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Why are some apartment buildings joined at the corner?
Old 05-27-2018, 06:20 PM   #1
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Why are some apartment buildings joined at the corner?

In SE Michigan, I notice a lot of apartment complexes that I drive past seem to 'attach' their buildings (which are at a 90-degree angle to each other) along one corner. These are usually 2-story buildings. (I may have seen one or two that were 3-stories tall.)

I'm wondering what is the benefit to doing this? There doesn't seem to be any interior access from one building to the next. Is it for taxes or insurance purposes or something like that? Or possibly a utility line could service both buildings?

Here's an aerial view from Google maps of one of the complexes. I see quite a few as I'm driving around the area.


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Old 05-27-2018, 07:02 PM   #2
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To keep people from cutting through? Just to avoid traffic/noise/privacy issues, and also maybe to help limit break-ins?

Maybe it's just zoning, taxes, or insurance.
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Old 05-27-2018, 07:23 PM   #3
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That's interesting. Not a configuration I've appreciated around here. It does give a somewhat protected courtyard area. Inquiring minds!
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Old 05-27-2018, 07:56 PM   #4
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My first thought was also the security thing.

Ie. no bad guy hiding around the corner in the blind spot waiting to jump the resident.
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Old 05-27-2018, 08:57 PM   #5
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Methinks: zoning
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Old 05-27-2018, 09:41 PM   #6
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Methinks: zoning
No idea, not a landlord, but if it is nonsensical it is usually government.

On the pictures above, even if you wanted the courtyard effect you could still have the corners filled in with another unit or two.
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Old 05-27-2018, 09:50 PM   #7
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Are you sure there is no walk way between the buildings? Looking at the sidewalks it looks like you can walk between the buildings...
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Old 05-28-2018, 07:26 AM   #8
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Are you sure there is no walk way between the buildings? Looking at the sidewalks it looks like you can walk between the buildings...
I haven't personally inspected these particular apartments (as I was scanning through Google maps aerial view, these showed up as having multiple examples of the configuration I've wondered about. So I chose them as my example to use here.)

Other nearby apartment complexes I have viewed personally. And there's no 'daylight' between the buildings. In other words, they are physically connected from ground level all the way up to their roofs.

As I look at the sidewalks near the buildings in the picture, they all look like they are going to a front door or building side entry.

I am not understanding where it looks like you can walk between/through the attached corner of 2 right-angled buildings.

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Old 05-28-2018, 08:10 AM   #9
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Maybe it's similar to this:



Back in the 80's , in Ontario Canada, there was a lot size limit per single family house, but for houses joined, the builder could put more on a street (example townhouse).
Builders came up with a brilliant loophole, which was to link the foundations of the houses together, so above ground they looked like single family homes all very close together (2->6 feet apart), but were joined below ground by a column of cement from one foundation to the other.



These are called Linked Singles
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:24 AM   #10
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Ah yes. The government explanation! 'Not only in Canada you say? Pity.' Seems highly plausible.
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:29 AM   #11
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Well, for a given land area and within setback requirements, I think that design maximizes the rentable square footage that has windows. I would expect that the Fire Marshall has given those connecting points a really hard look though.
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Old 05-28-2018, 01:23 PM   #12
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Or possibly a utility line could service both buildings?
This may well be the case, as it also allows sharing of heating systems and sewer connections between the attached buildings. With the cold climate, the buildings may also be connected at the basement level to share a laundry room without having to go outside.
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Old 05-28-2018, 02:32 PM   #13
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Well, for a given land area and within setback requirements, I think that design maximizes the rentable square footage that has windows. I would expect that the Fire Marshall has given those connecting points a really hard look though.
I was an engineer and code consultant for many years, working on various types of buildings (although limited residential stuff). You've hit on the most likely explanation, IMO.

Building Code Officials look hard at every project. In this case, each "pair" of touching buildings would almost certainly be treated as a single building for code compliance purposes.
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Old 05-29-2018, 06:54 AM   #14
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Methinks: zoning


+1. Zoning most likely has a building spacing requirement where one building canít be within so many feet of another. The site is probably too small to fit separate buildings at zoning required distance apart, and still fit in parking, etc. so they joined the buildings so that they could jam in as many units as possible.
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Old 05-29-2018, 07:24 AM   #15
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This is done a lot with apartment buildings in DC. It also allows the building to be built in two "phases," sometimes with two separate names, while still being considered a single building for zoning. But the first one can stand on its own while waiting for the approvals and construction financing (and appropriate market conditions) for the second.
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