Dunwoody Proposed Building Code Change Adds Costs to 3+ Story Buildings

The Dunwoody City Council will hear proposed changes to their building code at its March 11th meeting that would significantly affect construction of low-rise buildings. Under the revised code, any buildings over three stories in height would be required to be constructed with non-combustible materials.

The current code is in compliance with State building requirements and in conformance with the International Building Code in requiring that only buildings over five stories be constructed of non-combustable materials. The implementation of this new code would burden developers and builders with additional costs for buildings that are four or five floors in height as it would require materials such as steel, metal, and/or concrete. This would be  detrimental towards the many new projects and plans that have low-rise buildings such as apartments, hotels, and offices which typically use combustible construction materials like wood. This amendment would effectively eliminate many proposed projects and limit future construction of low-rise developments in the City

The Council is not the only one recognizing the harmful impacts the revised code would have on the area. Local business leaders and stakeholders are concerned about the code change such as Laurel David who is Partner at The Galloway Law Group.

“Georgia law allows local governments to amend the state-mandated codes in order to address local climatic, geologic, topographic, or public safety factors. It does not appear Dunwoody has presented any justification for the text amendment based on these factors.  The state mandated codes, which are based on the International Building Code [IBC], address life safety issues and include requirements for fire-rated materials and sprinkler systems. These are the same codes used by other jurisdictions all over the state.

The proposed text amendment would result in a significant increase in cost of construction of potential mixed use projects, senior living facilities, condominiums and some hotel, office and retail projects in the local market. We fear it would result in a detrimental impact on the local real estate market. We encourage the City to allow more time for impacted property owners to review the proposed change and for more public input.”

Bob Voyles, Chair of the Perimeter Business Alliance and Principal & CEO of Seven Oaks Company has similar sentiments on the City allowing for more public input before implementing the change.

“A sweeping change could adversely impact the age restricted product, office condominiums and some forms of hotel product as well. There is no defensible reason why Dunwoody should be more restrictive than the IBC.”

As Mike Alexander, ARC Research Division Manager, presented at the Council’s Dunwoody Demographic Trends event, a whopping 33,250 commuters enter the city each day, 18,432 residents leave and only 1,789 both live and work within the city. This imbalance demonstrates the importance of attracting mixed-use, high density development in the City of Dunwoody that would attract a population that would foster a live-work-play lifestyle. With the rise of the millennial population and the aging of the baby boomer generation, the demand for these developments is at an all-time high. Therefore, the City should be actively supporting the construction of mixed-use, high density developments rather than targeting them with this code change. By requiring the use of noncombustible materials to construct high density projects, Dunwoody would be hindering future economic growth and prosperity in the perimeter area as the attraction of key demographics would be lost.

If this building code ordinance is allowed to proceed, this will not only be a Dunwoody issue, but also an issue for other cities throughout the metro area, as this will set a precedence for others to follow.

The City Council meeting will be held at the Dunwoody City Hall, 41 Perimeter Center East, on Monday, March 10th at 7:00PM. To view the complete agenda and the supporting materials for this proposed code change, click HERE.