Rising costs of construction materials & land as well as limited space have prompted architects and developers to rethink building design. For instance, building professionals are now building higher and denser with lighter, sustainable and more cost-effective materials like wood, instead of designing large, sprawling structures that take up the whole city block.

More notably, podium construction has increasingly become a popular construction method for dense, urban areas throughout North America, especially for projects that need infill scenarios. This is because podium construction allows for more rentable square footage and greater density compared to garden-style apartments, yet labor and materials are more cost-effective.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the potential benefits developers can reap from using podium slabs in hotels and multi-family construction. First, let’s look at a brief definition of podium construction!

What’s Podium Construction?

Also known as platform or pedestal construction, a podium slab is a unique type of floor system that transfers loads from a wood/ steel frame structure above the slab to columns or concrete walls below.

 In most cases, a podium slab includes multiple stories of lightweight wood framing over a multi- or single-story podium of another construction style such as retail below or above grade parking levels.

These slabs are commonly made from concrete material, but steel podiums also exist. For instance, a podium slab may consist of a 1 / 2- story post-tension or reinforced concrete podium that supports several stories of light-frame wood framing above it. Structural engineering for hotel or multi-family buildings recommends podium construction for 5 to 7 stories as it’s more cost-effective and faster than plank and block construction. This can either be 4 over 1, which consists of four stories of wood frame over one story podium, or 5 over 2 (5 stories of wood frame over a two-story podium).

Benefits of using podium slab in structural engineering for multi-family buildings and hotels

Podium slab construction has 2 main functions. One, it acts as a horizontal platform for fire separation between different types of occupancies in a building. Secondly, it acts as a structural floor that transfers load from the above superstructure to the load-bearing walls and columns.

Some notable benefits of using this construction technique in the hotel and multi-family buildings include;

  • Cost-effective

Podium slab has proven to be a cost-effective construction technique for mid-rise multi-family buildings and hotels. Besides, the large, open common spaces are usually located on the ground floor in hotels and multi-family buildings. These spaces require heavier non-wood framing like concrete or steel to achieve the necessary span lengths, which is easy to accomplish with podium construction. More importantly, using this approach in structural design for multi-family and hotel buildings provides large open spaces below or at grade for retail and parking. 

  • Time-efficient

Another notable benefit of the podium slab construction technique is that it’s very time-efficient. For instance, you can strip the forms 2 – 3 days after building the post-tensioning slab, thus speeding up the construction process.

  • Sound & Fire protection

This construction technique offers a solid separation between the living spaces and parking areas. At the same time, it provides fire and sound protection, making it a great option for mixed-use buildings like retail and multi-family or hotel and retail.

In addition, the podium slab offers a high fire rating and reduces floor vibration & sound transmission in multi-family and single-family buildings. Therefore, the slab doesn’t need extra fire protection since it provides adequate cover for post-tensioning and rebars. On top of that, it allows efficient MEP design for hotel and multi-family buildings.

  • Reduces overall frame thickness

The use of post-tensioned 2-way podium slabs in the hotel and multi-family buildings reduces the overall thickness of the structural frames. As a result, this reduces the excavation needed for the structure since the parking is below grade.

Drawbacks of using podium slab in structural engineering for multi-family and hotel buildings

2 main types of construction are mainly used in podium slabs. That is; post-tension cast and precast hollow core. Most structural engineers prefer precast hollow core construction systems as it provides excellent construction speed and an immediate working platform. However, both types of construction systems have their set of drawbacks.

For instance, the provision of proper connection for precast hollow podium slabs isn’t easy. That is because it requires special machines and equipment to lift and move the precast units. Moreover, the units may easily damage due to improper mishandling or transportation.

On the other hand, the construction work involved in post-tension slabs is complex. Not to forget that the tendons are susceptible to corrosion and low-quality workmanship can cause accidents.


Overall, using podium slabs, especially in conjunction with light frame systems in structural design for hotel and multi-family buildings can offer several benefits. This includes; simpler installation, lower construction costs, and great value for both developers and occupants. In addition, podium slabs allow for the incorporation of various amenities into the facility like gyms, pools, parking garages, offices, and retail spaces. In short, they are a great way to maximize limited urban space, without compromising the quality of life.

To learn more about podium construction in the hotel and multi-family buildings, contact Innodez Design & Engineering. Our design team uses the different podium material options and configurations to develop innovative but practical building solutions that address the growing need for affordable, amenity-rich houses in dense urban areas.

Structural Engineering for multi-family

Structural Design for multi-family

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