Calgary Leaky Condos

CBC Calgary took a week-long look into problems with leaky condos around the city in a special report entitle, “Leaks and Losses: Calgary’s Condo Crisis.”

A building science engineer  answered some leaky condo questions in a live chat.  Below are some of the questions CBC readers asked and the engineer’s answers.

Is there a list anywhere of buildings you’ve worked on?
As a professional engineer, we have strict confidentiality with our clients. So I guess the answer is no with respect to existing condos. As a condo buyer, the only way to get info Always best to question the property manager and existing owners. As for new condos, I can list the projects we have been retained on as the building envelope consultants. 

What is the City’s responsibility here to ensure that the builders, contractors and trades are meeting code?
The City is aware of the issues and is doing its best to address the issues but they are strapped for people and budget. It would be just easier if they mandate 3rd party building envelope inspections.

In follow up to the build code, are the current building codes lacking? Is there a reason why the bare minimum is allowed.
The building code with respect to building envelope requirements (Part 5) is poor. Lots of general statements and not much meat. When we do a new building, we typically don’t even bother looking at the code. Our designs are significantly more detailed and robust.

I’ve recently discovered similar issues with my house. Are you aware of the housing industry being in the same predicament? Any recommendations on who I can call to assess the damage and repair requirements?
From my perspective, with regard to building envelope design and construction, highrise commercial is the best, low rise commercial and highrise multi-family residential is the next step down, then comes low rise multi-family wood frame, and finally wood-frame residential is the bottom feeder. I could have an entire business just fixing homes.

There seems to not be much protection for condo owners via Alberta legislation and a court. Solution seems to be remote as well, but what about single family homes do they face the same disadvantages if they have issues.
Correct. there isn’t much protection. I am not a fan of the home warranty programs due to the number of things they don’t cover. They are being improved though to increase the years of coverage. From my perspective, with all the litigation/arbitration I have been involved with, our legal system tends to lean toward the builders just because of the cost, time, and effort it takes to take building envelope issues to court.

We are currently awaiting building of a new condo to take possession in a year. What should be looking for at this time to be protected? My understanding is that until you do the walk thru to take it over, your not able to see the work being done as its being completed. Advice?
As you have already purchased it, the die is cast. It would be useful to find out if they have a building envelope consultant on the project team. All the really important bits will be covered by the time you take posesion so at this point all you can do is hope the design team is sound, the contractor has his head screwed on straight, and someone is doing inspections.

How is it that a building that impacts the lives of many people can be approved when so flawed?
Greed and stupidity. Either people don’t care and will do the minimum to get your money or they just don’t know what they are doing! Sad!

Having been involved in these issue (sic) I understand there is a private members bill trying to get through that would requier developers to carry a 5-10 year warranty. would you support this and why is the Gov seeming to drag they’re feet on this issue?
I am are of this and it is definitely a step in the right direction. The problem is this addresses the issues after the problem shows up. We need to address the construction issues up front. We need a tougher and more descriptive building code coupled with mandatory inspections (like Vancouver has implemented)

I was looking at St. John’s on Tenth. Any tips?
Good choice. We are the building envelope consultants for the project. We have been working with Streetside Developments for over 5 years now and their buildings are getting better and better from a building envelope perspective. They do pay attention to all the bits and pieces we do and they really want to do it right the first time. Good people to work with.

When an Engineering company is brought in to prime a repair, who is liable should years later that repair have problems.
It really all depends on the repair. We have some clients who have only wanted to repair parts or components of their building envelope. Subsequently, other sections of the building envelope have adversely affected the repairs. We explain this to our clients but it still is their decision on how they want to proceed. As with all building envelope consultants and restoration contractors, their should be liability insurance. If you are having an issue with a previous repair, the building envelope consultant should be your first contact. A good BE consultant would want to know why a repair did not last.

We have purchased a condo in the Calla living building, by Qualex-Landmark
We are the building envelope consultants on Calla. Good choice. We have done numerous projects with Qualex Landmark and very much appreciate their attention to detail on the building envelope. They are from Vancouver so they totally get the water issue. I personally went to Vancouver to view the water test of the window system. Q-L is a good sound builder. We like them alot.

It seems that there s not much protection for condo owners either through Alberta legislation or court action by owners, is it the same for single family owners or does legislation and courts provide better protection for them.
Their (sic) is protection but it can take time and is very expensive. It is worse for single family homeowners as they bare the full cost rather than sharing it as in a condo. As an example, I finished a litigation on a single family home in the Hamptons that took 7 years to complete.

I’m a resident of the Marquis condo, which is next to the bow river in west downtown. We’ve had our lower parkade level flood several times in the last decade, but luckily there was no special assessment. Are these large concrete buildings able to withstand repeated floodings, or should I be worried that there will be significant damage done to building eventually?
I cannot comment on a particular building but water penetration should never be down-played. Concrete is quite resilient but under the right conditions can deteriorate over time. I trust your condo board is all over this an had the issue reviewed by a qualified engineer.

From my experience there seems that Envelope Consultants have a wide range of opinions on what the expectations are beyond the code. Is there a body or committie that is standardizing the expectations of the envelope consultants?
Great question. I have been on the exec of the Alberta Building Envelope council for well over 15 years and this is a common concern. Experience is everything here but there is no regulating body to define what a building scientist is. Degree programs are offered through U of T and Ryerson but just education does not make a good building envelope engineer. I started doing this work in the mid 80s and I did it for 10 years before I felt comfortable calling myself a building scientist. Always more to learn. To date we still don’t have a definitive body to address this.

What can we do to put pressure on government builders to improve standards, or build properly, are there organizations out there we can work with, support. What do you suggest.
All the government has to do is just make 3rd party building envelope inspections mandatory on all new construction projects. That would take care of 85% of the issues right off the top. Call your alderman and MLA and push!!

Related posts from Calgary Real Estate Review:

One response to “Calgary Leaky Condos

  1. CBC News
    Lawsuits launched over Calgary condo renovation

    Condo owners in a downtown Calgary highrise have launched a lawsuit over a troubled parkade renovation.

    City officials temporarily ordered people out of the lower levels of Rocky Mountain Court in July after an inspection of the second level of the parkade found its integrity was compromised during renovations.

    The 29-storey building on Sixth Avenue S.E. has businesses on the main floor and condos above.

    Condo owners, who pitched in more than $3 million on further repairs, are now suing Durwest Construction Systems and Williams Engineering Canada Inc. In statements of defence, both companies say they did nothing wrong, and that the other made mistakes.

    Read entire article here

    It’s not a leaky condo story, but one of companies being sued was in the CBC condo series in the main post above.

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