Infill bringing more modern look to Edmonton, industry watchers say

In a city of cozy bungalows and pointy-roofed houses, there’s a new style shaking things up.

You may have spotted them: Those tall, boxy-looking homes that seem to pop out along Edmonton’s tree-lined streets.

The new style is being driven by the constraints of infill development, along with advances in building materials and good old-fashioned pride of ownership, industry observers say.

“You’re really starting to see a lot of people appreciate their curb appeal,” said Graeme Bell, a regional partner with local builder Alair Homes. 

“They really want their house to look nice, they don’t want it to look like the house down the street.”

Infill city

While the city doesn’t specifically track trends, it does track infill development.

In the last five years, the average proportion of net new dwellings approved in the city’s established areas was about 29 per cent of total builds.

Mariah Samji, the executive director at Infill Development in Edmonton, said the style’s boxy esthetic used to generate some complaints.

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9:07Why so many new homes in Edmonton have a modern look

It’s construction season in Edmonton, with new homes and infill properties going up all over the city. Producer Ariel Fournier noticed that many of those new places have a very modern look. She joins us to explain that trend and why so many of them look the same.

“That was something I heard a few years ago [but] I rarely hear that now,” she said.

That acceptance has dovetailed with the growing demand for infill homes in central, amenity-rich areas, Samji said.

Edmonton architect Yasushi Ohki echoed that, noting the style also allows for higher ceilings and bigger windows in skinnier lots.

“It evokes a lot of space and interior luxury,” he said. The style started in the luxury market and has trickled down to more affordable infill properties, he added.

“For no extra cost for square footage, you get a lot more volume and sense of openness,” he said.

The Wright stuff

The boxy style calls back to the prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work has become an enduring touchstone of modernism for the past century.

“It does [relate] to a lot of modern architecture, which is very boxy and spacious inside, getting away from the traditional eight-foot high ceiling,” said Ohki. 

Likewise, advancements in construction materials — such as pre-cast concrete slabs and laminated timber beams — allow builders to open up a home’s interiors.

Still, Okhi says there are still plenty of haters. 

“It is absolutely a love or hate thing,” he said. 

And many newer areas in Edmonton have restrictive building codes, meaning the houses have to conform to a predetermined style of suburban, pointy-roofed and traditional.

“There’s a desire to have that nostalgic, or historic feel, maintained, even with new construction,” said Okhi.

He added that the style may help the city embrace more apartment buildings that will give residents more options in a growing city.

“This is what takes the city into the next era of development,” he said.

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