Monday, December 11, 2023

This One Small Change Will Allow More Three Bedroom Apartments

One of the things that Langley City Council has heard from the community is the desire to have more three-bedroom units in apartment buildings for growing families.

Building three-bedroom apartments is much easier in many parts of the world, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, and closer to home in New York and Seattle. Why is it easier? Because of the building code.

At the turn of the 20th Century, before fire sprinklers and a general understanding of how to design buildings for fire safety, planners decided that people should have at least two means of exiting a building due to a fire. That made sense back then, but it doesn't make much sense today with modern safety systems and fire designs.

Those two exit designs mean that apartments need double-loaded corridors, which is the typical design you see today.

Typical Double-Loaded Corridor Design. Select the image to enlarge.

The preceding example is from a project along 207th Street in Langley City and shows the double-loaded corridor, which lends itself to one- and two-bedroom units. Three-bedroom units are possible but become premium units because of the space required in double-loaded corridor designs.

With single-exit designs, building three-bedroom apartment units becomes much more cost-effective. It also allows more flexibility in building small-scale apartments. For example, you could build horizontal townhouses (which would be more accessible) or walk-up apartments instead of the typical three-storey vertical townhouse design.

Example of Single-Stair Design. Select the image to enlarge. Source: Manual of Illegal Floor Plans

Fire safety is critical; for a technical review of the safety of single-exit designs, please read the site "The Second Egress: Building a Code Change." For a friendly read, check out "The Curse of the Double Egress."

You might have missed it in the flurry of provincial housing announcements, but the provincial government recently said it would, "along with fire-safety professionals and national partners, is examining opportunities in codes, including requirements for egress stairs" If the province updates the building code to enable more single-exit designs, it would allow the construction of more affordable, smaller-scale three-bedroom units.

1 comment:

Derek De Biasio said...

Good post/idea, and good blog, informative.

Derek De Biasio