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Differences between Condos, Apartments, and Townhomes.

august 2022, issue 5



Written by TATIANA gUSt

From our last blog the question came up about understanding townhomes. So, I decided to write a blog providing the difference between condos, apartments, and townhomes from a building code perspective.  

What do all these have in common? All of these are Residential occupancy, and all of them have several living units attached to each other.

How are they different? Condos and apartments are regulated by Commercial codes, and townhomes up to three stories in height are regulated by the Residential code. Therefore, there are different requirements for the construction of these buildings.  

The main difference from a building permit perspective is the zoning requirements. Why is that? Well, mainly because of the land where the building sits. Let me explain this. 

With condominiums, the units are owned individually, and the building and the land where the building sits are owned by the homeowner’s association. 

With apartments, the property is owned by an entity or a person, and the units are available for rental only. Typically, the occupants don’t own the land, the building, or the individual units 

With townhomes, the units are owned individually, and the land where each individual unit sits also belongs to the same owner of the unit. This is also called singlefamily attached or singlefamily with zero lot line, where all the units are attached to each other, but each individual owns the unit, the building surrounding their unit, and the land where it sits.

What happen if there are damages to the building? Who is responsible for the repairs? For Condominiums the association is responsible for everything outside the walls of the unit, and the owner cover expenses for cost related to repairs or improvements within the unit.  For apartments, the individual that owns the apartment is responsible for all the expenses, inside and outside the unit. For townhomes, the owner is responsible for all expenses within the property line (typically the demising walls between the units); for example, if there are 3 units and the unit in the middle decides to replace their roof, they can replace just the portion that belongs to them, having a colorful roof with the middle section in a different color. Most townhomes have rules and regulations in place to prevent this from happening.  

I hope this provides a clear, concise clarification on the differences among these buildings. 

Let me know if you have additional questions about the building codes or construction process. Follow us for more and share our blog!

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Exposure represents the adjustments due the characteristics of the terrain surrounding the building.

Exposure B.For buildings with a mean roof height of less than or equal to 30 feet (9144 mm), Exposure B shall apply where the ground surface roughness, as defined by Surface Roughness B, prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 1,500 feet (457 m). For buildings with a mean roof height greater than 30 feet (9144 mm), Exposure B shall apply where Surface Roughness B prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 2,600 feet (792 m) or 20 times the height of the building, whichever is greater.

Exposure C.Exposure C shall apply for all cases where Exposure B or D does not apply.

Exposure D.Exposure D shall apply where the ground surface roughness, as defined by Surface Roughness D, prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 5,000 feet (1524 m) or 20 times the height of the building, whichever is greater. Exposure D shall also apply where the ground surface roughness immediately upwind of the site is B or C, and the site is within a distance of 600 feet (183 m) or 20 times the building height, whichever is greater, from an Exposure D condition as defined in the previous sentence.