Point Access Block Policy Brief

Over the last few months, we've been working with several policymakers, advocacy groups, and jurisdictions on Point Access Block legislation. To facilitate those conversations and educate policymakers, developers, and planners - we've developed a policy brief highlighting their benefits, and what Seattle's Building Code allows.

Larch Lab Policy Brief: Unlocking Development with Point Access Blocks: a path towards more livable, climate adaptive, and family friendly homes


Problem: After decades of underbuilding, an extensive shortage of housing exists in the United States – not just in large cities, but in suburban and rural areas as well. Building code requirements and the economics of construction have made small to medium-sized multifamily housing increasingly difficult to develop. Over the last twenty years, multifamily development has trended towards larger and significantly denser buildings, with a poor mix of unit sizes. In 2000, buildings of 50+ units made up just 13% of all multifamily completions. Today, over 55% of all new multifamily homes are in 50+ unit buildings. The majority of these are double loaded corridors, hotel-like buildings with a hall running down the middle and single aspect dwellings on either side. These homes tend to get little daylight, and have no opportunity to cross ventilate or mitigate urban noise.

We believe that the solution lies with allowing more diversity in building access. Specifically, by employing Point Access Blocks – compact single stair buildings with dwellings centered around a stairway and elevator core. They are the fundamental building block of cities around the world, in buildings up to six or more stories. However, for most of the U.S. they are restricted to just three stories. Seattle and New York City are the only jurisdictions where taller Point Access Blocks are allowed, with conditions allowing up to six stories.

This policy brief touches on how Point Access Blocks can lead to more livable, climate adaptive, and family friendly housing versus the way multifamily housing is designed and built in the U.S. today. They are incredibly compact, which makes them ideal for cost-optimized Passivhaus buildings. They also play well with Mass Timber.


We are looking forward to the robust discussions about housing, livability, and qualities of urbanity that are severely lacking in North American multifamily development. If you’re interested in discussing this issue, or other issues around decarbonized and family-friendly housing, please contact us.


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