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Sandy Springs says ‘NO WAY!’ to wood construction

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The city has passed a law banning wood construction for developments taller than three stories

They’re everywhere in Atlanta: five-story, mixed-use apartment developments being built out of wood.

While some have questioned their longevity and quality as this development cycle chugs forward, the structures have never been limited... until now.

The Sandy Springs City Council has approved a new code that prohibits all future construction of wood-framed structures of greater than three stories and larger than 100,000 square feet, according to the AJC. The regulation effectively bans the ubiquitous housing type in a booming submarket.

But what that means, and how it will impact future development patterns and growth in the city, remains unclear.

As the AJC notes, supporters of the new rule argued that wood structures are less safe and don’t last as long as their steel and concrete counterparts. However, those opposed to the ban (including the lumber industry) cite that international code standards allow such structures, and there are countless examples of these types of buildings that are perfectly safe and that have lasted for years.

Wood is used in today’s developments as both a time saver and a means of keeping costs reasonable in a red-hot building market. The cost and time associated with other materials can be prohibitive for making such projects feasible.

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 on corridors like Roswell Road — as a positive. But is effectively quashing momentum a good thing?

The wood-and-steel bones of One Museum Place come together on Peachtree Street in Midtown. The largest units will span more than 5,300 square feet and command north of $3.5 million.
Some high-end condos in Midtown, like One Museum Place, are built largely from wood.
Michael Kahn, Curbed

Only time will tell what the effect will be or if other cities in similar situations will follow suit. But it'll no doubt be an interesting test of just what constraints the market can endure.