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Resilience, efficiency are keys to new development, says placemaker Kobi Karp

Kobi Karp is a true expert and thought leader in the realm of what we call “placemaking” – that is, creating built environments that people actually want to frequent.

So it was a real treat to have him in the Fried On Business studio recently to discuss his work and his perspective on development trends.

Kobi is the founder and owner of Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design. When he started work in South Florida in the 1980s, the population growth here was comprised mostly of retirees from the northeastern U.S. and Cuban refugees.

Both were characterized by fixed incomes, he said. There were few resources to invest in real estate or to build new communities and businesses.

But times have changed. Since then, there’s been a steady growth in per capita income and education.

Florida has also been on the cutting edge of resiliency and sustainability in architectural design, he added.

Solar technology is a good example. Resilient building designs today can easily incorporate solar panels that charge wall-mounted battery packs. These, in turn, can charge your car or even run your air conditioning unit, Kobi said.

And as we know, AC in Florida is not a luxury.

“This is our near-future,” he said.

Kobi also addressed the potential change in sea levels, noting that base flood elevation for new development in parts of South Florida should also take into account the height of temporary wave action.

Shifting gears, so to speak, I’ve talked to some developers recently who say that buildings in our area have too much parking.

Kobi agreed, citing his own sons as an example of young people who prefer not to drive in South Florida. They’d rather take any alternative – public transit, Uber, ride-sharing – than get behind the wheel.

So, over time, parking garages will be converted into mixed-use developments, sporting facilities, hotels and more, he said.

In addition to South Florida, Kobi does an extensive amount of work overseas. He’s just finished a condominium project in Capetown, South Africa and a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“It’s very interesting. I love working together with architects from the kingdom, and I love working there. I find it very fascinating,” he said.

Some architectural concepts, Kobi said, are unique to the local environment. The Queen Effat University Library in Jeddah, for example, was built in the air, with the pedestal providing steps into the structure. This provides a shaded area for people to congregate.

For Kobi, sustainability and resilience in architecture are more than just buzzwords, and one way to create them is to use local materials in construction.

For example, monasteries in the Swiss Alps are made from local stone, he said. Ice in Alaska provides the basis for many types of structures.

His favorite local material in Miami is terrazzo. It is extremely durable – and just about anything can be added to it for decoration.

“For me, terrazzo is one of the most beautiful materials that I can work with. It gives you the ability to walk on it barefoot, and it lasts a lifetime – indoor and outdoor,” he said.

Multifamily design, you probably know, is adapting to the emerging trend of co-living – that is, multiple generations living under the same roof.

Kobi said this is old news. He was born in Israel where the kibbutz is commonplace. Living spaces are shared, and the older generation lives with the younger generation.

“It’s so healthy for the older generation to spend time with the younger generation,” he said.

Kobi is in the middle of several redesign projects, both high-rise and low-rise, affordable and market-rate. These are built to enhance a sense of community.

“People have an ability to live with each other. The residential – with the hospitality, hotel, resort – is one way to bring people together,” he said.

As for the future of design, efficiency is the key word, Kobi said. For example, some of his luxury home projects in the Caribbean are designed to take best advantage of the lot to maximize ventilation and create outdoor, as well as indoor, amenities.

“It’s the simple things in life. We are looking to create spaces that inspire you. That inspire your inner well being. That inspire your thinking. That inspire your soul,” he said.

That, he said, can work for multifamily spaces, too. Places that are on the more affordable end of the spectrum.

For example, Plaza at the Lyric Apartments in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, incorporates a park immediately adjacent to it.

“Those public spaces are holy. Those public spaces become part of the environment. Those public spaces are shaded by beautiful oak trees. Those public spaces become an amenity for the community,” he said.

This was a fantastic conversation, and we covered a lot more territory, including:

– Solar as the single-best amenity to add to a single-family home.

– The role of the environment in creating livable communities.

Click here to listen to the entire interview with Kobi Karp of Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design.

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