Built to last? Apartment boom raises questions

Take a drive around Charlotte, and you can see that 2015 has been the Year of the Apartment.

New units are rising at a record pace: More than 12,300 are under construction, and even more are planned. Many are in mid-rise, wood-framed buildings at prominent intersections, sometimes directly across from each other, in trendy neighborhoods such as South End, Plaza Midwood and Dilworth.

Developers say they’re meeting the needs of millennials moving to Charlotte and baby boomers looking to downsize. As urban living grows in popularity and young people delay buying homes, the demand for rentals is surging. Highlighting the demand: Average monthly rent in the city topped $1,000 for the first time this year.

But some characteristics of this stunning round of new construction have triggered worry among a growing number of people:

▪ Calls have grown in recent weeks for the city to impose higher design standards, as critics note the similarity of all the four- to five-story wood-framed buildings going up.

▪ Two newer complexes in the University area have had to make repairs as a result of problems with wooden floor trusses that are popular in construction.

▪  The heavy use of wood to frame new buildings comes as some officials elsewhere in the country raise questions about fire safety in lightweight wood construction.