2018 Landscape Trends in Community Amenities

Whether you are designing a new community amenity or expanding or renovating an existing amenity, we are all striving to create meaningful places with lasting value. At Canin Associates, we focus on planning and designing great people places. Placemaking creates value in amenity design and landscape design is a huge aspect in placemaking. Designing well-amenitized landscapes provides venues for a variety of experiences and active and passive recreation.

Here are some community design trends we are exploring for 2018 that will help enhance your amenity design.

Water/Food/Play – Making Connections

All great amenities should provide the basics of a pool, some type of food service or cooking equipment and spaces for play. Connecting the dots between these elements is a trend we are seeing. Water-ready table games in the pool, water basketball and volleyball, outdoor kitchens on the pool deck, and age-inclusive splash pads are all trending features that incorporate these elements in creative ways.

Go Beyond the Shopping List

It’s a perennial question for builders and developers: What’s new and trending in amenities? It’s important in the planning stages to take time to think beyond a typical list of amenity elements and consider activities that may be more targeted to your specific project context or anticipated residents. Active items like Pump Tracks are augmenting trail systems for bike experiences. Outdoor fitness circuits and parkour equipment are capitalizing on the Ninja Warrior / Adventure Racing trend. Manufacturers of play equipment are now providing a variety of high quality, internet-linked outdoor fitness equipment.

Other innovative amenities include adding climate-controlled greenhouses for residents where gardening classes can be held. Incorporating art is an important element of placemaking and many communities are providing sculpture in the landscape and even promoting local artists in exterior sculpture garden galleries.

Focus on the Details

Attention to detail is crucial and given the high value placed on creative placemaking in today’s urban designs, it’s no surprise that there are numerous companies pushing the envelope with new materials, lighting and other landscape infrastructure products. In the material world, we are seeing more and more porcelain tile being used as a long term substitute for pavers and stones. Simulated wood remains a very popular aesthetic. Paver companies are continually pushing flexibility with new specialty colors, sizes and aggregate materials for a huge variety of treatments. Many projects are mixing paving techniques for an even larger variety of hardscape combinations.

Innovative for pool construction techniques and materials are available. Cushioned pool floors are a welcome advancement in fitness pools. New stainless steel construction techniques are providing long term viability with flexibility in shape and very creative coping solutions.

Electrical infrastructure for lighting and technology are a must. Lighting options have significantly advanced beyond just LED’s and combining lighting with musical systems are becoming more popular as controls have moved to your tablet. Options for music and show lighting are particularly popular in amenities that feature evening entertainment. Festoon lighting remains highly popular with a variety of commercial construction systems available for long lasting appeal. Internet technology is a must and for 2018, we are seeing builders and developers devote significant time during the planning process to adequately evaluate the network system requirements and plan for long term management. Some developers are moving away from providing Wifi and making deals with providers to move directly into the 5g IoT market. Creatively designed equipment is lacking, but look for a new emphasis on aesthetics in 2018.

Engaging Spaces

Active spaces are important, but spaces that engage the senses is a new goal. Taking a page from resort design, new amenities are creating immersive spaces that compel the user to return again and again. Many developers recognize that utilizing the rooftop can create a unique community experience and new construction techniques do not obstruct sound water and infrastructure management on the rooftop. Bars, pergolas, kitchens, dining and relaxation are all part of the programmable rooftop. A well thought out community takes advantage of every space, even the spaces left between. Even little spaces can have a big impact when design is given a priority. Add benches, hardscape, color, shade and maybe a grill and you have a community gathering spot in what used to be a simple lawn. New community amenities in 2018 should take advantage of every opportunity, both big and small.

Landscapes that Work

Trails and trail systems remain hugely popular in communities building. Developers are adding value by providing fitness opportunities, tracking and markings along with a hierarchical system that includes comfortable streetscapes for bikers and walkers. Planning for a full trail system up front is crucial. Comfort in the landscape is also critical and inspired shade systems are a necessity. Whether it’s a unique perforated metal structure or a tablet driven operable shade pergola that tracks the sun, look for more creative shade techniques in 2018. Along with creative shade, there is a myriad of options for creatively designed fire pits and inspired furniture choices that are colorful, flexible, durable and contemporary.

Along with exterior athletic equipment advances, builders and developers are recognizing the importance of a wise investment in quality play equipment. Play equipment quickly becomes a liability if it doesn’t work or if maintenance is required too often. Sound choices in quality play equipment are available and manufacturers recognize the need for long term durability. More and more creative play options are available as manufacturers provide customizable components and design assistance for parks and play spaces.

Waterwise landscape is not just a trend, it is being regulated by jurisdictions intent on conserving water and providing a more sustainable landscape. Builders and developers will continue the trend for waterwise landscape design to comply with jurisdictional requirements but also for long term maintenance and replacement value.

