The Universal Rental Building

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Back in 2014 I was going to dinner with a friend in the industry and I drove past one of those highway interchanges that allow major arterial roads access. In the suburban GTA most highway interchanges have one or two or three hotels clustered around them. That evening I realized that all of those hotels are basically the same: eight floors, around twelve rooms per floor, a big lobby with attached lounge, outdoor parking, etc. I realized this meant that someone, somewhere, had designed the optimum building configuration for a suburban, highway-adjacent short-stay hotel.

Then I asked myself, Why not rentals too? I think that someone, somewhere, someday will eventually design the optimum suburban, mid-range purpose-built rental building and we’ll see dozens of them spring up across the suburban GTA and other major cities in southern Ontario.

What will this design look like? I think it will be of similar scale to those hotels, probably with a 50/50 mix of 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom units, minimal amenities, a mix of underground and surface parking, and with mid-range appointments. The key will be optimizing the unit mix, unit sizes, amenities, and appointments to keep construction costs as low as possible while maximizing achievable revenues and simplifying marketing and leasing. It’s possible that firms like Drewlo Holdings, Starlight, and Reids Heritage Homes are nudging towards a ‘universal rental building’ but none are there yet for various reasons.

Someone’s going to figure it out. If I was an architect this would be my pet project, no question!