ARCHITECTURAL Aesthetics in Real Estate Development: better design, same costs

When it comes to real estate development, aesthetics are often overlooked in favor of cost-cutting measures. Many developers and investors prioritize the bottom line over the visual appeal of their buildings. As a result, we see countless generic-looking structures that lack character, personality and context. However, it’s important to remember that mindful design and aesthetics can lead to increased development demand, which translates to higher rents and home prices. In this article, we’ll explore ways to enhance aesthetics at the same cost as generic development.

Why Are There So Many Generic Looking Buildings?

One of the issue of cost cutting in architectural design can be attributed to the competitive nature of the real estate industry. Developers are under immense pressure to deliver projects quickly and within budget, which can often limit the time and resources allocated to architectural design. According to a survey by the American Institute of Architects, 42% of architects reported that budget constraints were the biggest factor in limiting the quality of design in their projects (Architectural Record).

Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that aesthetic design can have a significant impact on the success of a building project. A study conducted by the University of Warwick found that the design of a building can influence people’s willingness to pay more for it. Participants in the study were willing to pay up to 12.3% more for a building that was aesthetically pleasing compared to a generic-looking building (Science Direct). Additionally, Mikaela Arroyo, New Home Trends Institute director at John Burns Real Estate Consulting. explains “With less buyer demand, builders are looking for ways to differentiate themselves that don’t break the bank (think smart tech, health, energy efficiency). We are seeing a careful curation of the features that bring the most ROI to buyers.”

Despite the evidence of the importance of aesthetic design in real estate development, many developers still prioritize profit over aesthetics. In a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, 74% of respondents reported that the cost of construction was the most important factor in their design decisions (NAHB). This priority focus on cost can often lead to generic-looking buildings in communities that lack character, neighborhood context or uniqueness to the project.



Enhancing aesthetics without increasing costs can be a challenge for developers. However, variable color schemes can be a useful tool to achieve this goal. By using a variety of colors that complement each other, developers can create a more vibrant and appealing environment without incurring additional expenses.

One of the benefits of using variable color schemes is that it can make a development stand out from its competitors. For example, in a housing development, using different colors for each house can create a diverse and memorable experience for potential buyers or renters. Similarly, in an office complex, using different colors for each floor or section can help to differentiate them and make them more memorable for visitors .


One way to enhance aesthetics while keeping costs low is through variable façade options. This approach involves using the same floor plan for multiple houses, but offering different façade designs, such as a traditional or modern look. This can add variety to a neighborhood and make it feel more unique.

According to a study by the National Association of Home Builders, offering variable façade options is an effective way to increase aesthetic appeal while keeping costs under control . By using a single floor plan and varying the façade, builders can keep construction costs low while still offering a range of options to potential buyers.

In addition to increasing aesthetic appeal, variable façade options can also help developers to differentiate themselves from competitors in the market. According to an article in Professional Builder, offering a range of façade options can help builders to create a unique brand identity and stand out from other builders in the area. 

Overall, variable façade options can be an effective way to enhance aesthetics at the same cost as generic development. By using the same floor plan for multiple houses but offering different façade designs, builders can create a unique and interesting neighborhood while keeping costs under control.

Symmetry vs. Asymmetry

Symmetry and asymmetry are two design approaches that can be used to enhance aesthetics. Symmetry is a common design feature that can make buildings feel more elegant and appealing. According to Boltgroup, symmetrical designs can create a sense of balance and harmony, while asymmetrical designs can create a sense of motion and tension. However, asymmetry can also be used to great effect. By playing with asymmetrical design elements, such as windows, doors, or rooflines, you can create a building that stands out from the crowd. Asymmetrical designs can also convey a sense of creativity and uniqueness that can be appealing to viewers.

In terms of cost, it is possible to incorporate asymmetrical design elements at no extra cost, as long as the building’s structural integrity is not compromised. For example, some architects use different materials or colors on different sides of a building to create an asymmetrical effect. This can be done without increasing the building’s cost.

Choosing contrasting materials and textures is a popular way to enhance aesthetics without adding significant costs. Mixing materials such as brick, wood, and metal can create a striking visual effect and add depth to a building’s façade. A study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that using a mix of materials on a home’s exterior can increase its perceived value by up to 10%. Additionally, according to an article in The Balance, adding different textures and finishes to a building’s façade can make it look more visually appealing and unique.

Simple design features can also be used to enhance a building’s aesthetics at a minimal cost. For example, incorporating bays, detailing, or compartmentalization can make a building look more interesting and unique. These design elements can create visual interest and make a building stand out from its competitors. According to an article in Multifamily Executive, adding design features such as balconies, different roof lines, or decorative metalwork can add character and appeal to a multifamily and single family building.

These principles also apply to large multifamily buildings. Complimentary color schemes, symmetry or asymmetry, material selection, and simple design features can all be used to enhance the aesthetics of these buildings. According to an article in Builder Magazine, using a complimentary color scheme on a building’s exterior can make it more visually appealing and help it stand out in a competitive market. Symmetry and asymmetry can also be used to create a visually interesting building façade. Finally, using quality materials, even if they are simple in design, can make a building look more attractive and higher-end.

In conclusion, choosing contrasting materials and textures and incorporating simple design features can enhance a building’s aesthetics without adding significant costs. Additionally, these principles apply to large multifamily buildings and can help them stand out in a competitive market. By implementing these design elements, developers and investors can create visually appealing buildings that will attract more tenants or buyers.

At AVLV Architecture I Development, we are experts in sustainable architecture and real estate development, and mindful design is a huge priority in any of our building project. The AVLV design studio offers a range of services, including variable floor plans, variable façade options, and custom design elements, all at competitive prices. Investing in aesthetics can ultimately lead to increased demand, higher rents, and home prices, making it a wise choice for developers and investors.




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