13th and 4th Floors Returning to Vancouver Buildings: City Moves to End Superstition

Photo credit: Chrisobyrne | Wikipedia

Photo credit: Chrisobyrne | Wikipedia

If you live in a newly built high-rise building in Vancouver, you may have noticed a few missing floors.

The 13th floor has long been “skipped” out of superstition, with elevator buttons jumping directly from the 12th to the 14th floor.  But, in Vancouver, floors containing the number 4 are also routinely skipped – a habit also rooted in superstition.

In Mandarin and Cantonese, the number 4 sounds similar to the word for death. Condo developers and real estate agents know that buyers from China, a key demographic, will avoid buying condos on floors with the number 4 for exactly that reason. The result: many new Vancouver high-rises are missing not only the 4th floor but the 14th, 24th, 34th and even 44th floors. In some cases, even individual suites with the number 4 are skipped. 

The new Burrard Place tower under construction in Vancouver has no 4th, 13th, 14th, 24th, 34th, 44th or 54th floors.

The new Burrard Place tower under construction in Vancouver has no 4th, 13th, 14th, 24th, 34th, 44th or 54th floors.

But 4s and 13s will soon be making a comeback in Vancouver. The city’s chief building officer recently issued a bulletin warning developers to end the practice of skipping floor and suite numbers to accommodate superstition, according to the Vancouver Sun. While this edict won’t affect older buildings, it will apply to new construction. The reason for the policy shift: safety.

Firefighters and first responders called to the scene could be confused in an emergency by the off-kilter numbering systems. When elevators aren’t operating, for instance, firefighters typically “count” floors as they ascend through the stairwells. In Vancouver, however, an emergency reported on the “5th floor” might actually be on the 4th floor – depending on how the building is numbered. For victims and rescuers, that kind of confusion can be costly.

4707638514_8e3f95c1e1_b-290x386But does all this superstition actually influence demand for particular condos and units? According to the city’s realtors, among certain demographics the answer is a resounding yes. Bob Rennie, the driving force behind much of the city’s condo development, puts it bluntly in the Vancouver Sun, “People who are superstitious and don’t like 4 aren’t going to buy on those floors.”

Vancouver isn’t the first city to wrestle with building superstitions. The Sun reports that the municipality of Richmond Hill, Ontario, recently banned the use of the number 4 in all house numbering. Meanwhile, when a new 474 area code was proposed for Saskatchewan, it was turned down in favour of a less spooky 639 area code.

What do you think about Vancouver’s decision to bring back 13th and 4th floors? Let us know below.

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