your area?  We have found consistently that the 1 bedrooms rent out the fastest.  The younger generation does not want to share any space and would rather have a smaller space with nicer amenities then share with a friend or stranger.  A 1970's 1 bedroom vs what we are building is a dramatic difference in what the tenant experiences.   We are also thinking the older generation (Silver wave) will more drive more demand.   We just finished a 110 unit luxury project in Eugene that was 75% studio and 1 bedroom with only 27 2 bedroom units and no 3 bedroom.  This is near the University (Just across the bridge)  so it may not be a fair example.  @kris h I am not arguing with you and appreciate any perspective to produce a better product.  We just have the same builders doing the same building and I do not think they are looking at the future.  We are in construction of a small mixed use in Keizer with all 1 bedrooms (13 units- modern style with 14' ceilings on the top floor.  We have 5x micro commercial flex spaces on the bottom floor.  We affectionately call it Sonic River.  (Adjacent to Sonic Restaurant and on River road) KISS.

Since we are building our units- We have been looking closer at Studio's and 1 bedrooms.  No one looks at what they are paying per foot when they look at a rental.  They only look at price per month.  The 450 Sq ft studios can generate $2.50 and up per foot if the unit is nice enough.  I am watching the KOZ  almost all single/studio go up in our downtown and this company is a bit prolific

All amenities are included and you get no parking- (it is downtown)  I think it is a blend, an evolution and there is room for innovation.  @kris H. may be right by keeping it simple and do what you know works.   @jay hinrichs could also have a valid point about a vaccine making the virus a mute point.  I could only wish that to happen.  All my people that I love and support and cheerlead for (Every small business in America) have been decimated, we have no idea of what impact this will have and our current climate seems to be a bit anti business)  (I could go on but I will step down from my soap box- do not get me started)


@Jordan Burnett Maybe instead of the REC center, a remote work center that you can rent out private offices on site?   HMMMM I like it!  Nice space-- shared open outdoor  kind of like a built in Co-working space on site but not in your house?   Free wifi?  Maybe a shared kitchen with mini fridge lockers or????  

@Chris Blackburn

I’m in Canada, so highly likely I sit north of you. I rent 1bd 1 bath for ~$950 monthly. Add a bedroom (but nothing else) and I’m $1250 ish. And it’s way easier for me to find 2 people that can stand the smell of each other’s farts for $625 each monthly than it is to find one person who wants their privacy for $950. I primarily rent to 20 somethings. If your target was executive types this may differ greatly. Having tracked it a couple years back, roughly 5x the demand (replies) with greater than 5x legitimately qualified applicants. Specific market metrics matter as well, is your market underserviced for 1bed units currently? Over serviced for 2 bed? All kinds of variables play into it.

@Chris Blackburn

Antimicrobial product is very hot right now. To specifically address your point #4 in your post, check out a Company called Polser USA which has a patented FRP product currently used in RV's that has been clinically proven to kill micro organisms and is chemical free. It would be worth looking into for your bathrooms and kitchens. Full disclosure, I have no financial interest in this Company, I just read about them and think the concept is pretty cool.

@Chris Blackburn

No to all of the above except for maybe the hand sanitizer stations. Everything else adds cost, but little real value. Just sounds very gimmicky.

I have been a commercial general contractor for over 20 years and have managed well over 1billion in construction projects to give some perspective of my opinion. The most important thing is to have a well ventilated building. Every HVAC system for larger apartments and condos is essentially the same. An air handler pumps fresh clean air in from outside into the hallways hallways and public areas. Each apartment then has its own heating and cooling system that is completely separated from the main building and the other units. So fresh air comes into the hallways, then generally under your door (by design) and is exhausted out your bathroom and kitchen vents. This “changes” the air inside the building with fresh air from outside.

So maybe instead of pumping all the fresh air into the hallways, you add a separate outside air supply to every unit to avoid “mixing” the air in the public areas. Increase the filters in the outside air units to a higher MERV rating.

You can also add UV sterilizes to the rooftop units and the individual units in the apartments to “sterilize” the air within each apartment. Still a bit gimmicky, but heck if it rents apartments go for it.

@Garrett Cannizzo @Dave E.  Thank you Garrett and Dave- Checking out the FRP product- They use pokey silicon and non-toxic- I like that.   Our units do not have a common hallway. All walk ups,  we will be using PTACs for HVAC, but I think I can add a UVC+HEPA wall mount filter unit that would effectively scrub the air.   Need to think about these running in the potential "co-working space" that we are looking at incorporating into our design.  No pools for us;)

Hepa   Wall mount? maybe   $500

HEPA and UVC looks a bit cheap  $249

Light reading below if I want to design a hospital

@Chris Blackburn once there’s a vaccine life will return to normal and companies will

Want their employees back in the office. I wouldn’t do anything drastic until after there’s a vaccine to see how the world adapts. I’m betting that everything will

Go back to how it was pre-Covid.

The more significant long term trend is WFH. I would be more inclined to design homes that facilitate this trend. That would include a separate work space, and if possible, a separate outside entrance to that workspace. In addition, I would install high speed internet capability, additional electrical outlets, especially in the workspace. I think COVID is a short term trend and will likely fall out of favor in a relatively short period of time. WFH is here to stay in one form or another.