About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 333,000 today.
When the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) conducted their Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, they asked a simple question: “What do you want to see in your community?”
The people have spoken! Here are the most desirable features and amenities that you can incorporate into your community’s outdoor areas.
Outdoor Entertaining Space
A substantial 96% of Americans surveyed said they wanted grills outside. This was closely followed by complete outdoor living spaces, including outdoor kitchens and areas to entertain guests. In South Florida, where we can be outside 12 months out of the year (except for those few weeks in August, when the humidity is at its worst), outdoor entertaining space is even more desirable. If your complex does not have outdoor living spaces, with built-in barbeque areas or grills, then you might be missing out on tenants who value outdoor spaces.
“In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.”
Following outdoor spaces, 97% of respondents listed seating and dining areas as most important, so make sure to have plenty of chairs, picnic tables, and outdoor fire pits set up around the apartment complex.
A whopping 94% of survey respondents indicated their preference for a low-maintenance landscape in addition to having native plants for grounds. Although tenants do not directly maintain grounds, they are responsible for the utility bills, making sustainability options a desirable option.
Tenants also enjoy the idea of having access to a garden to grow fruits and vegetables. Complexes are starting to offer courtyard gardens in addition to window boxes for tenants to grow their own food. These options give tangible benefits to communities, increasing tenant participation and incentivizing long-term stay as many residents get attached to their gardens.
Gail Hansen de Chapan, an assistant professor at The University of Florida’s Department of Evirionmental Horticulture, published a great article with TONS of great links and strategies for Floridians considering implementing sustainable landscaping.
The survey also pointed to a common desire for installed seating in outdoor spaces. Respondents indicated that any seating, from ledges and boulders to installed benches are desirable. Regardless of the dimensions, pay close attention to sustainable materials that can endure harsh climates.
Let There Be Light
Approximately 95% of survey participants indicated that lighting was important to them in an outdoor space. Outdoor lighting makes it possible for tenants to comfortably and safely enjoy an evening stroll or chat with their neighbors. With the current emphasis on sustainability, selecting lighting that is energy-efficient or solar lighting with timers helps minimize light pollution.
South Florida communities can take advantage of all that Florida sunshine by installing solar powered lights throughout the grounds. “Going Solar” can even qualify you for a tax credit.
Get Out and Play
In warmer climates, like South Florida, tenants expect amenities such as community pools and tennis courts. In this national survey, outdoor amenities such as pools and tennis courts only garnered about 76% of the vote, while 82% of respondents thought having weatherized chairs as more important. I guess there will always be spectators, right?