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Why laundry rooms make sense...
and how to make them better

THE TROUBLE WITH LAUNDRY ROOMS

The trouble with laundry rooms started when owners began to think of them as noisy, smelly, unattractive things, best hidden away well out of sight. It began when architects designed them into basements, behind garages and under stairwells, and got worse when builders began to suggest they could cram one into a little space, say, next to the boiler room. And, the situation didn't improve when everyone agreed there was no sense in building several separate laundry rooms when one big one would do.

Not surprisingly, residents didn't care for these inconvenient, often dingy and stuffy places; but, as there were few alternatives, they endured. And, because there were few alternatives, owners, architects and builders followed the same design path over and over again.

Time passed.

Residents, fed up with unappealing laundry facilities, began to pressure owners and developers for apartments with in-unit hookups for washers and dryers. As this movement gained momentum, owners, architects, builders and developers concluded, incorrectly, that residents didn't want laundry rooms.

The truth is, they just didn't want cramped, inconvenient, unsafe, poorly lit, stuffy and, as often as not, expensive common laundry rooms.

And who could blame them?

WHAT RESIDENTS REALLY WANT

An independent nationwide study indicated that, when residents are given the option of a clean, convenient, attractive and affordable laundry room, most would not pay more to live in a unit with laundry hookups, or even a unit with washers and dryers provided.

Not surprisingly, a fair percentage of the renting public would just as soon not make the capital outlay for laundry equipment. They'd rather not be responsible for maintenance and service. They don't want to give up the floor space or put up with the noise. They like being able to do more than one load at a time. And they don't want to maneuver heavy appliances in and out every time they move.

So, why don't more projects take these residents and their desires into account? The reason - at least the one we propose to address in this guide - is that too many people still see laundry rooms as they were, not laundry rooms as they can be.

SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE

Even modest laundry rooms can be made appealing, attractive amenities to a property if just a few design basics are kept in mind.

The first and most important principle is to make it convenient. The Multi-Housing Laundry Association suggests you place laundry facilities no more than 250 feet from the apartments they will serve. For many properties, this suggests several smaller rooms rather than one large, centralized one. But, that's fine because that's what residents prefer anyway.

Laundry rooms should be along main traffic patterns, be well lit and have adequate visibility to ensure security. They must be kept clean and the machines in good working order. They should be affordable. A few practical features; such as folding tables or hanging racks and good, comfortable seating, will go a long way toward pleasing residents.

BEYOND THE BASICS

The laundry room can be an honest amenity, as important in the decision to rent as the swimming pool or parking garage. But, to make it stand out, forward-looking properties are going well beyond the basics to make common laundry rooms attractive, appealing places to be.

It may be as simple as adding a few potted plants and a small television, or maybe some graphics for the walls. Some properties are combining their laundry facilities with recreation or exercise rooms, or placing them near play yards or swimming pools.

Another trend gaining momentum is a movement toward coinless laundry rooms with washers and dryers activated by "smart" cards issued to residents. And, as for the future, look for systems, equipment and techniques that make doing laundry increasingly easier and more convenient for residents.

SAVE WATER, SAVE MONEY, SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

One more reason to prefer laundry rooms over in-apartment laundry connections is that they are dramatically easier on the earth's resources... not to mention the owner's wallet.

Another nationwide research survey shows that residents with washers in their apartments do many more, smaller and less efficient loads than residents utilizing a common-area laundry room. The study found that, on average, an apartment property with in-unit washers wastes approximately 8,500 gallons per year on laundry. So, if you have a 150-unit building, that's 1.275 million gallons of wasted water you're paying for. Every year. What's more, a new generation of low-water-consumption commercial washers are gaining acceptance in the marketplace. As this water-wise equipment makes its way into common laundry rooms, we would expect the disparity in water usage to be even greater.

Finally, of course, water isn't the only resource being wasted. There's also the attendant gas and electricity as well as massive amounts of extra sewage generated by less efficient, in-apartment laundries.

THE PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE TO IN-UNITS CONNECTIONS

Just about any way you look at it, common-area laundry rooms make more sense for the vast majority of multi-housing properties. Not counting the cost of washers and dryers, in-apartment connections cost hundreds of extra dollars per unit in additional construction, plumbing, electricity and ducting.

Owners will also have to repair property damage caused moving these heavy appliances in and out, and damage caused when the machines are moved during service calls. Worse, a washing machine leak or flood could cause structural damage and really big losses.

Laundry rooms, by contrast, not only save money, they generate a modest, positive income that can be used for special resident-pleasing projects by a property, or added to general revenue.

When you think about it, when you run the numbers, when you talk to residents, laundry rooms just make sense. If you're planning a multi-housing project, include common-area laundry facilities.

That's what we're here for.


These guidelines are for general informational and educational purposes only. They are not a nationwide standard established by the MLA. Local conditions may necessitate special adaptations. Also, state, county and city government statutory and code provisions should be checked to ascertain whether they require any variations in these guidelines. Although MLA intends to keep this information current and has taken reasonable efforts to ensure its accuracy, we do not guarantee that the information is correct, complete or up-to-date.

Visit the Multi-Housing Laundry Association for more information.