A live-work unit is a building that provides both residential and work accommodations on a single property. Live-work units take many forms. Live-work can be a townhouse in a new “urbanist” community such as Newport Commons in Lititz, Pa. It can be a home office designed to accommodate a street-front business.
Live-work units can be used by the owners or residents as a full time apartment or combination office and livable area. More than any other building type, live-work is a combination of uses that will change over time, so it is appropriate in a mixed-use district.
Work is a term that is often separated from life and had been since the inception of the two concepts. The industrial revolution spurred advances in transportation and technology, which meant that commuting to work, at a distance, became a common factor of life. During the mid 1800s, effects of technology and urbanization gave rise to movements for social improvement. Laws were put into effect that required there to be separate industrial and residential areas of the city. This is especially prevalent in London at the time. Companies wanted their employees to live close by so that they were on hand at all hours.
Now a days, commuting has become a hassle. Factors such as suburban sprawl and efficient road systems allow for people to live at a greater distance from concentrated areas of industry or business. Sometimes a trip to the local grocery store is a 20-minute drive while getting to work can eat up almost an hour of your time. Even public transportation, used for commuting, is used to disconnect residents from main areas, along with automobile travel. According to a recent study, the average American spends 11.2 weeks a year commuting, instead of spending the time at home with family and friends.
Live-work, as we know it today, is based off of technological advances made in the late 1900s. Advances such as the computer, fax, scanner, email, etc. allowed for business owners to operate from any location, rather than their office. It was then possible to run a small business while appearing to be a well established organization, all from home. Home office use has been growing steadily for the past few years. It is not uncommon to have newer units built with this feature in mind. The number of people who work at home is growing every day. The variety of work takes many forms, such as a consulting business that may eventually need to relocate into an actual office space.
Many suburban or rural residents have never known a lifestyle without a need to commute. Soon, they realize that working from home is unlike going to an office every day. They never need to leave their home, so social interaction diminished, on an employee to employee level.
The new relationship between work and life has created a need for different types of socialization, building types and settlement plans.
Despite the challenges, several factors work together to make live-work ever more attractive today, to the point that new buildings are being designed and built with this use in mind. New buildings are now being designed with the end product of live-work factored into their construction.
There are a few factors that make live-work units so high in demand these days: the idea that commuting is unpleasant, on our time, wallets and environment; email, video-conferencing and fax machines make traveling to face-to-face meetings obsolete; affordability, of home office, work place, transportation and child care; as artists know, being able to work when the spirit moves you, at any hour, is beneficial.
Older generations are beginning to find out that because their children are out of the house, they do not need their big houses anymore. They do not need to worry about mowing their huge lawns or looking for the best school districts. Because of this growing trend, buildings are now being designed with this key public in mind. Urban lofts for older generations, couples and even singles are being constructed to revitalize downtown areas.
Live-work communities have become the focus of second generation designs. In these types of designs, the live-work units are converted into row houses that can be converted into a row of business-front shops.
There are a few different approaches to designing live-work spaces. The names used to describe these units show the relationship between the working and living activities practiced by the residents and when activity is dominant.
The space is clearly a residence and may or may not contain a dedicated workspace in the form of an office or workshop.
This space refers to a unit where the resident is expected to be quiet, in favor of the surrounding neighbors, rather than to cause commotion for business.
The main use of a live-workunit is for residential and commercial activity is a secondary use.
This space refers to a unit where the business needs are more important than that of the livable needs of the unit.
The main use of a work/live unit is commercial or industrial work activity, while residence is a secondary use.
The concept of communities come about when residents, business owners, tourists, etc come together in the same location or within a very close proximity to one another. This usually means trying to reinvigorate old cities and reimage newer communities, in hopes to make them more attractive to those who may invest in them.
The following are a list of features a Live-Work community should include:
Walkability - Most things should be within a few minute walk of home and/or work. There should be pedestrian friendly street design such as buildings close to street with porches, windows and doors. Tree-lined streets always look more appealing. There should be on street parking. Hidden parking lots would save the aesthetic predicament that a developer may face. Pedestrian streets should be free of cars in special circumstances.
