In the past, mixed-use buildings were the most common model in urban locations. Just think of the shop front with flats overhead or pubs with guest accommodation upstairs and a flat for the publican. However, for a while, urban planning took a different direction. This style depended on separating different uses to offer the maximum efficiency in terms of space. Thus we saw high-rise flats and shopping centres – one place focused on residential use and another on commercial. Now architects are more frequently taking inspiration from older mixed usage buildings and spaces. Mixed-use property can come in any form. Its definition is a single building or a group of buildings that includes more than three uses – be it residential, commercial, public shared space, recreational, etc. But the question is why are we returning to this model, and is it actually worth it?
Why we should encourage mixed-use properties in communities
The benefits of mixed-use properties are not only for enhancing more variable design options and more housing solutions that fits everyone in the community, but it also encompasses larger benefits for everyone:
Sustainable urban planning promotions: Mixed-use buildings play a pivotal role in reducing the emission of polluting gases. If you live far away from your work then one of your choices is to drive a car or take public transport. However, a mixed-use development can bring your work a few steps away from your home place, with no need for more cars and no need for Co2 emissions then. You can also access other amenities, like a supermarket or a doctor, with no need to use a polluting mode of transport.
Luxurious housing options within budget: What one dream of for his home place, a quiet clean place with a nearby gym, food and beverage places and in a central place. That all can be found in one unit at a lower price than expected in a mixed-use region.
Better social bonds: The quick lifestyle we live in now is not enhancing us to have strong bonds with people around. However, for a mixed-use building, you’ll have enough time for engagement through meeting up in the sharable areas.
Investment triggering project: Mixed-use buildings have a big market share in the real estate and construction sector. They are such golden winning projects because the investors will not only get profit from one direction as residents. But also, he will have commercial investment and business areas that will bring more money to his pocket.
Environmentally friendly stimulation: It’s easier to design a sustainable and environmentally friendly building that ties different uses than to build them separately and later on try to connect between them, saving costs and resources. In addition to the fact that you minimize any maintenance costs when maintaining separate buildings.
Now you have the full motives that enhance you to choose a mixed-use property either to invest in or to use it. The next step is how to design such a building so you can make them blend with the others and not create a giant glass building on the road.
Mixed-use property design guidelines
Usually, a building that includes more than two usages is approached as a complex building. Although complex doesn’t mean always giant, it’s mostly a large-scale building. When starting to design and plan for such a project the first thing architects think of is how to make this building fit in the surrounding environment. Actually, there are two schools under this umbrella, the first school is the preserver one and this always calls for any new building to be as the same urban character of the other surrounding buildings. The second is the revolutionary one, this direction aims to make the building iconic through becoming totally different from the surroundings with guides to respect the borders and the image of the other. In the trip of designing this kind of property, there are some major guides that you should put at the beginning of the road. Here are some of them:
Building Height: As for any building, a mixed-use one should not exceed the surrounding buildings’ height. Of course, a multi-function facility will require more space and more floors. However, the building constraints should always be applied to avoid any feeling of standing out.
Building materials: Building materials and colours are a part of every community’s identity. Don’t insert a glass tower between tiny contemporary buildings and ask why they are not comfortable with it.
Uses distribution: It’s advised to always keep the commercial uses on the ground floor, from one end you are creating a connection between the pedestrian paths and commercial uses and from another, you’re creating a sense of privacy for the residential part of the building
Parking: Big buildings mean a high number of residents and a higher number of cars, and you absolutely don’t want to be the reason for blocking the street. Parking should be designed to give at least one parking slot for each unit in the property plus additional services car slots.
Building parts: In a mixed-use building you need to direct every user to where exactly he wants to go. This means if you have two entrances one for the residents and one for the podium commercial part you have to emphasize each one in a special way that will help users recognize the difference.
Safety constraints : A large number of users means a higher opportunity of chaos in the time of any disaster. A well-designed network of exits, fire stairs, fire detectors and sprinklers is the only key for keeping every user safe in this case.
In the end, mixed-use property is a double-edged weapon in design. Either you can get out the maximum profit of it, or you will find yourself facing an abstract model for a non-fitting object in the urban fabric.