The Sandy Springs, Ga., City Council unanimously approved "a "'higher-quality' code on Aug. 16 that requires more apartment buildings to be built with steel and masonry rather than wood," John Ruch writes for Reporter Newspapers.

The code will be put into effect immediately and will require "apartment buildings over three stories tall or over 100,000 square feet in size to be constructed with steel and masonry rather than wood framing," Ruch states.

Those in favor of the code change argued that buildings made from steel and masonry will look better and last longer than those built with wood. They also cited fire safety as an additional reason for the code change.

Several members of the wood industry argued against the new code:

Opponents speaking before the vote included Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, a Sandy Springs-based developer advocacy group. Paris warned that higher construction costs might contradict the city’s policy goal of more affordable housing and offering a “full range of housing choices.” He said his group is “concerned some of those goals might be unattainable” and suggested that building quality be regulated through zoning rather than material restrictions.

“I don’t know what the problem is you’re solving,” said Sam Francis, senior director of National Programs for the American Wood Council, who came from Pennsylvania to protest. He promoted wood as more environmentally sustainable and at least as fire-safe as steel and masonry.

The code change “will not add to the safety and durability of buildings here in Sandy Springs,” said Matt Hestad, a spokesperson for the Georgia Forestry Association, who emphasized the economic importance of wood as a “homegrown” Georgia building material.

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