A nine-storey, seniors-oriented wood building proposed for Benvoulin Road would be double what current height limits for the site allow.

But the developer is asking for an exemption, in part, because the wood tower — permissible under new building regulations — would be cheaper to build than a conventional concrete tower.

As a result, the developer says, the 122 proposed suites could be rented at below going-market rents to low-income seniors.

“This format of construction will allow us to build with sustainable, locally harvested and readily available materials,” architect Paul Schuster writes in the application to the city for a height variance.

“This will help reduce construction times and allow us to use local trades, when we would normally have to use speciality trades for highrise construction,” Schuster says.

The project is proposed for 2175 Benvoulin Rd., just south of Springfield Road and near to Orchard Park mall. Plans show townhome-style rentals on the first two floors that would be marketed to middle-aged people, while the upper seven floors would be more seniors-focused.

The current building height limit for the site is 4.5 storeys. Once city planners have finished their review of the proposal, the issue of the height variance will be sent to city council for a decision.

The provincial building code was recently amended to allow taller buildings to be made of wood. The city has also received an application for a 12-storey, mass-timber building as an expansion to the Ramada Hotel property on Harvey Avenue.

It would have 82 suites. The Ramada already consists of a 125-room hotel, conference space, restaurants and a drive-thru liquor store.

For the Ramada project to go ahead, city council would also have to grant a height variance, from the current maximum for the building site of six storeys to 12 storeys.

The tallest wood tower in B.C. currently is an 18-storey student residence tower on the UBC campus in Vancouver.

Advocates of mass-timber highrise buildings say the construction process generates far fewer greenhouse gases than traditional towers of concrete and steel.

“The interest in wood as a viable structural material for tall buildings is gaining more and more momentum and interest by architects and engineers all over the world,” architect Robert Cesnik, who’s involved in the Ramada tower project, writes in a letter to the city requesting the height variance.