■ By SAMANTHA MEHLINGER Long Beach Business Journal A llison Kunz serves as Senior Vice President of Design for The Olson Company. The Business Journal caught up with her to talk about trends that are occurring in housing development, including changes to exterior and interior design. LBBJ: What are some of the design changes that make urban housing more appealing to first-time homebuyers today? Kunz: The most significant change is the recognition by architects that a house is part of a neighborhood, and that its relationship with the outdoors is critical. Interior designs must interface with patios, sidewalks, green spaces, and neighbors. Millennials value interi- ors with less square footage and want a home that has a “relaxing hangout atmosphere” that seamlessly integrates outdoor and indoor living areas. LBBJ: I understand that 63% of Millennials highly value the ability to customize an interior space to their need. From your perspective as a builder, what does this mean? Kunz: Many first-time buyers are regular watchers of HGTV and are Pinterest users, and as a result al- ready have an idea of what they want their home interiors to be like. Millennials, in particular, demand customized interiors that fit their particular needs. They want multipurpose spaces that fre- quently can be used to entertain, sleep, or work, such as open design kitchen/family rooms that can be personalized to their tastes. For these buyers, furniture serves multiple functions – sofas may double as day beds, or accent tables may also function as desks. Differ- ences in family size also play into the importance of flex space in current designs. LBBJ: “Multigenerational Living” is a catch phrase that many architects use. What does this mean, and how is it incorporated in designs today? Kunz: Many first-time buyers need the help of parents/grandparents in making large enough down payments to qualify for a mortgage. In exchange, these relatives often choose to live with their chil- dren in the new house. Living spaces for these fam- ily members are frequently on the first or second floor of a townhome or a single-family detached home, and consist of a bedroom and separate full bathroom. Sometimes, these units have a small kitchenette including a mini-refrigerator, mi- crowave, and warming plate. Major kitchen func- tions are shared in the larger main kitchen with other family members. Grandparents can also offer transportation and babysitting help for children in the family. LBBJ: What are other design characteristics that first- time buyers and Millennials are looking for today? Kunz: Buyers are attracted to energy-efficient homes that do not add exorbitant usage charges. In addition, they keep reading about zero-energy homes and often ask when they will be available. Title 24 is the California Energy Efficiency Standards for residential and non-residential structures, which is meant to preserve outdoor and indoor environmental quality. This includes air quality, windows, indoor temperature, electricity and gas con- sumption, treatment of water runoff, and continued improvement in the quality of construction materials. Zero-net en- ergy says a house must generate as much en- ergy as it consumes “over the course of a year.” Solar, cogeneration, and other energy savings devices will all help to reach this goal. LBBJ: What about exterior designs? How are they changing today? Kunz: Community designs are much more au- thentic to their specific neighborhoods today. Their architecture must seamlessly meld with the history of the area. Exterior landscaping is also an important component, including the selection of trees, plants, pavers, and art monuments. The Olson Company has done an excellent job of bridging new communities into existing neigh- borhoods by paying attention to these details. LBBJ: What are the big picture design chal- lenges of building in urban areas? 24 Improvements In Design Bring In New Homebuyers 24 “Community designs are much more authentic to their specific neighborhoods today. Their architecture must seamlessly meld with the history of the area.” Allison Kunz, Senior Vice President, Design The Olson Company Community gathering places are very important in Olson townhome communities 2017_18Pages_OlsonCopy_PortAnniversary 12/22/17 11:31 AM Page 24