Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Six storey wood structures: An innovative way to increase housing affordability

Beginning in November, The City will be accepting building permit applications for six-storey wood-frame residential buildings in areas where the building proposal would comply with the applicable zoning rules. The current Building Code currently limits wood frame residential construction to four storeys.

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

This decision comes 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 January 1, 2015, Ontario, to allow six storey wood buildings. Rollin Stanley, General Manager of PDA notes 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,” says 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. View the technical guide and examples at


  1. I welcome a way to develop better and more varied methods of housing the city's growing population but I have one serious concern about bigger wood-frame buildings; *fire protection*. You say that there will be enhanced fire protection, but there have been some spectacular major apartment building fires in recent years and the fire code obviously was not sufficient to prevent idiots from smoking and (not) stubbing cigarette butts in peat moss planters or barbequing carelessly on balconies . The City should enhance fire protection for all wood apartment buildings beyond the minima of the building code.
    Mark Hambridge FRGS, FRTPI (Rtd.), former MCIP.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Mark. Builders will be expected to adhere to fire code requirements that are specific to six-storey wood structures. These requirements include fire concerns while under construction such as access to the building and hydrants for the fire department, smoking and hot works restrictions, fire fighting water supply and site security.

  2. This is a concern to expect homeowners not to smoke and leave cigarette butts on balconies (their own or balcony suite below them), etc. This alone is problem in some condo buildings with cement floor balconies.

    Clearly this is an indicator that the Canadian Wood Council which represents the industry has been successful in code changes in some Canadian provinces.