Monday, July 25, 2016

Stacked Townhomes - a new prototype design study

Longtime readers of my blog will know I often take part in an open development process here, sharing the development of new designs as they happen via this blog. The last time I did this was the development of our 1204 RoHouse family of townhouse designs. Now I am looking for my developer / builder readers to give me feedback on the question of developing plan sets for Stacked Townhouses. 

For those not familiar with the term, stacked townhouses are a form of duplex dwellings where instead of being side by side like Twin Houses, or one above the other like Flats, stack townhouses fit two dwelling units into a single 3 story row house unit. Because each unit occupies a floor and a half, and often is made to have each unit connect to a ground level garage, the internal arrangements can be quite entangled and contorted. Here however is not where the problem lies. The problem with these units is they typically result in a poor urban plan with no private outdoor space and awkward entries.

Yet units in this configuration have become tremendously popular with mid and large size developers. Why, why would a home configuration that produces poor and awkward urban spaces be so popular? Yield. Two units combined into a single 3story building takes up less ground area than a pair of twins, or a pair of flats. The lack of yards also increases the yield and ambiguous pedestrian “streets” reduces road infrastructure - all increasing the profit potential of a development.

But why do home owners like them? Well, not everybody who aspires to be a home owner wishes to have a big yard to take care of,  walks to shovel in winter, leaves to rake in fall. Yet many do not want to live in a large apartment building, or a large and complex condominium. These stacked townhomes fill a small gap in the marketplace of housing and I see them in the mix of most large suburban townhouse developments.

But this popularity does not mean that the stack townhome designs on the market are ideal. In fact they are weak on many fronts. I believe I can satisfy the developers desire for yield, and improve the quality of life for occupants. I intend to conduct an open design study through our blog, and if I can come up with improved prototypes I will develop them into houseplans and offer them through our site.

So please stay tuned and follow the series. We are going to start with examining some existing precedents, and typical arrangements. This process will be similar to the townhouse study I published while developing the RoHouse family of townhouse designs. I need you my readers to contribute observations of existing prototypes so that we can gain as much insight as possible.

Are you ready for this? We are!


  1. Very interesting concept! I agree, that there is a (small) gap for costumers, who want to have an apartment, but not in a large condominium complex.

    I am looking for such a house type for a future project in Thailand. Especially foreigners would be interested in such a house type.

    You idea also will give the opportunity for a «maisonette» and double-height rooms.

    My concerns would be sound insulation of the 2 units and access. Do you plan 2 separate (private) entries?

    1. Yes, they typically present two separate "front" doors to the street. Sound insulation is always an issue, and sound rated assemblies are required by US model construction codes for units like this.

      The nested apartment units from Corbu's Unite are a precedent related to these Stack townhouse - and those included double height spaces at the exterior wall. But it runs counter to the effort to keep living spaces and bedroom spaces stacked where units meet for the sake of sound intrusion. Not an issue in Corbu's poured concrete structures!