Reading this Canadian Lawyer magazine report: http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/4020/whats-the-future-of-glass-houses.html , I couldn’t help but think about the condo world, where a builders objective is to deliver a product fast and cheap, and where it is likely that the condo buyers will not get the higher end products available despite paying today’s premium prices.

We’ve seen every jurisdiction across the country allow the residential construction industry to basically do what they want, and the so-called warranty insurance programs meant to protect consumers are a complete farce with more emphasis on avoiding liability than building a safe, high quality building.

After tens of thousands of families were plundered by the leaky condo disaster in BC (and many more still will be), it’s already beginning to look like we’ll be having another wave of victims.

Since we now know there are safety issues, who is liable when glass panels fall to the street as happened recently from a Montreal high-rise, and Toronto several times already?

Glass Condos: Joel Kimmel

Do you think the 2-5-10 warranty insurance program covers it in B.C.? Not a chance!

So how exactly should a well-designed glazed curtainwall perform, what is the minimum standard acceptable by our Building Codes, and what does the warranty cover in BC?

Glass condos are a big deal and an issue we’ll be hearing much more about in the future.

First off they are poor energy performers, which by itself could prove expensive in the longer term as energy costs skyrocket. In Metro Vancouver it is not as bad as in Toronto because of the warmer weather (less expansion-contraction), but it is still not a good idea.

Secondly, we can anticipate there will be major $ spent on resealing these buildings and replacing glass as the seals and insulation fail over time.

For instance, one building in Coal Harbour has a curvilinear curtainwall (looks like a sail). The glass pieces are individually cut and the cost to replace 1 piece is estimated at $10K  (cost to manufacture the specialty piece and use a crane to install it because the piece is about 10ft tall x 5ft wide).

What will this do for the resale value, and for future demand?

Owners will have to estimate the life expectancy of the glass and the replacement costs, and then accumulate the capital funds to cover it. This is what the Depreciation Reporting legislation just introduced in B.C. in December 2011 requires. What is this going to mean for the monthly condo fees?

For some additional reading, Letting go of longing for light, is an interesting 2009 Toronto Star article by Christopher Hume, covering this topic. Also, a fairly recent CBC report: Throw-away buildings: Toronto’s glass condos

Glass Condos

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