Working, Living Comfortably in the Same PlaceBy Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 10/21/2020 - 15:44
Q: What are A.flo+’s main projects in Mexico and how has demand changed in recent times?
A: We have several urban projects in Queretaro, Guanajuato and on the outskirts of Mexico City. These are large projects of around 400ha each. We also have smaller housing projects of 50 to 70 units. In Mexico City, we are refurbishing several houses as clients now want to add special areas as home offices, and study rooms and other recreational areas to their houses as they are spending more time at home with this new normal. We are working on a Master Plan building in San Miguel de Allende, a 400ha project that involves mixed spaces and reflects the natural growth of the city. We also have a midsized project in colonia Escandon, Mexico City, where we are innovating and experimenting with spaces that can be later expanded. We are also developing a social housing project in Iztapalapa but most of our current projects, especially apartments, target the upper-middle class and urban projects.
Living spaces have undergone significant transformations through the years. For instance, when cars became commonplace, houses had to adapt to incorporate a garage. Now, houses are going through a different transformation to allow spaces to remain versatile and be closed or opened at will to adapt to the occupant’s needs. Another challenge clients are facing is isolating those who have been infected with COVID-19. Considering this possibility, we created a solution that would grant clients a space that can be closed off as required. This last solution is mostly used in apartment buildings as we build them with a free space that also can also be used as an office or a gym, depending on the client’s needs.
Q: How is A.flo+ further adapting its practices to the new vision of a house as a living and office space?
A: We are working with our clients to look for spaces that can be adapted to improve their stay in a home that now also functions as an office. We are helping them adapt their living spaces to the conditions of the future. For instance, before the outbreak, the dining room and kitchen would be connected but now clients prefer them as autonomous spaces. A living room can be turned into a reading room or a classroom for more privacy and better connectivity. Breaking former paradigms of living spaces has proven to be very interesting. These adaptations can be implemented from the conceptual design of the building and it will heavily involve the client during the later stages as we will require their input on what feels most comfortable to them. Our clients have really liked these new designs and we are now observing how they are adapting to the new normal.
Q: What are A.flo+’s competitive advantages in the real estate market?
A: We have a broad project portfolio thanks to our work in the Middle East, Europe and the US. These projects have allowed us to build an excellent visual catalogue as a firm and add value at every step of the process, from the conceptual design to turnkey deliveries alongside our sister companies. Our experience in those regions is not limited to residential buildings; we have designed and built numerous industrial and commercial buildings. We have the necessary experience to address our clients’ needs.
Q: How is A.flo+ innovating in the real estate market while keeping costs down?
A: We are exploring other alternatives for offices, such as prefabricated block buildings that can be manufactured, transported with a crane and installed at the destination. These “Lego-type” solutions give clients more options to personalize their office buildings or residential spaces. We are experimenting with the sale of a land parcel with a prebuilt home that the client chooses from a catalogue, which is then delivered, connected to utilities and ready to use. This type of residence would allow us to offer highly accessible homes.
Building these spaces in large quantities allows us to lower our prices while offering a well-tested product. For the past 10 years, we have worked with a sister company to review all comments we have received on this type of housing to identify new opportunities to further cut costs. The main variation in costs depends on the specific characteristics the client requests, so with a prefabricated piece costs are lowered significantly.
We have also experimented with structures that can be altered later on. In Cuernavaca, we built a loft apartment that could be expanded as an individual’s family grew. This allowed the client to turn a single room into two rooms using the vertical free space. Most of our projects are planned thinking about what will come next in the market. Our vision comprises 10 to 20 years as we are aware that an individual’s lifestyle will change after certain events, such as starting a family, an accident or hosting another individual. We always consider what changes a client might face during their lifetime to offer them the versatility they need.
Q: How is A.flo+ taking advantage of the growing trend of buying second homes?
A: At this point, the market for second homes is booming as individuals are increasingly looking for spaces where they can take refuge from the COVID-19 outbreak away from major cities. Before the outbreak, the main attraction of a real estate destination was its closeness to a major city. Now, clients are increasingly searching for more rural spaces. This is possible thanks to the increasing penetration of working-from-home practices, which have proven to be equally effective as working in an office. The home-office trend is causing a boom in the second-home market. To make it competitive, we are adding more amenities for those who are unwilling to go too far away from their home during the outbreak. We have a 300-space development with a beer brewery and vineyard, pools and many other outdoor activities, giving clients an amazing opportunity to engage in recreational activities, and have a better (and safer) social isolation than in the crowded city spaces.
Q: How can developers create spaces for socializing while considering social distancing and other measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19?
A: It is a very difficult to design spaces to cope with this virus. However, this is also a matter of personal responsibility. It does not matter if the space is open and well ventilated if those using it do not follow safety precautions. We are designing spaces were individuals can be comfortable standing at 1.5m from each other but we have seen that people prefer to cluster closer.
Q: How is A.flo+ expanding its service offering and product portfolio?
A: A.flo+ started a new company called SMLXL, which began as a land locator for real estate and then evolved into development of residential, retail, and mix-used spaces. Now, it is exploring commercial spaces alongside a developer and seller. This company offers a comprehensive service, from locating the land to handing the client the finished apartment, called End-to-End Service.
A.flo+ is an architecture firm based in Mexico City that has designed award-winning residences, housing projects, and urban space projects. It also has a division that provides graphic design work