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Calgary approves tall wood buildings to address growth

Russell Hixson
Calgary approves tall wood buildings to address growth

The City of Calgary is now allowing building applications for six-storey wood buildings. Marco Civitarese, chief city building official and manager of building regulations, said that the city has not received any applications yet, because getting the required permits and zoning takes time, but the change has generated a lot of interest.

Civitarese said there are about 2600 possible sites in the city that could be zoned for a six-storey wood building. Currently there are about 246, four-storey wood buildings, the highest the old building code allowed.

Civitarese said that adding the change could help address the city’s explosive growth and help them reach density and intensification goals.

Calgary’s population has reached 1,195,194 this year, an increase of 3.33 per cent.

He said that wood projects, if properly managed and planned, can go up faster and cheaper than traditional concrete structures.

"We are looking at innovative ways to make housing more affordable for Calgarians," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in a release. "Six story wood buildings are easier and cheaper to build than using other materials, which makes for more affordable homes."

The decision came after two years of participating in engagement with industry and responding to public review comments for the National Building Code.

Calgary joins jurisdictions in Quebec, British Columbia and on Jan. 1, Ontario, to allow six storey wood buildings.

Rollin Stanley, general manager of planning, development and assessment noted that "cities across North America permit this type of construction. It has provided lower cost construction and we have looked at building practices in these places to model our approach to regulations."

The city is also taking best practices from these jurisdictions to adopt in Calgary which includes enhanced fire safety plans during construction.

"The Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region would like to thank The City of Calgary for their leadership in providing this exciting opportunity to bring more mid-rise multifamily construction to Calgary," said Amie Blanchette, director of government affairs with CHBA. "This new choice in the marketplace will assist our builders in meeting the steadily increasing demand for safe, quality housing in a variety of forms throughout the city."

The City of Calgary will be accepting building permit applications for six-storey wood-frame structures immediately using an alternative solution process, to meet the minimum requirements of the Alberta Building Code, until the changes are adopted.

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