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Mini Design Series: The Mid-rise Building Part I

Updated: May 20

onespace has been recognized many times for our mid-rise condominium design capabilities.This month we are diving into what makes these projects so successful in a two-part blog series. We will explain what mid-rise buildings are, and other aspects that go along with prep and planning.

Part 1] What is a mid-rise building and how are properties chosen?

Most urban centres in Canada are growing. In response, municipalities across the country have established where and how their cities are to grow at a very high level, described in their Official Plans. Of specific focus in this plan is the need to grow and intensify employment opportunities and residents along major city streets. Many municipalities have conducted studies to determine how to intensify population along city streets in ways to be compatible with established neighbourhoods. These studies provide guidelines to direct the architectural design process to generate appropriately scaled and designed buildings for review and approval. This initiative gave birth to a new building type referred to as the “mid-rise”.

Mid-rise buildings are larger than houses but smaller than hi-rise towers and offer a good pedestrian scale. They relate to the street by presenting walls that are tall enough to reinforce the sidewalk edge but low enough to permit natural light and open views to the sky. Mid-rise buildings often provide only residential uses, but can be successfully mixed with other uses including retail, office and community service all in the same building. In doing so, they support a comfortable pedestrian environment to activate the street with doors and windows to improve safety within the neighbourhood by increasing eyes on the street.


The height of a mid-rise building varies within a city and is typically no taller than the width of the adjacent street right-of-way. On narrower streets found in more dense areas of a city, a mid-rise is often between 5 or 6 storeys. Alternatively, a mid-rise may be taller up to a maximum of 11 storeys on the widest streets. Mid-rises typically are designed with step-backs or terraces at upper levels to make them appear lower in height from the street, to allow natural light and views to the sky at the sidewalk. This also minimizes over-look from the building’s upper levels to preserve privacy of the adjacent existing houses.

When selecting a potential site for consideration of mid-rise development, the best properties offer lot depths of 32.6m minimum and widths along an arterial street not less than 30m. It is also best if the property is located at a corner to facilitate access to the building’s parking and loading facilities. Rear lane access is required by most cities to minimize disruption to the arterial street.

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