Apartment building types: Building access arrangement Print

​​The type of access to a building will have a big influence on its subsequent configuration. Whether access is organised vertically (i.e. a shared lift or stair core), horizontally (i.e. a shared corridor off a core) or individually (i.e. apartments having their own front door) will dictate the fundamental nature of the building. The type of access will also influence the circulation spaces that lead into or flow from access areas.
Individual 'own front door' access

This type of access arrangement is for a dwelling that is entered into directly from the street, courtyard or private stair. There is no communal circulation. This type of access is generally limited to one or two levels above ground. In some instances a penthouse dwelling on a taller building may have its own access but the cost and space requirements of this are limiting factors. The benefits of individual access are:

  • enhanced street activity through greater frequency of entrances
  • more privacy and individuality for occupants.
Vertical shared access

Vertical access allows for a building that is organised around a vertical core of stairs, lifts or both. Apartments are accessed directly off the core or from an extended circulation area around the core that allows for additional apartments per floor.

A building organised around a single vertical core is often referred to as a 'tower'. 

Vertical access allows for a building that is organised around a vertical core of stairs, lifts or both.

Apartments are accessed directly off the core or from an extended circulation area around the core that allows for additional apartments per floor.

A building organised around a single vertical core is often referred to as a 'tower'.

The benefits of vertical access arrangements are:
  • a greater degree of dwelling individuality (than horizontal access)
  • vertical cores can be placed internally or externally
  • vertical cores can contribute to building façade and rhythm (if paired or multiple) , and can bring light and air into communal areas
  • they can potentially increase the amount of usable floor space, compared to a building with a long double loaded corridor
  • greater potential for social interaction with neighbours, while limiting the number of apartments to a manageable size
  • a mix of apartment types can be achieved (see Apartment Mix and Designing for Families).

 

Horizontal shared access
Horizontal (corridor) access results in buildings that may be wider than they are tall.

The corridor can be placed internally, externally or around an atrium. Externally located corridor access should be designed to avoid long runs of eight apartments or more.

Single-loaded corridor access

A single loaded corridor runs along an external (or atrium) face of the building. The associated dwellings are accessed off one side only and may be on one or more levels if the corridor access occurs on alternate levels. Single and double-aspect dwellings are possible (see Apartment Types).

The benefits of a single-loaded arrangement are:
  • overall building depth is shallower than double-loaded, which is better for constrained sites
  • the orientation of all apartments is towards a preferred aspect
  • external corridors allow for a naturally lit and ventilated corridor
  • there is potential for double aspect dwellings with cross ventilation if the corridor is external
  • they may be used in combination with double-loaded arrangements.
External corridor access can often look unattractive and feel uncomfortable or unsafe on tall buildings.

It needs careful design to ensure it is integrated into the overall form of the building, does not look 'stuck on', has good weather protection and feels safe.

Include extra space around stairs and lifts to form a protected lobby space. This should be large enough to be a social space where people can stop and interact.

Use screening over external access ways, and changes of materials. 

Include extra space around doorways and along corridors so that residents can occupy the space, use it as a social area and it can be seen as a positive part of the building. 

As buildings get taller, external corridors can feel unsafe. The balustrade height should be raised to at least 1200mm. Consider raising it to 1400mm on buildings over 10 stories. Using solid balustrades will give a greater feeling of security. 

Have windows opening onto this space. Any openings need careful design to ensure that there is enough privacy for the occupants. 

Having the corridor away from the face of the building can resolve privacy issues to bedrooms, allow opening windows and can resolve issues around fire design. 

 

Double-loaded corridor access

The double-loaded arrangement locates the corridor within the building. Apartments are accessed off both sides of the corridor and are therefore predominantly single aspect.  Corner and multi-level apartments are generally double aspect and require corridors on alternate levels.  The overall building depth is deeper than a singe-loaded arrangement and solutions for a dual-fronted building will be required.

The benefits of a double-loaded corridor are:
  • greater efficiency of circulation space compared to a single loaded corridor
  • higher overall density of residential units, which may be required in city or district centre locations where good public transport links and amenities
  • the potential for double-fronted buildings on sites where this is appropriate
  • opportunity for more variety in apartment mix due to greater building depth.

 

It is better to limit the number of apartments off one double loaded corridor. Other things to consider include:
  • windows at the end of the corridor to let in light and air, and allow views out
  • extra space around lifts and circulation areas, to form lobbies where people can meet
  • extra width and height in the corridor, particularly around doorways, to give a feeling of spaciousness
  • ​using an atrium in a building with a deep plan. This can let in light to the middle of the building.


There is the potential to resolve solar access for otherwise unfavorably faced units on a single or double-loaded corridor by way of using double height, sometimes referred to as "up-and-over", apartments. 

These will effectively be a two level apartment, and the living level will have windows on both sides.

 

 

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