Maximizing the Value in Multifamily Development
Multifamily construction had a good year in 2022. As noted in this recent report from Dodge Data & Analytics:
Nationally, commercial and multifamily construction starts increased by 25%. Commercial and multifamily construction made impressive gains in 2022, largely driven by rising demand for apartments and condos. Not to be outdone, commercial starts also posted strong gains fueled by increased demand for hotel, data center, and retail projects.
The New York metropolitan area was the top market for commercial and multifamily starts in 2022 at $37.1 billion, an increase of 37% from 2021. The Dallas metropolitan area was in second place, totaling $16.7 billion in 2022, a 51% gain. The Washington, D.C., metro area ranked third during 2022 with $11.4 billion in starts—a 38% gain over 2021.
Is it reasonable to expect such numbers to keep growing in 2023? Well, probably not. Another report from the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), published in January, reasonably predicts that multifamily starts will likely fall in 2023, following 2022’s “unsustainable” high production level.
When a specific market sector—in this case, multifamily housing—may be anticipating slower growth, we can calibrate how to best support and serve that market. For example, NAHB cites slowing rent growth and tightening commercial real estate financing conditions as reasons that may contribute to a potential slowdown.
With this kind of climate, it’s reasonable that developers may look at ways to control their costs more carefully regarding new projects. As this happens, I believe it’s important for our industry to continuously—no matter the forecasted economic conditions—advocate for the value that high-performance commercial glass and related products can bring to any project.
The benefits of multifamily applications are numerous and are well worth the continued investment for any developer interested in making high-performance buildings and comfortable living spaces. And the enabling technologies are likewise worth continued investment for glass professionals serving the multifamily market. Some of those benefits include:
- Thermal Efficiency: Energy efficiency has been the name of the game in commercial construction for some time now, especially as highly glazed buildings have become popular around the world. Insulating glass technologies like warm-edge spacer systems, which can help optimize thermal efficiency by lowering thermal conductivity, make for a good choice to improve occupancy comfort and optimize energy savings. Meanwhile, multifamily construction is a ripe opportunity to use high-performance commercial vinyl technology that can further enhance thermal efficiency. Commercial vinyl framing is well suited for punched-opening applications, which are numerous in multifamily projects. And if maximized thermal efficiency is the goal, vinyl can be cost-effective; metallic systems typically must incorporate thermal breaks or other measures to match vinyl’s thermal numbers, driving up complexity and cost.
- Sound Control: In noisy metropolitan environments, where multifamily high-rise buildings can be commonly found, acoustic performance is an important consideration for complete occupancy comfort. Commercial vinyl framing offers benefits here, too. Multi-chamber commercial vinyl extrusions can help mitigate noise, especially when compared with a metallic frame that reverberates more readily. Metallic framing can be designed to eliminate noise by incorporating dampening technology, too, but as noted earlier, such measures can make the design and manufacturing process more complex. A vinyl profile that helps lessen noise ingress from the busy streets below can be an attractive feature.
- Color Options: Modern color options in vinyl framing have been popular in single-family residential spaces. But condominium and apartment dwellers have desires too. Commercial vinyl technology pairs well with modern color technology. For example, coextruded color technology incorporates color as an integral part of the vinyl profile. Such technologies can deliver outstanding color durability, enhanced scratch resistance versus painting or laminates, and the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions commercial windows face. For manufacturers, they also eliminate any labor involved with paint or laminates.
Investing in high performance makes good business sense for developers and property owners. It’s been shown that people simply like living in buildings that have been thoughtfully designed to maximize occupancy comfort. And for commercial glass professionals, delivering on those demands is essential. No matter what the rest of the year has in store for multifamily construction, there’s no room for compromise regarding glass and window performance.
Joe Erb is the national account manager for Quanex.
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