This story was originally published in Multifamily Executive.

City living can be lonely. That's why a Dutch designer has introduced a new idea to help residents get to know their neighbors.

Called Social Balconies, the project, designed by product designer and recent Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Edwin Van Capelleveen, is a modular structure that connects apartment balconies together with bridges and stairs, creating a semi-public outdoor space. The system also comes with planters that can be attached to the railings of the staircases and bridges, which Van Capelleveen says make the building come alive and sparks interaction between residents.

"While traveling, Van Capelleveen was inspired by apartments with communal gardens for people to relax, share a meal, or grow plants together," says the Design Academy Eindhoven. "He realized that balconies, often used only for storage or hanging laundry, could be extended to create a practical, social solution."

Van Capelleveen says the modular nature of the system makes it applicable to most buildings and is especially focused on giving old, outdated buildings a new lively façade.

The design hopes to reduce social isolation, a rising health epidemic in many urban areas.

“We know from our health work that social isolation has now joined physical inactivity and smoking as the leading causes of preventable death in the world,” said Joanna Frank, president and CEO, Center for Active Design, a nonprofit organization that employs design to foster healthy communities, as part of MFE's 2018 Concept Community project. “Social isolation is on the increase, so it’s really important that we design our places to encourage participation in public life.”

Thoughtful building design that encourages resident interaction and promotes connection with one's community, such as the Social Balconies design, could have a major impact on the health and well-being of today's renters.

This story was originally published in Multifamily Executive.