Sky’s the limit for no base­ments

Buy­ers drawn to slab-on-grade con­struc­tion that by­passes the need for base­ments


Lo­cal builders are us­ing a new multi-fam­ily hous­ing de­sign that is cap­tur­ing at­ten­tion due to its sassy specs, el­e­gant lay­outs, cost sav­ings and in­creased health ben­e­fits.

It’s called the slab-on- grade three-storey town­home.

Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, slab on grade is engineerin­g lingo for no base­ment. Homes are in­stead built on a foun­da­tion of re­in­forced con­crete slabs.

The tech­nique by­passes the ex­pense of ex­ca­vat­ing a base- ment and build­ing con­crete walls, re­duc­ing time and labour costs.

The con­cept also al­lows a re­jig­ging of the typ­i­cal town­home de­sign.

Th­ese three-storey town­homes join am­ple square footage with a tan­dem garage on the main floor, open and chic en­ter­tain­ing spa­ces on the sec­ond floor and pri­vate bed­rooms on the third level.

Buyer Erin Fer­gu­son rec­og­nized the po­ten­tial in the de­sign im­me­di­ately.

The 30-year-old was one of the first buy­ers of a slab-on­grade, three-storey town­home in Avi Ur­ban’s The Block project on 17th Av­enue.

A quin­tes­sen­tial up­town girl, her Twit­ter feed reads: “Re­al­tor by day, so­cial con­vener by night.”

She spends most of her time down­town, check­ing out restau­rants, meet­ing friends for drinks, work­ing out and, of course, sell­ing real es­tate.

“I live and breathe down­town,” she says, adding she was at­tracted to The Block’s lo­ca­tion and in­no­va­tive de­sign by Cal­gary ar­chi­tect Jeremy Sturgess — not to men­tion the fact the project is zoned live-work.

As a busy re­al­tor who works from home, Fer­gu­son re­quired a larger space where she could bring clients. Lo­ca­tion was tan­ta­mount — the home had to be within walk­ing dis­tance of restau­rants, she says, and “the vibe.”

The no-main­te­nance fac­tor was also a fac­tor. “Who does yard work down­town? We don’t have time for that — we are too busy lunch­ing,” she says with a laugh.

When she ini­tially toured The Block’s show suite in 2011, she was in­trigued. The project con­sists of a four-storey bou­tique build­ing of­fer­ing a col­lec­tion of condo apart­ments and town­homes, all of which are ori­ented to­ward a cen­tral in­ner court­yard.

“The main floor tan­dem garage was per­fect,” she says, adding she is dry­walling off half of the garage to cre­ate an of­fice space. “I re­ally loved the whole flow. It’s great be­cause clients can come in through the court­yard and right into my of­fice.”

Fer­gu­son chose Town­home A, one of two town­home de­signs of­fered in the project. The model fea­tures a floor plan to­talling more than 1,600 square feet over three lev­els, in­clud­ing the main-floor tan­dem garage.

There is an open-con­cept pub­lic liv­ing space on the sec­ond floor and a large pa­tio that faces in­ward to a se­cluded court­yard ac­cessed by all of the build­ing’s own­ers.

The third storey fea­tures a mas­ter bed­room and a sec­ondary bed­room.

“It’s such a cool project,” Fer­gu­son says. “There is just noth­ing like it down­town.”

She is to take pos­ses­sion of the unit early this spring. “I’m pumped. I’m al­ready pack­ing,” she says.

The con­cept of a town­home de­sign with­out a base­ment is hardly novel, at least out­side Western Canada.

“We have a very unique love for base­ments in just this ge­o­graphic area,” says Ryan Arm­strong, gen­eral man­ager of Life­style Homes and a pro­po­nent of cut­ting-edge, greener and healthier build­ing tech­niques. “Most of the de­vel­oped world doesn’t fac­tor a base­ment into the build­ing process.”

And for good rea­son — it is much more cost ef­fec­tive to build up rather than into the earth, and the health ben­e­fits are fairly sub­stan­tial.

“Base­ment air qual­ity is three to four times more pol­luted than air in the other ar­eas of a home,” Arm­strong says, adding that base­ments have a stronger propen­sity to mould and mildew, plus they are en­ergy in­ef­fi­cient.

“It ac­tu­ally costs less to put a third-storey on your home than to build a base­ment, and it costs less money to heat that space,” he says.

