Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Maxxing the Mix


The Parks at Walter Reed
Our mission at Sparkflight Studios is to "design for humans," to create spaces for our neighbors that produce positive social impact. To that end, we are actively pursuing and passionate about mixed-use, multi-family affordable housing projects. These types of projects encompass what it means to truly design for the betterment of our communities. By developing an area that is a self-sustaining business and residential destination not totally reliant on cars/parking for its clientele, we are providing much-needed affordable housing while supporting economic development by bringing businesses a built-in customer base.

These projects are starting to be built across the country, with promising results. According to the Multi-Housing News website: "Developers from market-rate to affordable housing are identifying ways to create mixed-income and mixed-use developments that promote diversity, equity and integration." One such project is the redevelopment of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to The Parks at Walter Reed, a $1 billion mixed-use, 66-acre project. While these types of projects come with their challenges, real estate developers are starting to see the social and economic benefits of developing multi-income communities.

Recently, Anne Johnson participated in the 2019 AIA Blueprint for Better Housing to design a mixed-use site to solve housing needs in our community. In October, she led her group to present a project that not only addressed the affordable housing and economic development needs of the area, but it took it to the next level to fully maximize its potential for an enduring and valuable contribution. It did this by designing with the "triple bottom line" of sustainability in mind: people, planet, and profit. The project envisioned sustainability strategies that would produce solar energy, allow the development to grow its own food, reuse its gray water, and encourage public transit, among others. 

Creating healthy, efficient, and regenerative spaces that give more than they take and create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them are the principles of the International Living Future Institute's Living Building Challenge, a certification program for designing to make the world a better place. Living Buildings are resilient, self-sufficient, and serve as teaching tools and sources of inspiration. As sustainability is a core value for Sparkflight Studios, pursuing this certification for our projects is a natural step up for our team and one we encourage others to pursue as well.

To read more about mixed-income, mixed-use communities, click here.

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