top of page

What is a Low-Rise, Medium-Rise, and High-Rise Building?

The terms low-rise, medium-rise, and high-rise buildings refer to the vertical height of a building. The designation of how many stories a building has helps determine what category it falls under and how it must be designed and assessed for safety standards.

The first thing people think about when they hear the term low-rise buildings is that they are all single-story structures. This is not entirely true. There can be one or two stories on some homes or small/medium businesses (usually retail).

A good way to describe low-rise buildings would be anything up to four stories tall.

Medium-rise begins at five stories but does not go higher than twelve total stories. But there may be more than one structure joined together to make these medium-rise buildings.

High-rise buildings are typically more than thirteen stories. There is no set number on how many total stories a high-rise building can have.

A new development where you live may have all three structures in the same area together. The people that live in this new neighborhood would be considered "urbanites" because they live close enough to everything for convenience's sake.

Difference Between Floors and Storeys

When looking at the different structures, you may notice that they each seem to use their terminology for what floor or story they are on. This difference in vocabulary is not just semantics. A "story" typically refers to an individual story with its ceiling height, length, and width.


Stories are separated by one another when there is a large change in elevation or level that requires structure changes (like between floors). These breaks where levels switch are called "transitions."


Floors count all the way up from the bottom to the top of the building, unrelenting changes in level. They can go higher than thirteen stories if need be, but you will still call them "floors" instead of "stories."

Now that you know the basic difference between floors and stories let's hop on to the other important aspects of all three categories.

Low-Rise Buildings

The type of low-rise buildings that are included in the City's building regulations are:

- Houses (duplex, triplex, fourplex)

- Duplexes with an attached secondary suite

- Rowhouses

- Low rise multi-family buildings (fewer than five units)

Each of these structures must be built according to the City's rules, and regulations set out. This means that they should all have fire separations between them, smoke alarms, an adequate lighting system for nights or emergencies, windows that can open, exterior stairs or ladders if necessary, and other safety features.

Medium-Rise Buildings

Medium-rise buildings are typically between five and twelve stories. These structures usually have a width of 15 meters, a height regulated by the City's rules, and they must all be built to meet building regulations.

The type of medium-rise buildings that are included in the City's building regulations are:

- Residential buildings (five stories or less)

- Office buildings

- Retail buildings

If you are considering building a medium-rise structure, you should check if the following guidelines apply to your construction.

One parking stall must be provided for every four dwelling units. In addition, no internal combustion engine is allowed on any floor; and lower levels must be designed with an egress path.

Medium-rise buildings must adhere to the same city regulations as low-rise but also need elevators or stairs for people with physical disabilities. They may also have special fire separations to be approved by the City's fire prevention office called "firewalls."

High-Rise Buildings

High-rise buildings are typically more than twelve stories, with the exception of a few cases. The City does not regulate the number of stories in a high-rise building, but these structures must be built with fire separations between them to prevent "fire spread" and to ensure that people will be safe if there is a fire.

The type of high-rise buildings that are included in the City's building regulations are

- Office buildings

- Residential high rise

- Hotels

- Other commercial plazas

They will also need their own set of elevators or fire escape ladders that are compliant with the building code. Any high-rise construction must have at least two systems for egress. There must also be at least two means of fire escape from each residential unit or hotel room, depending on which system you choose. This second system can use stairs, exterior balconies, interior stairways through openable windows, or a combination of these types.

These are all three different types of buildings that you might encounter in your day-to-day life in Canada. If you're considering building a new structure, it's important to know what these buildings entail. Keep these rules and regulations in mind when planning anything above three stories.

Multi-family home builders often consider low-rise to medium-rise structures. But nowadays, many new condo developments in Vancouver are only going for the low-rise due to safety standards and cost-effectiveness. If you are looking for the best advice regarding any of these structures, come to Novesta today.

We have the best-associated builders and contractors in Edmonton. Our experts can guide you regarding pre-construction condos in Vancouver and new construction condos in Edmonton. Contact us today for more information, and we’ll be more than happy to help you!

4,430 views0 comments
bottom of page