“Developers are ignoring families with kids as they somehow feel they should be planning for other demographics instead. But just as low-rise housing has been masterplanned with kids in mind, to include schools, community centres, child care facilities and parks, we now need to make sure we’re also building family and child-friendly vertical villages.”
These are often much larger two and three-bedroom units with lots of storage as well as common areas specifically for strollers, children’s bikes, roller skates and wheeled toys, writes Sue Williams in domain.com.au. One popular New York block is now offering a service that’s proved a huge hit with parents: valet-parking for strollers.
Pontarini has designed a multitude of award-winning mixed-use and urban high rise projects before working on the ground-breaking report for the City of Toronto, Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities, providing, and promoting, guidelines for the industry on how to create child-friendly density.
Kitchen and dining areas, for instance, should be large enough for families to comfortably cook, eat and socialise together. Children, as they grow, tend to spend more and more time in their own space; their rooms, unlike those of older people, aren’t used primarily for sleeping.
Balconies and terraces should also be designed specifically to extend the interior living spaces and provide access to the outdoors. “These are usually a child’s first experience of the ‘outdoors’, so they should be large enough to play, a safe space, and overlooked by the living areas or kitchen to help supervision,” Pontarini says.
Additional play areas should then be scattered throughout the building, often linked by stairs to encourage kids to physically move more. One apartment building in Toronto has put a space aside to act as a craft room for children while one Seattle block’s rooftop has been converted into a children’s playground with turf grass providing a soft surface – and a green roof.
“There has to be a lot more thought given to making apartment buildings much more child-friendly and family-friendly,” says Pontarini. “A lot of families live in apartments, and a lot more will in the future. We need to make sure we’re building units that meet their needs and provide quality of life.”