Bring the Heat: The Comeback of Outdoor Amenities

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Multifamily communities appear to be embracing the comeback of outdoor amenities, especially when it comes to creating a cozier feeling beyond apartment walls for entertaining or dining.

Apartments are extending the resident living experience outside by building fireplaces and fire pits, as well as stylish, large grilling areas. The built-in features are designed to provide residents with a place to relax on a chilly evening or cook out as if they were in their own backyards

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) report that home designers are spending more time penciling in these amenities. AIA’s second quarter 2014 Home Design Trend Survey, which sampled more than 500 residential architecture firms, notes that demand for outdoor living spaces was up 33 percent from 2012. Also, ASLA reports that landscape architects who specialize in residential design rated outdoor living spaces – defined as kitchens and entertainment spaces – among the most popular. Respondents gave fire pits and fireplaces a 97 percent rating, followed by grills at 96.3 percent. In addition, seating and dining areas scored high

Johnny Kammerer, an account manager for Accent Pools in Arlington, Texas, says multifamily installations for outdoor amenities for cooking and keeping warm have grown in the last two or three years. Stone-encased fireplaces, fire pits and grills are being built in common areas, as well as near pools, to offer an alternative gathering place.

“Every property has a pool, so management wants to have other areas where residents can gather,” said Kammerer. “They want to create an outdoor space. There’s only so much you can do with a pool once it’s in the ground.”

Outdoor amenities built with comfort and safety of residents in mind

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Permanent, trendy built-ins fueled by either propane or gas are most desirable. Fire places, grills and fire pits are designed with seating nearby or in covered areas to create a comfortable atmosphere. Stringed lights adorn some areas to give a more festive feel.

The amenities are built with safety in mind for the resident and property, and with an upscale feel. Permanent bases are typically constructed from cut stone or native rock, and propane tanks or gas lines provide the energy source.

To prevent an evening by the fire turning into an inferno, timers are usually installed on fuel systems to avoid prolonged and unnecessary use. In some cases, communities are opting for charcoal grills just to keep it simple.

“Resident can bring their own charcoal,” Kammerer said.

Creating a backyard feel for an apartment resident

Depending on the needs of the community, outdoor grills can be elaborate or simple. Kammerer said Accent Pools, which offers installations in along with pool construction and maintenance services, has built some large “L”-shaped systems that have multiple grills.

While large built-in fire places are popular, some properties are opting for a simpler outdoor warming experience by building small, sunken fire pits that residents can circle around for that campfire feel. Like with fire places, gas or propane provide the fuel source.

“The idea is to create a safe environment for the resident to relax and enjoy the evening,” Kammerer said.

Grill installations typically take two days, and a fire pit can be installed as quickly as one day. A fireplace usually takes a little more time.

Whether an apartment chooses to install heat for preparing food or warming the soul, Kammerer says to make sure there is plenty of seating available. And don’t forget the Wi-Fi. The comfier the area, the more it will feel like home.

“It’s creating a backyard feel for the resident in a multifamily setting,” he said.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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