Six-storey buildings raise concerns

After reading this:

Fire chief cautions against changes – Stewart said. “These risks have all been studied. All of these issues can be managed and ultimately it will come down to a public policy decision as to whether or not we manage that issue in our community, not whether or not these buildings are safe, because they are safe.”

and this:

What to do with wood-frame homes – “The province and some city officials insist such changes do not compromise the safety of the building.”

…we need some proof from professionals. 

The experience of 6 storey wood-frame building in other jurisdictions, with arbitrary estimations, different assumptions, conditions, materials, methods, etc., should offer opportunities to learn from but shouldn’t be relied upon without rigorous localized testing in BC.

Safe construction processes for 6-storey wood frame construction will remain unproven until all experimental projects, such as thorough seismic testing or fire trials for full compartmentation system assemblies, have been completed, and the revisions made and finally signed off by the professional bodies responsible for overseeing.

Six-storey buildings raise concerns

Coquitlam NOW – Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Architects, engineers, building officials, etc. — and their respective professional associations — have not publicly endorsed five- or six-storey wood-frame construction or assured the public otherwise. While these professions have all issued position papers expressing their concerns, the only professionals to publicly speak out against the building code amendment are the fire officials, and rightly so.

The citizens of Coquitlam are to be thankful that they have a true professional in their fire chief, Tony Delmonico, who has demonstrated his concern for the best interest and protection of the public by speaking out. It is this public service that allows the public to hold firefighters in such high esteem compared to lesser professions and professionals.

There are serious life safety issues (fire, seismic, etc.) that haven’t been addressed and need to be proven safe before any unwise decisions are made around implementing any six-storey wood-frame building codes. We need fail-safe (idiot-proof) building processes and systems first. Then we need trained personnel and adequate equipment in place.

How are the same people that can’t build a four-storey building right possibly going to achieve a defect-free and safe six-storey building? Even though we haven’t come to the mid-point of the leaky condo disaster (according to a 2007 Homeowner Protection Office report), it seems the minister has conveniently forgotten about it and is racing ahead with another unproven technology again.

The 2-5-10 warranty insurance excludes coverage for settling of three- and four-storey buildings and provides consumers little protection as it exists, requiring homeowners to deal (as in pay) with issues by their own means. With so much settling (wood shrinking) already being experienced, it seems that we could be on the brink of yet another building industry faux pas. So how will this building code amendment allow the building of six-storey homes to better protect the homeowner or new homebuyer?

John Grasty, Port Moody

© Coquitlam Now 2009

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