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Viewpoint: What Makes a Home Livable to You?

The way we live is changing. As both an architect and a resident of Vancouver, I am regularly confronted with how our cities are changing through urban densification and shifting demographics, to accessibility and affordable housing. I think about the smaller units we are building as a response to this change, and I find myself considering livability as an  important factor in the design of multi-family unit.

By Kim Barnsley

Livability is difficult to characterize on the best of days, but is often defined as survival expectancy or suitability for human living. I am sure there are some days when all of us look around and wonder if this increasingly noisy and busy world we live in is truly livable.

In Vancouver, residential development and multi-family towers have been a prevalent part of the urban landscape for decades. Not so long ago, the dream of a detached home began to disappear for many Vancouverites, as single-family housing stock diminishes and housing prices continue to rise to record-breaking heights. We now live in increasingly smaller and more diverse housing types such as condominiums, apartments, townhomes, and even micro-suites. This has become the reality of urban living.

On the surface, Vancouver has been experiencing massive multi-family residential development, but we are also embarking on a cultural shift towards more efficient living. If we must live smarter and smaller in our changing urban environment, as an architect, I ask myself,  how do we design spaces to support people through this shift? Well, we start by asking the question:

What makes a home livable?
This query sparked the Livable Homes initiative launched by Perkins+Will. The initiative surveys participants around the question ‘What makes a home livable to you?’ Developed as a publically accessible platform, has received 140 posts from around the world. To date, most participants have been between the ages of 25 and 45 [69%], live in 2-3 person households [57%], and live in apartments or condominiums [47%] between 500 and 1,200 square feet [54%].

Kim Barnsley Is a senior architect at the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will.

What makes a home livable to you?

Read more short essays, opinion, and occasional interviews on subjects related to sustainable design and building.