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When Architects Create Value

How the right multifamily project design will make your project stand out (from the usual boxy buildings that look alike).

By: Bob Tiscareno

Choosing an architect is a very important decision. You need the right combination of experience and thoughtful, intelligent, relevant design know-how to create a building that’s the talk of the town.

For a high-stakes development, you need an architect who is not only well-versed in design, but one who’s experienced in master planning, cost management and permitting. They will have technical expertise in energy efficiency and sustainability.

If your architect lacks these attributes, the project may turn out just ho-hum.

Aerial of Modera Redmond

Take the Modera Redmond residential project, for example. The quirky y-shaped lot was tricky to work with. Still, we managed to fit in two inviting courtyards, a rooftop deck with a limited indoor kitchen plus outdoor barbecue, an indoor lounge with a full kitchen, fitness room, and movie screening room. Most importantly, the end result is 300 spacious units full of daylight, ample storage, and contemporary fixtures and finishes.

Initial drawings produced 280 units. But a return to the boards squeezed out 20 more that were not only more interesting, standardized (for lower cost of construction), but also didn’t sacrifice space for amenities.

Most developers define a successful project in terms of how much money they’ll make at the end of the day. Developers make money by running a building for cash flow for some period of time and then selling that building. The value at sale is determined by the capitalization rate -- which is derived from the net operating income (revenue minus operating expenses) divided by the market rate property value.

Courtyard at Modera Redmond

Two buildings can have the same NOI, but if one is better-designed and built of higher-quality materials with more aesthetically pleasing units and desirable amenities, the market will deem it a more valuable building and the capitalization rate will be lower.

Unit at Modera Redmond

Revenue is a function of occupancy and rents, both of which can be influenced by a building’s design but also location and property management, of course. High occupancy happens when tenants like living in the building, renew their leases, and rent in the building because the look and feel is appealing when they tour the unit.

High rents are achieved through a high-quality building and set of amenities.

Architects can minimize the long-term cost of ownership expenses by designing a building that is easy to maintain.

Tips for picking an architect

  1. Don’t hire an architect known for designing homes if you’re building an apartment building. Does this firm design the type of building you are hoping to develop?

  2. Look at the list of recent projects. If you like them, ask for references and interview the person who hired the architect. Did the building hold up over time? Did the project come in on time and on budget?

  3. Ask for a tour of a project to see how it feels when you experience different areas of the building.

Investing in a good architect will reap rewards for many years to come.


Bob Tiscareno, Founder & President

Owner and founder Bob Tiscareno started the firm in his basement and has guided its steady evolution from a one-man show to prominence among the city’s 20 largest architecture firms. At any given moment he has more than two dozen projects in various stages of design and construction, and today 8-10 projects are worth $75-200 million in construction value. Read more about Bob Tiscareno.

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