Getting the Most Out of Apartment Living: It’s Not Just About the Apartment

Updated April 9, 2020 and August 20, 2020

Townhouses near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.

It was apartment two-o-two. The other time it was apartment fifteen-o-four.  The first one had a great view of a famed mountain range and was on the second floor of an apartment complex.

The second apartment was in a high rise with four elevators. After one leaves the apartment and takes the elevator to the ground floor, one maybe even waves to the security guard on duty, an example of a shared resource that an apartment complex has. One passes a waiting area, go through the lobby in order to traverse two crosswalks, and voila! There is a bus stop to catch the bus to get into town!

On the bus

Not bad for a return from a late-night walk around town, or for a return from a parade. After all, traffic was going to be diverted. Who knows where parking would be? So, it was easier to take transit.  Even without the transit, other services were a convenient reach of the apartment.

Because for both apartments, the local drugstore and supermarket were minutes away on foot. It was nice because one could go over to pick up a few items or shop for the week. Near the first apartment, there was a park with a conservatory and rolling green hills, which had a 360-degree view of the city.

The second apartment had a public park nearby which was frequented by young children and their grandmothers in the morning. Managed by a non-profit organization, the park had playground equipment and a wading pool for toddlers and older children. Aah, the convenience of apartment living!

In contrast, did you know a freestanding single-family house takes 17 times more resources to build and maintain than apartments? No doubt, apartments have economies of scale. Furthermore, apartments that are walkable to a grocery store and a transit stop have even more benefits. 

More popularly known in recent times as “Transit-Oriented Development,” or TOD, it is defined as development that connects transit and apartments and other vitally needed services, which are located within 10 minutes walking distance of a transit stop. Not only for the enjoyment of nature, but good parks are necessary to complement apartment living. More importantly, for the larger town or city, parks are also needed to enhance and build a sense of community.

In towns and cities, excellent parks should not only be convenient to access but should be relaxing and safe. In reality, many parks are not designed nor used to their full potential, as there are hindrances to the enjoyment of these parks.

“Transit-Oriented Development,” or TOD, it is defined as development that connects transit and apartments and other vitally needed services, which are located within 10 minutes walking distance of a transit stop.

One hindrance to park enjoyment is the lack of nearby trees, which most of the time, results in a lack of outdoor shade. Unfortunately, cities and towns, in the name of collecting more rent, revenue, or taxes, sacrifice trees, so if there are trees, there are few of them, or simply, trees are seen as an afterthought.

Another hindrance to park enjoyment which threatens parkgoers’ sense of security, is the park provides too much shade, to the point one cannot discern the body language of a passerby. In a pleasant park, the trees offer shade, but not too much shade, so people from even 100 feet away, can clearly see what is going on in the park, thereby acting as an informal community watch.

Another hindrance is the park is too big that one’s bearings and thus sense of security is challenged. Therefore, a good park is big enough to rest and relax, and one can walk through the park to the opposite side, but not that big that one can get lost.

Even your expectation is a hindrance to park enjoyment, as you cannot expect a park to be clean and climate-controlled like an air-conditioned office. After all, by its definition, a park requires living things such as trees, birds, and other creatures. So after some time in the park, an insect or two will come forth; there may be bird droppings. It’s all-natural and should happen.

And even if the park was perfectly designed and maintained, you and other people need to enjoy it without preventing others from doing the same. Thus, how should one behave? For example, do others around you care to listen to your conversations, and vice versa? What are they doing? Are they reading a book or listening to a live concert? Are they at work or at play?

Not as annoying, but just as disturbing, is when someone at a park does not engage at all. For example, you have arrived at the famed garden located in town. The sun is out, and there is a slight breeze. A concession stand is nearby, where one can get locally made ice cream. Their chicken sandwich and house salad are not bad as well. Nearby is a water fountain that immediately calms and relaxes almost everyone, except the man on his phone!

So those are some of the hindrances of park enjoyment.

Thus, a fundamental way to efficiently use our resources is to live in an apartment that is walkable to a market, to transit, and to a pleasant park.

Happy apartment living!




Links That May Interest You:

Etiquette: The Nuances of When to Leave Someone Alone


Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the “Director of Public Outreach” for the “US High Speed Rail Association.” Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s