The on-slab, three-storey town­home de­sign evolved in Cal­gary be­cause of the city’s The Her­itage town­home by Slokker Canada West in Ravenswood. den­sity re­quire­ments, says process. Pollen says that with Chris Pollen, di­rec­tor of sales each sub­se­quent project, the and mar­ket­ing for Avi Ur­ban, re­cep­tion is be­com­ing stron­the builder be­hind The Block. ger and stronger.

“The con­cept re­ally came “It’s re­ally all about a shift in from cities that have grown think­ing,” he says. and wanted to max­i­mize land Avi Ur­ban is not the only use,” he says. builder uti­liz­ing this in­nova

“If you go to Van­cou­ver, tive con­cept. Sev­eral builders you would be hard-pressed to are find­ing that it is the de­sign find a side-by-side town­home of the fu­ture. any­more. It re­ally al­lows for a “It’s a very ef­fi­cient de­sign cost sav­ings, which brings the and, with the ever-in­creas­ing af­ford­abil­ity is­sue into cost of land, it is pretty play.” much the only fea­si­ble

Avi Ur­ban was one way to de­velop a townof the first builders to house th­ese days,” says in­tro­duce the con­cept Peter Paauw, pres­i­dent in Cal­gary in its Prosof Slokker Canada pect Hill project in West. Panorama Hills, which The com­pany has launched in 2009. three slab-on-grade

Pollen says when the town­home projects project first launched, on the go: Taralake in there was trep­i­da­tion about its Cal­gary, Ravenswood in Air­recep­tion. drie and Jump­ing Pound in

“A lot of peo­ple didn’t think Cochrane. that it would fly — a home In Cal­gary’s north­east comwith­out a base­ment — but mu­nity of Red­stone, Street­side we went one step fur­ther and De­vel­op­ment Corp. is tak­ing added a tan­dem garage in­stead the de­sign one step fur­ther of a side-by-side de­sign,” he with its Kin­talla project, cre­says. at­ing four-bed­room, 1,200

De­spite pre­dic­tions, the square-foot town­homes by re­cep­tion was pos­i­tive. “Buyre­for­mat­ting the lay­out and users were very ex­cited by the ing the sec­ond car park in the fact that they could get so tan­dem garage. much house for their dol­lar,” “The third storey is de­fihe says. nitely the way to go. It’s a re

Since then, Avi Ur­ban has ally cool way to open up … new gone on to cre­ate five more ideas,” Arm­strong says. slab-on-grade three-storey town­home projects, each time re­fin­ing the de­sign and the


PROJECT: The Block is a four­storey project of­fer­ing a col­lec­tion of con­do­mini­ums and town­homes, all of which are ori­ented to­ward a cen­tral in­ner court­yard. DE­VEL­OPER: Avi Ur­ban LO­CA­TION: The show suite is at 200 1022 17th Ave. S.W. in the heart of the up­town 17th area. PRICES: Three­storey town­homes with main floor tan­dem garages start in the $590,000s. Condo fees range from $385 to $403 per month. HOURS: Peo­ple can view by ap­point­ment by call­ing Anita Bus­tos at 403-536-7238. IN­FOR­MA­TION: Visit the web­site at liveatthe­

Visit our web­site for more pho­tos. Erin Fer­gu­son. AGE: 30 years old BACK­GROUND: Fer­gu­son is the quin­tes­sen­tial up­town girl. She is a busy re­al­tor who lives and breathes the down­town life­style. She owns two con­do­mini­ums in Mis­sion, liv­ing in one and rent­ing out the other. Be­cause she works from home, she was look­ing for a larger space where she could bring clients, and lo­ca­tion was just as im­por­tant, with prox­im­ity to top restau­rants a must. The no-main­te­nance fac­tor was also a pos­i­tive.

Wil An­dr­uschak/For the Cal­gary Her­ald

Erin Fer­gu­son was among the first buy­ers of a slab-on-grade, three-storey town­home in The Block condo de­vel­op­ment by Avi Ur­ban on 17th Av­enue.

Pho­tos: Cal­gary Her­ald/Filesn

An artist’s ren­der­ing of The Block by Avi Ur­ban, which is a bou­tique, four-storey project fea­tur­ing tall, slab-on-grade units built with­out a base­ment.

Tall ceil­ings and large win­dows are part of this two-bed­room res­i­dence within The Block.

Street­side De­vel­op­ment Corp.’s Kin­talla project in Red­stone.

Peter Paauw

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