Affordable, efficient, contemporary living in America's Windy City
Questions answered by Alex Gilbert, Ranquist Development Group
How were you commissioned?:
Flexhouse 2, a 31 row home development in the Logan Square neighbourhood of Chicago, was self-initiated based on the analysed demands of the current housing market and the success of our previous projects.
What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?:
There was no brief. We worked in partnership with the architects, engineers, and realtors to ensure that the project would respond to the needs of the homebuyers.
How did your previous experience help you with this project?:
Ranquist has developed over two hundred high-value residences in the last 15 years that satisfy the most discriminating tastes. Decades of experience have taught the value of superior design and impeccable construction. We've been recognized through dozens of awards and publications for our continuously distinctive vision, value, and success.
Can you explain the layout of the project:
Flexhouse 2 provides affordable, efficient, contemporary living in an attached row home format - a novelty in the Windy City. This 31-unit development occupies a full-block site located in the emerging Logan Square neighbourhood, just 10 minutes from the Chicago loop. This development encourages a higher density urban fabric than the typical Chicago single-family house allows, while still providing many of the attractive amenities of suburban living. Each row home has a front and rear yard, as well as two required off-street parking spaces in a private garage accessed through a rear alley. Unit layouts are modest, energy-efficient designs that allow for seamless transitions between live, work, and play. Each three-story home features an open first floor living level with radiant heated concrete floors and a generous backyard. Two bedrooms, a full bath, and a laundry/mechanical room on the second level are arranged for maximum usability. A full-floor master suite on the third level features a walk-in closet and an impressive open bath. Flexible, open interiors throughout respond to the needs of contemporary living.
What problems or challenges did you face?:
As with any speculative housing projects, the main challenge is determining whether the local housing market can support the development of new residences, especially when such a large number of homes are being built. With careful planning and analysis, our choices of project type and location have resulted in the first two development phases selling out, with only a handful of homes still available in the final phase.
What do you feel were the most unusual design elements of the project?:
On the exterior, the continuous row home streetwalls inspired a simple design move to define individual units through varying angled geometries. The variety and visual texture of the facade remains clean and contemporary, and connects the units as part of an urban block rather than separating them as a series of individual homes. Principles of sustainable design were also integrated throughout the design process, from siting to detailing to landscaping. The compact site plan and attached nature of the homes reduce the exterior building envelope by 50%, making Flexhouse 2 a good choice for homeowners who value environmental awareness.
How do you think this project is pushing design forward? What makes it special?:
Flexhouse 2 is a new type of home that is tuned to the "new normal" of the twenty-first century. The houses are modest, efficient, and cool - appealing to urban lifestyles that seek to make sustainable lifestyle choices. This is housing tailored to the new generation of homebuyers. Rather than rigidly defined rooms and hallways, the house openly flows, and allows easy adaptation to a variety of uses and lifestyles. The Flexhouse philosophy does not stop at a unique floor plan compared with the traditional Chicago home, but it offers further flexibility for the owner to customize finish options to their personal tastes. In the end it is an extremely flexible model that brings semi-custom modern design to a new neighbourhood at a price point that could previously not be afforded in Chicago. The Flexhouse model is the answer to what Ranquist has seen as an evolving market demand in Chicago with the ability to speak to new demographics and take root in vibrant, transitional neighboruhoods.