Connectivity – An interconnected street grid network would disperse traffic and ease walking. Narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys would make foot traffic much more beneficial. High quality pedestrian network makes walking pleasurable.
Mixed-Use - A mix of shops, offices, apartments and homes on site. Mixed-use units within neighborhoods, within blocks and within buildings would useful. All showcasing a diversity of people, ages, income levels, cultures and races.
Quality Architecture– Through beauty and comfort, quality architecture can create a sense of togetherness, or community. Thoughtfully placed civic sites throughout the community would potentially bring people together.
Increased Density - Buildings, homes, community services and businesses are closer together to allow for walking, to enable a more efficient use of resources and to create a more enjoyable place to live.
Smart Transportation – This would promote the design and conception of a new lite railway system to be used in suburban and urban areas to decrease congestion and pollution. This would also allow for better civic designs of bike and walkways through the area.
Sustainability – There is minimal environmental impact of development and its operations. Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems help to sustain a fully functioning community. By being more energy efficient, less finite fuels are used. There is more local production. Because of the community aspect, there is more walking, less driving.
The residents of a Live-Work community will enjoy the benefits of a higher quality of life. This includes having improved living environments, more enjoyable work environments and better areas to relax. There would also be less congestion on roadways since everyone could walk wherever they need to go. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle, since there is more foot traffic and exercise necessities.
The benefit of having “main street” businesses and retail stores right in your own neighborhood is often a very attractive feature. By having increased walking and biking paths, it allows for more opportunity to meet your neighbors, build relationships and allow your community to create a more pleasant and friendly environment.
The businesses of a Live-Work community will enjoy the benefits of increased sales, attributed to foot traffic and people who have more money to spend since their gas savings has decreased. Advertising because less necessary when located in tight-nit communities, where every resident eventually walks by your store.
It is more beneficial for business owners to only need to walk upstairs at the end of the day rather than have a 45-minute commute. Within these smaller communities, promotion of local business becomes exponential because of the convenience factors. This all leads to more community involvement, which is a great factor in retention rates for customers.
Located a few miles north of Lancaster City is a little town named Lititz. Their website says that it is, “The Perfect balance of historic and charming small town appeal with upscale and sophisticated urban flair. An oasis from our box store and chain restaurant society with a myriad of eclectic and creative, independently owned shops, intimate cafes and unique and memorable fine dining. We’ve even given the air a scent of chocolate…Start with equal parts of hometown charm and big city sophistication, mix in lots of extremely cool and unique shops, add some warm and friendly greetings and a generous portion of places to relax and unwind.”
This sounds like a picturesque small town, forgotten by time. And yet, Lititz is ahead of quite a few other towns in the area because of their sustainable innovations. Tucked away a few minutes outside of historic downtown is Newport Commons. The commons is a community of live-work units designed to help reduce fuel consumption, traffic congestion and commute time. This development provides affordable space for new businesses, accessible and convenient workplaces for people with physical disabilities, embracing the growing lifestyle trend of blending work and personal life. They offer a new spin on traditional residential and commercial spaces.
These environmentally-savvy units can be sold or rented as a combined home/workplace or separately as residential spaces or business spaces. Well designed for modern, carefree living, residents will enjoy fantastic amenities like new appliances, snow removal, maintenance-free living, access to shopping, restaurants, walkable access to neighborhood shops and a services and the new Turkey Hill convenience store in Newport Square. Residents of the apartments at Newport Commons and homes in Newport Square will be able to walk to this Live-work area to enjoy easy community access to the Live-work shops.
The first floor provides space for a small shop, store, bakery, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, hair salon, doctor's office or a small professional office. The second and third floors feature two spacious levels of living space.
Above photo courtesy of Dana Glass Properties, Inc.
All photos below, courtesy of Adam Hoy.
To a passerby Adamstown does not seem like a lot. But it is home to one of the most well kept secrets in all of Lancaster County, Stoudtburg Village. Let me give you a little history on the village. Ed and Carol Stoudt set aside 27 of 62 acres of a farm they purchased in Adamstown and dedicated them to the development of an old-fashioned European Village. They wanted it to be a self-contained “hamlet” of sorts with shops on the ground floor and living quarters on the floors above.
