Do new condos require a building envelope analysis? “Leaky Condo Owners in Alberta Want Better Inspections”, says the headline of a CBC news article from September 20, 2012. The article goes on to outline the various problems condo owners are having with their north Edmonton purchase. Water entry has caused major damage to the complex, resulting in every condo owner’s worst fear – special assessment. The six million dollar price tag for repairs sees unit owners being assessed up to $18,000.00 per unit. This is more than many owners can afford and at least one couple was forced into foreclosure. “This is our home. We love this place. It’s close to everything we need. It was affordable, at one time,” says one resident that was assessed $14,800.00. “We’ve been turned down by basically every bank in the country…. We’re first time homebuyers and we got our first letter of demand last week.”
This condominium is only seven years old. Could a building envelope analysis have prevented this financial catastrophe? Absolutely. “It’s unacceptable that the inspection process here in the province of Alberta allows this sort of shoddy workmanship to take place,” NDP MLA Dave Eggen is quoted as saying. “You have worked hard all your life…without anything from the government and the province chooses to have no inspections for buildings,” a unit owner agreed. “Did we ever think this [would happen]? No, we didn’t.”
There are two ways a building envelope analysis could have made a significant difference in this case.
1. Independent building envelope analysis experts could have been hired at the onset of construction. These analysts would inspect the work in progress several times a week to confirm the workmanship was of the highest quality and that proper sequencing was followed to ensure proper component function.
2. Building envelope analysis consultants could have been called at the completion of construction, before unit occupancy. At this stage, rigorous testing would have taken place, and flaws and deficiencies uncovered before the building was occupied. Repairs could have taken place before occupancy or – at the very least – the information could have been disclosed to the buyers, giving them a choice whether or not to invest in the condominium.
Right now, building envelope analysis consultants are on hand to inspect the ongoing repairs. They identified the issues that lead to the leakage, wrote a specification, tendered the repairs to reliable contractors, and they visit the site regularly as the repairs are taking place. As they say, however, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Had the building been properly inspected from the outset, much – if not all – of the damage could have been avoided.
Developers, property managers, and unit owners: beware. New construction does not mean best practice or even safe construction. An independent, third party, building envelope analysis could be the only thing between being stuck with a leaking, deficient building full of disgruntled unit owners or a properly constructed building that will not cause pricey assessments. When it comes to new condo construction, the best time to involve the analysis experts is at the beginning of the project.