Things to Consider When Planning a Multi-Family Project

As average national rents grow to over $1300 per month, more developers are choosing to join the multi-family movement. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in multi-family development or a commercial developer looking to take on an exciting and rewarding new project, there are a few key components to consider when planning a multi-family project.

1. Types of Construction

There are 3 main construction types used to build multi-family apartment communities. Type I, the most cost prohibitive of the three, uses concrete and protected steel. This type of construction is most commonly used when building high-rise apartment communities in areas where a developer needs to build up instead of out due to lot restrictions, like in an urban city.

Type III buildings are constructed using a wood frame and fall in the middle of the three multi-family construction types in regards to price. In Type III projects, all load baring walls must be coated in an FRT (fire resistant treatment), making them more expensive to complete in comparison to other wood framed projects. This project type also tends to be higher in cost due to sprinkler requirements. Type III buildings must have sprinkler systems in each apartment home, but also in the interstitial between the ceiling of one apartment, the floor of the apartment above and the roof truss attic space.

Type V is the least expensive of the three types of construction and generally the most popular. Type V buildings are made of simple framing lumber and do not require any FRTs. It is important for a developer to understand that with Type V construction, your building normally cannot exceed 4 stories due to fire safety laws and regulations. Unlike Type III, Type V buildings only require sprinkler systems in the apartments themselves, saving time and money during construction.

2. Materials

Understanding the constructability limitations and cost associated with the building materials used for an apartment project is also an important decision to consider.

Wood framed construction is common amongst garden style and mid-rise apartment communities, typically sitting atop a garage or concrete slab. The lower costs associated with wood construction makes it very appealing when planning and budgeting for an apartment building. The accessibility and more importantly the transportability of wood lends to the lower cost of construction, making it very popular amongst multi-family developers. However, wood framed construction has its limits and usually cannot go above 4-5 stories.

While building with concrete tends to be more expensive there are certainly components to concrete construction that make the extra investment worth it. Like wood, concrete is easily accessible, eliminating shipping costs and cutting back on delivery time. Where wood has structural limits, concrete does not, making it attractive to developers looking to build high-rise apartment communities in an urban area where they can’t build out but instead want to build up.

Steel is also gaining popularity in residential apartment building construction. Steel construction offers developers flexibility in terms of building height and is commonly used for mid-rise and mixed-use buildings where the apartments sit atop commercial space. Steel also tends to be a more expensive option but the speed of construction when dealing with steel can sometimes off-set the materials cost, saving developers time and money.

3. Selecting the Right Team

While selecting a team with experience in the multi-family industry may seem like a no brainer, it is important to consider other factors when selecting a GC. With resident move-ins scheduled sometimes before construction is complete, a developer must select a team that is known not only for getting the job done under budget, but more importantly, ahead of schedule. Selecting a GC that prefers to get involved in the pre-design stage can help ensure that any possible road blocks down the line are prevented before construction begins. When the developer, architect and GC work together as a team from project concept to completion, shared successes are accomplished.

Chesapeake Contracting Group has extensive knowledge and experience in the multi-family market, starting with the 185,000 SF, 4 story, 1111 Light Street apartment building project in Baltimore City. Since then we have completed several large scale multi-family projects including The Townes at Mill Run, a 108-unit townhome community, and are currently constructing a 356-unit apartment community in White Marsh called The Overlook at Franklin Square. We enjoy working on multi-family projects because it gives us the opportunity to build communities where people can live, work and play. We have the right expertise, knowledge and resources to complete multi-family projects and look forward to working on many more in the near future!

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