Recent landscape architecture trends have highlighted infrastructure as art. We could see more of this in 2018. The trend will show up in custom site furniture integrated in the landscape, benches and signage with interactive Wifi, and contemporary designs for age old landscape elements like fire hydrants. Every opportunity to be innovative and creative with infrastructure adds to the character, enhancing the amenity and therefore the community.

Contact Greg Witherspoon in our Landscape Architecture Studio to see more on Landscape Design Trends for 2018.

5 Tips to Get Your Clubhouse Right

A clubhouse can be a neighborhood focal point and help attract new residents. However, not all amenity centers are created equal. From functionality to aesthetic appeal, here are five tips to make your clubhouse shine:

Custom Clubhouse / Amenity Center

1. Function, then form.

The program of your clubhouse is everything. Decide on what functions your clubhouse should have, and that will inform how much space it will require; don’t try to squeeze in amenities where they don’t fit, or they won’t add value to your space or community. Certain rooms require specific minimum sizes. For example, fitness rooms should be around 40 feet wide to allow for cardio equipment on outside walls with space for weight machines in the center. Give some thought to how the entrances and exits of spaces are aligned, so furniture space isn’t wasted, allowing for crisscrossing circulation paths across the multi-purpose room or other large, open spaces.

2. One building, or several?

So you’ve decided on a hefty program, and now you’ve got to figure out where it’s going to fit into your community. Phasing, access, and amenity sites can be used to determine if your needs can be met by one large building, or several single or double-purpose buildings. What you decide could create a community focal point or an amenity complex with meeting and multi-purpose space, fitness cabana, refreshment building, pool bathhouse, and more. Breaking up the building also reduces the overall square footage requirement, if the size is what’s holding you back.


Zero Entry Pool - Avalon Park / Orlando, Florida

3. The clubhouse is an important amenity to potential homebuyers.

One of the biggest selling points of a community is the clubhouse. If a neighborhood requires HOA fees, offering large-scale community resources is a great way to persuade potential homebuyers. Providing a clubhouse can also address a homebuyer’s typical hesitations, such as not having enough yard for a backyard pool, lacking space for large gatherings, being too far from the gym, or needing a way to get acquainted with neighbors. A clubhouse can be an excellent option as a “third place”—a gathering space other than home or work for community members to meet and mingle.

4. Elevation: scale and proportion.

This is your chance to “wow” guests and to create a community focal point. Use the clubhouse exterior to define the architectural style and feel of the neighborhood. With a great entrance and landscape package, it can create that memorable image that defines the community. Each part of the building has its own function, so use that to your benefit and pop the main entrance or fitness space forward or up, creating a defined piece and humanizing the scale of the structure.

5. Quality over quantity.

Building costs almost always affect design choices, so think practically. For example, over-articulating corners and walls can create dead spaces in a plan and add extra construction costs. If you have porches or patios, make sure they are of an adequate size to perform their function, like allowing space for furniture. A beautiful, functional clubhouse does not have to break the bank, and when done right, can help to sell every lot and home in the neighborhood.



The New Neighborhood: Mixed-Use and Multi-Modal

Conventional suburbs are making way for carefully master-planned neighborhoods with character. Outparcels remain a commodity along major thoroughfares, but are seamlessly integrated into the overall urban fabric of a budding community. In Southwest Florida’s Lake Flores, this concept is strengthened through two ideas: complete streets and multi-modal trails.


Lake Flores Florida Site Master Plan 3

Lake Flores bridges conventional commercial development and urban neighborhoods with thoughtful, multi-modal streets and trails.


Located near Sarasota, Lake Flores is an infill site of over 1,300 acres overlooking Sarasota Bay and just a few miles from the beach. This is the kind of special site that only comes available once in the life of a community. With the county’s How Will We Grow vision setting the stage for more mixed-use, urban development, the time is ripe for a game-changing new project that will set the tone for the next era of growth in this coastal community. After decades of ownership by the Manatee Fruit Company, this long-term venture has the potential to grow and evolve over a 20 year period.


Multi-Modal Trail Urban Planning

A landscaped multi-modal trail accommodates pedestrians, runners, cyclists, and small electric vehicles.


The heart of the plan is the community’s namesake, Lake Flores. This new nineteen-acre lake is surrounded by a green edge of park, which will provide a gathering place for the community and the region. Adjacent to the lake will be a new main street with restaurants and entertainment. Visitors can dine with a lake view or take an evening stroll after dinner. Apartments overlooking Lake Flores will create a peaceful, urban residential option convenient for a morning job and within easy walking distance of the main street. With two different business centers to accommodate commercial office as well as research and development, Lake Flores also provides the realistic opportunity to live and work in the same community.


Calm, carefully designed streets with opportunities for walking and biking both for recreation and practical transportation will be a priority at Lake Flores. A central multi-modal trail and linear park run the length of the site connecting all of the neighborhoods safely to the lakeside park and retail amenities. This trail is truly multi-modal, design to accommodate a soft path for runners as well as a hard surface wide enough for small electric shuttles. In addition, all streets are designed to be complete for all modes of transportation with buildings oriented to reinforce neighborhood character.