Bringing Bigger Buildings to Smaller Jurisdictions

September 13, 2022

Over the last several years, more demand in smaller markets has resulted in increased proposals for larger scale developments. These jurisdictions have not previously had to review projects that utilize code criteria that are unique to larger building types. 

 

From the construction permitting point of view, bigger buildings have different codes, and those codes have different interpretations from city to city, and sometimes reviewer to reviewer. 

 

Jurisdictions are experts at the familiar but can often be resistant to the new. Given the role that building officials play in safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of their community, a conservative approach to new code criteria is a reasonably common practice.  

 

Our experience in jurisdictions with more complex code usage can help clients understand the way others have successfully worked with designers to implement unfamiliar strategies in code compliance. 

 

Our expertise in larger buildings in bigger markets can be valuable with code analysis and interpretation in smaller markets, both from the designer and reviewers’ points of view.  

 

We have consistently seen that building official/fire marshal engagement prior to submittal is key. Meeting early and often minimizes unforeseen issues arising during plan check review. Our history of discussions/solutions from multiple jurisdictions allows for specific issues to be flagged and addressed with real-world applications that have been proven to be successful. 

 

We have found that when discussing podium construction there are several key elements to consider within the wood-framed components that differ from applications that do not include a concrete podium. Here are a few key items to consider:  

 

  • Type III: A wood construction with two-hour rated exterior walls, from the inside and out.
    When building height exceeds 70 ft., this construction type allows for building heights up to 85 ft., and requires non-combustible exterior wall construction, commonly achieved through the use of fire-retardant treated lumber. Cladding and its support elements must also be non-combustible above 40 ft. Critical considerations include close study of the highest occupiable floor level based on fire access set-up point. If the lowest point of fire access results in a dimension to the highest occupiable floor level that exceeds 75 ft., then high-rise criteria become applicable. Cost typically limits high-rise construction to projects which far exceed 75 ft. height. Designers must consider this cost impact, especially when contemplating occupied roof decks, which some jurisdictions will allow to exceed the 75 ft. height, while others will not.
     

 

Project Example – Hudson on Farmer (Farmer Arts), Tempe, AZ (Framing construction, completed building) 

 

 

 

  • Type V: A wood construction with one-hour rated exterior walls from the outside.
    When construction does not exceed 70 ft. this construction type allows for reduced costs and more easily managed fire resistivity criteria. Building area is limited, and in many cases fire walls within the building are required to compartmentalize the structure. For multifamily buildings, corridors penetrate these walls requiring rated opening protection. Although these walls add cost, they provide an opportunity to reduce the number of stairwells when used as horizontal exits between building compartments. Designers must consider how, and when, to use the horizontal exit tool, ensuring that no more than half of the required exits from a floor level are provided by horizontal exits. Additionally, these opening assemblies can be provided via several options, including manufactured assemblies, and custom specified components. Designers must consider the comparative costs of the different approaches and the capacity of the project’s general contractor to manage the installation of the selected approach.
     

 

Project Example – Modera Northgate, Seattle, WA. (Final rendering, floor plan compartment diagram)  

 

 

 

  • Type I: Podium/basement non-combustible construction of one, two, or three levels can be provided as a podium for multiple stories of wood construction above.
    The ability to allow for the wood frame construction type of the building above to penetrate the podium reduces costs when stairs are able to be built of wood. Exterior wall framing must be built of non-combustible framing, however, when using metal studs, exterior insulation is often required to meet energy code insulation values. Using fire-retardant treated lumber can be an effective tool in allowing for exterior sheathing and cladding planes to align across the podium level.
     

 

Project Example – Canopy (Shea Aurora) Phase II, Shoreline, WA (podium construction photo, final rendering) 

 

 

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, being able to work from multiple points of view allows for specific concerns to be addressed, while looking to past successes for location-specific solutions. 

 

 

by Don Sowieja, Principal AIA, NCARB

 

Wynne Watts Commons

August 26, 2022
High-Tech Accessibility for the Win

It is undeniable that housing insecurity affects millions across the United States. Rents are up and homelessness is on the rise. There are many factors that lead to these crises, including high housing costs relative to income, poor housing quality, unstable neighborhoods, or even health concerns and peripheral medical challenges and costs. Add to that the encompassing environmental impacts of climate change and a driving need to design and build more sustainably; we are faced with the need to take a more holistic approach to housing and accessibility to address our growing concern for the wellbeing of our communities.

 

We partnered with Albertina Kerr, an organization dedicated to supporting people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), mental health challenges, and other social barriers, to design the largest affordable and accessible housing project in the PNW. This joint project became one of the largest Zero Energy affordable housing projects in the U.S.

 

This four-story, 150-unit complex features 30 accessible units designed to provide adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, earning 30% or less than the average median income, a place to live independently. Three units are available to families needing temporary housing and the remaining units are reserved for low wage direct service providers. This project showcases innovative technologies and design features readily available today to achieve better health outcomes for residents, minimal overall carbon emissions, and significant savings on energy bills. Energy-efficient features include a 660 KWh PV Array that will produce 727 MW-hours of electricity annually, enough renewable energy to fully operate the building with no utility cost to residents.

 

Albertina Kerr’s in-house staff were consulted to help inform the direction of features that are most useful to the residents. Smart-home integrations enhance safety and useability, and pull-out cook tops and mechanized upper cabinets help residents manage daily tasks. Thoughtfully integrated accessibility features include room darkening shades, RGB controllable lighting for chromatherapy mood management, and acoustically enhanced wall, floor, and ceiling construction that gives residents control of their space to prevent overstimulation.

 

Wynne Watts Commons is a huge step forward for sustainable and inclusive quality housing for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

 

Adaptive Living

January 27, 2021
The World Has Changed

There’s a new focus on the changing needs of residents in an evolving world. Future-ready units with practical and customizable features will increase in demand as renters seek a new way of living, one in which they have space to live, work, and thrive on their terms – and within their own homes.

 

Download Adaptive Living for a post-Covid world.

 

Feasibility Studies

October 6, 2020
Starting Where You Are

We conduct site feasibility studies for our clients, which are divided into three tiers. From Tier 1 to Tier 3, each tier deals with increasing amounts of information and concurrent time to prepare. Ask us how we can conduct a site feasibility study customized for you.

 

Download our Tier 2 Example to see what types of information are included in a Tier 2 package.

 

Apartment Innovation Insights

September 21, 2020
Design Insights to Evolve Apartment Design

After interviewing hundreds of apartment residents, we distilled their responses and refined our observations into practical design insights.

 

Here are opportunities to evolve apartment design in a way that meets people’s changing needs: by focusing on many sought-after features that designers often remove when pursuing value engineering.

 

Download the Apartment Innovation Survey Insights now.

 

High-Rise Design

September 21, 2020
Encouraging the Best of Cities

Download our latest lookbook on urban high-rise design.

 

Design for Living: Mid-Rise

September 21, 2020
Placemaking at a Human Scale

Download our inspiring 2020 lookbook on mid-rise living.

 

Apartment Innovation Survey

September 21, 2020
Results From Our Survey

Our survey, conducted from May 28 through June 17, 2020, yielded over 400 responses and 1,635 written comments about apartment living today.

 

We’ve compiled our raw data into this research brief, a useful reference that supports our more refined design insights.