Would you live in a building that’s just 10 feet wide? A Kitchener developer hopes so | CBC News


Over the next few months, people coming to downtown Kitchener, Ont., will notice the construction of a very unique building.

Right away people will notice its narrow foundation, which has already been poured. Once complete, the freestanding building — located on King Street between Benton and Queen — will be no wider than three metres.

Sean O’Neill with Elev8 Properties Inc., told CBC News he wanted to bring something new to the downtown core.

“It presents a unique opportunity as well as a challenge,” he said. “It’ll be eye catching and it’s something different and that’s part of what drew us to it.” 

Doug McIntosh, director of projects and a partner with Neo Architectures, said the building is so narrow because it is an infill lot, which is a form of housing development that makes use of vacant city lots to create denser neighbourhoods and lessen urban sprawl. 

A rendering of a building expected to be constructed.
This is a rendering of what the building will look like once complete. It will have room for two residential units on the first floor and office space or retail on the floor above. (Submitted by Sean O’Neill)

“There is an ability for somebody to build right beside us,” McIntosh said. 

Once complete, O’Neill said the building will have space for two residential units and office space, which could also be used for retail.

McIntosh said he and his team have worked on many projects that require problem solving, but nothing like this particular building.

McIntosh told CBC News that while the outside of the building will be around three metres wide, the interior will only be around two-and-a-half metres.

“Coming up with the design plan that works in a narrow space was not the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is construction,” he said.

And the building being three storeys tall creates another unique challenge: wind. 

“You have a building that doesn’t have enough width to support any wind load that’s applied to the side of it. Imagine the side of the building as a big sail,” McIntosh said. 

Two men in front of a construction site.
Doug McIntosh with Neo Architecture (left) and Sean O’Neill (right) with Elev8 Properties in front of the site of their new ultra-thin building in downtown Kitchener. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

O’Neill said the architects found a way for the sail-like building to stand without support from the building beside it, but it wasn’t an easy task. 

“The engineer described it as trying to stand a piece of paper up on its side. It was very long, it’s 132 feet long. It’s very narrow and it’s very tall,” he said.

“There was a lot of careful engineering to get this designed and to be able to build it.” 

O’Neil said Elev8 Properties anticipates the building will be complete by fall 2023.

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