The Typology of Townhouses

An exploration of efficient, densified and attainable housing

Jul 30, 20214 min read

Over centuries, townhouses have adapted to the social, environmental, and cultural needs of their surrounding contexts. In the medieval era, a townhome was built to provide residents with privacy, community, and garden areas, while fitting on narrow parcels of land and maximizing livable space. In the late 19th century, the Garden City movement used townhomes to create optimal density and connect inhabitants to their surrounding environments, by having the home take up less of the lot, allowing more room for outdoor living.

In modern times, the townhouse is a time-tested architectural typology that provides affordable housing, efficient building practices, low maintenance housing, outdoor living spaces, and a close sense of community. When combined with luxurious interior finishes and thoughtful architectural design, the townhouse rivals detached single-family homes.

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Sustainable Neighbourhoods

In recent years, we have seen unprecedented increases in the cost of housing. Different causality theories exist; however, it is well supported that restrictive zoning policies are making it harder for most people to find homes. In Victoria, multifamily housing is essentially banned from 68% of our residential land base, meaning our growing population must be largely housed on the remaining 32% land base.

A recent UN Emissions Gap Report highlights limits to the construction of new multifamily housing due to zoning and land use restrictions in cities across North America as a key impediment to hitting the emissions reduction targets to below the 2 degrees Celsius level. This is critical because the way we build our cities (construction) and the way we move around them (transportation) are the two largest emitters of harmful emissions globally.

Consequently, many scientists and think-tanks are turning their minds to urban densification as a key tool in fighting climate change. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have 30 years to bring our carbon emissions down to zero to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This means cutting current emissions by 50% by 2030 while simultaneously doubling our existing building stock over the next 40 years to keep pace with population growth. This is the equivalent to building an entire New York City, every month, for 40 years. It is for this reason the ship has sailed on the conversation about whether or not we should densify; the conversation for today is how. How do we collectively come together during this climate and housing crisis to make room in our communities for the next iteration of sustainable neighbourhoods?

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Why Townhomes?

Environmentally Sustainable
Townhomes are a more environmentally-sustainable form of housing compared to detached single-family homes, yet have many comparable interior features. Because the side-by-side homes share walls, less heat escapes the building envelope, resulting in minimized collective heart loss. Ultimately, townhomes help create an urban fabric that's resilient to the impact of our rapidly changing climate, by creating homes that use less energy in neighbourhoods that provide nearby urban amenities.

A Strong Sense of Community
Speaking of your neighbours, living in a townhome allows for a closely-knit community. A space that previously had a single-family house is now home to multiple families because of the slight increase in density, which means more neighbours and a stronger sense of community. By living in a townhouse, one can have less of an environmental impact while enjoying a more affordable home in a well-loved neighbourhood with a vibrant community.

More Affordable
Townhouses are more affordable than single-family homes, from both an initial construction standpoint and long-term living expenses. Because townhomes are nestled side-by-side, less building material is required, as one thick wall serves two homes. But not to worry, Aryze uses wall assemblies above the required specifications, so your home will be quiet. The only time you will realize you share a wall is when you run into your neighbour at the community barbecue.

Less Maintenance
For those who lead busy lives, townhome living is especially appealing. Living in a townhome means less homeowner hassle, as exterior maintenance is taken care of. There is no need to cut your grass or take your trash to the curb on pickup day. Instead of doing household maintenance, one can enjoy more time with their family, or pick up a hobby. Townhomes are comparable—if not better—than single-family detached homes.

Aryze is a design-driven development team bringing creative infill housing and mixed-use projects to Victoria’s established neighbourhoods. That includes some pretty neat townhome developments.