Sticks, not stone

City approves building permits for six-storey wood frame homes

The City of Calgary has announced it will be accepting building permit applications for six-storey wood-frame buildings for already approved land use zones.

“We are looking at innovative ways to make housing more affordable for Calgarians,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Six storey wood buildings are easier and cheaper to build than using other materials, which makes for more affordable homes.”

The idea of allowing more than Calgary’s previous limit of four wooden storeys has long been touted by general manager of planning, development and assessment Rollin Stanley.

“Cities across North America permit this type of construction,” he said. “It has provided lower cost construction and we have looked at building practices in these places to model our approach to regulations.”

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

“Other jurisdictions have demonstrated that this efficient and cost-effective building style can be done while also addressing fire safety concerns,” said Marco Civitarese, chief building official for the City.

“Our priority is to keep Calgary competitive in the housing market by giving developers more options when they build.”

The announcement should bring more business to Calgary’s evolving building approval process.
In the past, builders had voiced frustration over the City’s approval process. In a 2012 story reported by CREB®Now, Charron Ungar, president of Avi Urban and then president of Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary, said inconsistencies in the City’s process had put some strain on the relationship between the City and local developers.

“I think we’re at a little bit of a crossroads right now in the growth of our city,” he said. “We’re hitting a pretty sizeable population now where we’re getting different interest groups that are quite vocal [and] that would like to affect change in their own way.”

In April 2013, the City announced a new online permitting tool – Residential ePermit – that allows for a faster approval process. In just over a month since its inception, more than 1,600 new home construction permits were submitted.

“It’s an exciting first step for our customers and the City,” Henry van Aken, manager of customer advisory services of the ePermit. “We’ve successfully created the groundwork necessary to eventually bring all residential permit applications online in the future. We’re thrilled by the feedback we’ve received from homebuilders, and we’re happy to see them use the tool almost exclusively to submit their single construction permit applications.”

Calgary’s six-storey wood frame approval puts the city in the ranks with Quebec, B.C. and, as of Jan. 1, Ontario.

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