Need More Space? Add a Porch

the plant roomYou'll pay a premium for an apartment with a terrace in hyper-dense cities like New York. But The Plant Room could be your solution for life al fresco without a rent increase.

The Plant Room, a competition entrant in the Sustainable Habitat Challenge, was originally conceived as an apartment solution to improve the quality of life of inhabitants in in Wellington, New Zealand while reducing their energy and water consumption. Wellington, like New York, has only a small percentage of housing stock that is replaced each year, and only a fraction of that is built with environmental concerns in mind.The Plant Room is a prefabricated room that bolts on the façade of apartment buildings that can give an individual apartment an extra room or porch that protrudes from the wall. It boasts of a garden space, worm farm, rainwater tank, a green roof and claims to generate enough hot water for one person. On warm days, two sides of the room can be opened to reveal a private balcony.

The designers estimate the cost of getting your own Plant Room to be just over $30,000, including fees and governmental costs based on a New Zealand build. But what if your neighbor in the floor above decides to do the same? Will you be subject to shadows or be responsible for one?

In the case of Union Square Condos (a renovated school building) in Grand Rapids, Mich., management pre-selected which units and floors would have balconies and which wouldn't, mostly because of aesthetics. And that scenario is more likely than individual owners building out from their apartment later on. The developer can space out the porches in a design that makes sense for the building and each prospective buyer knows what he or she is getting in terms of view and visibility to neighbors.

But the makers of The Plant Room know that using their design concept could cause neighborly disputes. To combat the possible issues of the placement of their additions, they've been taking a close look at how best to place their conceptual green rooms.
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