Their idea was to have many travelers come, visit and enjoy the experience of this hamlet and the residents could live and shop for their needs without ever needing to leave the village. Presently there are over 44 units, not including the 6 apartments with 3 shop spaces below. Most of these buildings will be live-work capable, but it is not necessary to have a shop to own one of these units. Over 90 units are planned in Phase II construction. In its second phase of construction, the village will be home to an assortment of unique shops, venues and activities including several gift boutiques, ice cream parlor, artisan galleries, professional services, wine shop, candy store and more.
Residents love chatting with neighbors and merchants, strolling along rows of lovely storefronts, and gathering around the plaza's magnificent fountain. The lifestyle that's available here meets all the needs of contemporary living, while the architectural style and exceptional authenticity pay serious tribute to the 17th Century Bavarian village of Rothenburg.
It’s a place where you can slow down, enjoy the rare combination of surroundings and features, and have everything you need just outside your doorstep. All homes are available with optional storefront business space and most feature a side yard and a two-car attached garage.
When America was first founded, its laborers lived and work in the same building, because it was more difficult to travel in those days. As modernization began to take hold of the country and transportation routes were established, the business owners who were living above their shops now had the ability to add a commute to their daily routine.
In the current economic client, urban sprawl is declining. Eco-friendly lifestyles are more popular than Beanie Babies in the late 1990s. Owners of small businesses are beginning to see the benefits of a no commute lifestyle. With less time spent on the road, more time can be spent with family and friends. Although there may be a lot of work attributed to moving a small business home, the cost benefit analysis of the situation shows that the benefits greatly outnumber the costs. The walk downstairs commute is very enticing.
"Green design is a trend just like the way organic dietary consumption is a trend. Yes it costs more up front but people are going to get a lot more benefit out of them,” said Chuck Hess, ELA Group. "People would probably not be willing to only ride bikes wherever they go, but their mentality shows that they may possibly be thinking about it.”
"Bringing people downtown, like here in Lititz, where most of the business is conducted, and a lot of the people who work there, hair dressers, clothing shops, etc. could use a live-work unit lifestyle," he said. "This is better for the environment, and since, hopefully, the residents will need no more than one car, it means less cars out on the road, lessening commute times and environmental impacts."
Heat Island Effect
According to the EPA's website, the sun can heat dry, exposed urban surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures close to 90°F hotter than the air, while shaded or moist surfaces, often in more rural surroundings, remain close to air temperatures. Surface urban heat islands are typically present day and night, but tend to be strongest during the day when the sun is shining on the open surface.
While some heat island impacts seem positive, such as the longevity of the plant-growing season, most impacts are negative and include: increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, comprimised human health and comfort, and impaired water quality.
Communities can take steps to reduce the heat island effect, using four main strategies: increasing tree and vegetative cover; creating green roofs; installing cool, mainly reflective, roofs; and using cool pavements.
Allows for Brownfield Redevelopment
These are plots of land that cannot be redeveloped because of the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminates. Occasionally, they are just left abandoned rather than spend the time and money to revitalize the land. Needing to reinvest into these properties tends to shift development prospects away from undeveloped plots of land, which improves and protects the environment even more. This is beneficial because the reinvestment of these properties returns abandoned real estate properties to productive use, which then promotes development of many of the country’s most economically troubled areas.
Reduces Urban Sprawl
The best way to contain urban sprawl is by limiting the amount of physical expansion it is able to achieve and to invest heavily in the reinvention of transportation. Cities have contemplated enforcing restrictions for automobiles into inner cities, implementing a carbon dioxide tax, decreasing the space available for parking and altering the color of street signs to be more soothing for commuters.
Banks and investment groups should be required to do cost benefit analysises before lending for land-use investments and try to consider the environment. Giving public transit riders, bikers and pedestrians more of a priority over someone using any type of automobile. This, in turn, would help establish local rail systems and bike/walkway systems which connect the suburban and urban areas.
Although, it would favor pedestrians and cyclists more than it would drivers, so that could be a concern as well, as traffic is then slowed, even more.