As Colorado’s population continues to grow, especially in the Denver-metro area, developers are seeking solutions to proactively meet the region’s growth that has caused an overall housing shortage coupled with a need for affordable housing.
Why Mid-Rise Buildings
Mid-rise buildings are part of the ever-growing multifamily housing market that has become more prevalent lately in Colorado, especially in the Denver-metro area. With rising population rates, Metro Denver has struggled to keep pace with the development needs for housing. According to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation the population of Metro Denver is currently more than three million people, with an estimation of an increase to more than 3.3 million people by 2020. To provide appropriate growth strategies, developers have turned to mid-rise buildings.
In a recent study published by the City and County of Denver, mid-rise buildings are defined as buildings that are between five to nine stories. This multi-story building type usually includes at least one elevator and is located in urban areas. Mid-rise buildings are “on the rise” in Metro Denver based on the following, including:
- Cost-effective building options
- Sustainable building practices
- Complements to transit-oriented development (TOD)
Mid-rise buildings can be more cost effective than other housing options due to the lower cost of building materials and speed of construction, as well as an increase in community density.
Typical building materials used for mid-rise buildings include steel-frame, post-tensioned concrete and Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s) structures. Organizations such as the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association offer cost and energy analyses to demonstrate the overall cost savings of concrete with their Build with Strength campaign.
With lower construction costs and faster construction schedules, mid-rise buildings also support Denver’s need for more affordable housing. Denver Mayor Hancock reported in May 2017 that the city needs at least 21,000 affordable housing units just to meet current demand. With the U.S. Census Bureau ranking Colorado the seventh fastest growing state in the country, adding 91,726 new residents between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016 (at a rate of almost 10,000 per month), the need for affordable housing is only set to increase.
Mid-rise buildings also allow for an increase in community density without the expense of high-rise buildings. As one of the top goals in the Metro Vision 2035 plan produced by the Denver Regional Council of Governments, density can help achieve cost-savings by building on smaller lot sizes and using less resources.
With the rising popularity in sustainable building or green building, mid-rise buildings can help developers meet required energy efficiency standards and better qualify for sustainable programs, such as LEED, WELL Building and Energy Star.
The City and County of Denver recently released a new mandate entitled Energize Denver Benchmarking Ordinance that calls for a 10% reduction in energy consumption of commercial and multifamily buildings by the end of 2020. Using compact building designs that take advantage of unused space can lower the building project’s carbon footprint.
The construction materials of mid-rise buildings also influence the project’s sustainability. According to the Concrete Network, concrete offers several sustainable aspects including long-lasting durability, ability to absorb and retain heat, ability to retain stormwater and minimal waste as a building product.
As Colorado’s population continues to increase, traffic congestion, roadway damage and the cost of highway construction are escalating as well. One solution to this ever-growing issue is to create more opportunities for transit-oriented development (TOD).
The main concepts of TOD’s include places to live, work and play, like the new Peña Station Next developed by Panasonic near the Denver International Airport. Mid-rise buildings that include retail and other mixed-use options within the building are essential components to TOD’s.
“It’s time for Denver to show up,” said Kimball Crangle, Colorado Market President for Gorman & Co., in a panel on The NEXT Generation of Urban Infill Developers, an event sponsored by the Urban Land Institute of Colorado that shared best practices for TOD development.
“As a city, we’re gaining global attention and we’re attracting more funding, but we need to show the way in terms of social equity and equal opportunities. We’re a welcoming community and we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit that translates to who you live next to and how we create community.”
Case in Point
One recent example of a mid-rise building in Denver includes the construction of Alameda Station – a 338-unit transit-oriented community with three four-story buildings at the former site of the Denver Studio Complex. RMG joined the design and construction team to perform the compliance inspections based on the plans provided.
After reviewing the engineered plans, RMG performed over fifty ongoing observations during the construction phase to ensure the framing, roofing and structural components complied with the engineered design. RMG provided numerous reports on their findings and recommendations during the different construction phases of all three buildings over the course of nine months.
To support the growth of the mid-rise buildings in the Denver Metro area, RMG can provide one of its most established services with third party “special inspections.” These inspections ensure that the projects are following international building codes during the construction phase and can add to the success of mid-rise building projects. Contact RMG to make sure your building projects are in compliance.