Atlanta suburb bans wood mid-rise construction

midrise wood
© Sail (not in Gergia) Rositch Hemphill Architects

In most of North America, building codes and regulations are being changed to allow taller wood buildings. There are so many reasons to use wood, the most important being that it is a renewable resource that stores carbon, unlike concrete, which is the source of about 5 percent of the world's CO2 output.

But the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs has just banned wood construction in buildings more than three storeys high and over 100,000 square feet, going in exactly the opposite direction from everywhere else in America. The ordinance says that " the Mayor and Council wish to locally amend the state minimum standard building code to provide for increased building quality, sustainability, durability, and longevity."

It passed unanimously, to the unbridled joy of the local Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association, whose director noted in a press release:

"Our organization advocates for the construction of durable and more resilient building statewide," he stated. "Sandy Springs is leading the way in Georgia by prioritizing the long-term benefits of non-combustible construction for its citizens and property owners. The City Council has taken a huge step here in making buildings safer."

Perhaps a pawn of the steel industry, Mayor "Rusty" Paul tells AJC “I know how important wood products are for the state and region,” he said, “but this change is not going to result in long-term damage” to Georgia’s lumber industry."

In fact, the lumber industry is huge and powerful in the state, with Koch Industries' Georgia Pacific headquartered just down the road in Atlanta. But the concrete and masonry have been running a strong rearguard action to preserve their turf, including their fancy Build with Strength campaign.

Read here about why wood is better and why we need a concrete plan for replacing concrete in construction

In Curbed, Michael Kahn notes that developers aren't happy about this either; wood is faster and cheaper for mid-rise construction.

Rumblings coming from established developers in the city indicate that the new rule effectively means they will no longer view Sandy Springs as a viable place for further development of apartments. If that turns out to be the case, some in Sandy Springs could see the halting of new development — which has been going gangbusters...

Wood construction is favored by developers for low rise construction because it is cheaper and faster, which makes housing more affordable. With governments, many environmentalists and the development industry all behind it, it's likely that the cement and masonry industries have won a small battle but are losing the war.

Tags: Materials | Wood Construction


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