I think there are lots of great precedents for small single story main street buildings that work well. Above are some studies David Kim and Will Dowdy did on small, shallow storefront spaces that could be used as parking lot liners or in conjunction with small apartment buildings and cottage courts located behind the small commercial/flex building to provide mixed use without requiring the use of commercial steel pipe fire sprinklers that can be required if the residential and non-residential Occupancy Types were combined into in one mixed use building.
The intent was provide a wide/shallow space that could be flexible. We settled on a depth of 26′ as this leaves an 18′ dimension between the 8 x 8 accessible restroom and the storefront. We were also looking to keep any columns or other intermediate structure out of the floor plan and 20′-32′ of depth is readily spanned without going nuts on the truss design. You can get pre-engineered bar joists at 40′ long, but we wanted to keep the construction technique within the skills of residential trades.
Keeping the depth modest allows for daylighting of the space from a transom and light shelf over the storefront and awning. Spaces this small are easily heated and cooled with a ductless mini-split heat pump/air conditioner.
Using a single pitch roof truss, sloping from the street side to the rear, with a parapet on the street side can provide lots of room for signage, while screening compressors or kitchen hood fans from the street view.
Buildings that are flexible enough to house small and inexpensive workspace for retail, services, food and drink, etc. should be in the Small Developer’s tool box. You may know an under-utilized parking lot that could be lined with something like this. Could be good way to follow up on testing the location with some food carts.
Steve Mouzon has some very interesting thoughts along these lines. His blog has better production values than mine does, so I encourage you to click through and check it out. Steve Mouzon’s Blog Original Green
I was on a video call with my able partner David Kim this morning. When the conversation turned to the elaborate requirements of the California Energy Code, he had what I thought was a really great idea. “What if we could build without air conditioning?”
I think that’s genius. There are lots and lots of Architects and Sustainable Design people running around these days. If we can challenge that brain trust to design buildings that do not require air conditioning, I’m sure they could come up with all kinds of great stuff.
Reprising this post because folks keep asking me about it via email, etc.
These thresholds fit a three story apartment building or mixed use building into the fire/life safety requirements of the International Building Code (IBC) and the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
1. All ground floor units are accessible/adaptable (minimum one unit).
2. TYPE V wood frame construction with fire sprinklers.
3. When built with a single stair, upper stories are limited to four units each. (more than 4 units on a floor and two stair will be required separated by a rated corridor at least 1/2 the diagonal of the building floor plate in length –1/3 for buildings with fire sprinklers.)
4. 2nd floor units are limited in size to 125′ max. exiting distance from the furthest point inside the unit to the entry door.
5. 3rd floor units are limited in size to 125′ max. exiting distance from the furthest point inside the unit to the entry door. (3rd floor units can be two story units with internal stairs as long as the max. exiting distance of 125′ is observed).
Code research and design by David Kim
A comment from Will Dowdy:
This is a good summary. It’s probably worth being explicit about that ground floor unit. If you don’t have a unit on the ground floor, the requirement for accessibility is shifted to the second floor of the building, which means that you’re stuck with an elevator. BIG problem. This design is an elegant solution.
A Residential Liner Building has a few jobs it needs to do well.
Hide the parking lot from the street.
Provide reasonable privacy for the folks who are living on the ground floor.
Fit into the local context (not stick out).
The Hutchinson Green Apartments designed by my able partner David Kim, do a good job with all three. The ground floor is raised from the sidewalk, but the ground floor units are still accessible with zero-step entries from the rear (which is where the accessible parking is anyway). The apartments are laid out as through units, with windows on the front and the back to provide good natural light and cross ventilation. The scale of the buildings and the detailing of the exteriors fits in well with the existing townhouses, four-plexes, and detached houses.
Having good tools like the Residential Liner Building should help aspiring developers look at ugly surface parking lots in a whole new light.