April 24, 2024

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City report on evacuated Castledowns Pointe condo recommends changes for public safety

4 min read

An investigation report by the City of Edmonton has found that the construction of a condo building evacuated due to structural problems in September did not align with design drawings, confirming what engineers determined last year. 

The city investigated the safety code permitting process for the design and construction phases between 1999 and 2000 for Castledowns Pointe, an 83-unit condo building at 12618 152nd Ave.

Residents were ordered out of the building in September after engineers from Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd. (RJC) investigating damage from a March 2023 fire discovered portions of the structure were significantly overstressed. 

The city’s investigation found there were discrepancies between the architectural and structural design drawings.

“The investigation correlates findings of the RJC Engineers report, whereas the construction of the subject building does not align with design drawings,” says the city report, dated Feb. 8.

It says data provided by RJC Engineers “leads to the conclusion that the structure was not built to comply with the building code, or an approved alternative standard.”

An aerial shot of a large condo building. A white tarp covers one wing of the property.
Engineers investigating the damage caused by a fire on March 12, 2023, discovered the Castledowns Pointe building was not structurally sound. (David Bajer/CBC)

CBC obtained the report from the office of city councillor Erin Rutherford.

Among its recommendations to improve public safety:

  • Communicate and regulate roles and responsibilities under the Safety Codes Act with stakeholders in the design, construction, occupancy and maintenance of buildings and other structures.
  • Develop and deliver investigation training and reporting mechanisms for safety codes officers.
  • Have the provincial government and professional organizations provide a continuing education campaign.
  • Review consumer protection programs.

The city’s investigation team searched records of similar buildings from 1998-2002 that involved the same applicants and professionals, finding the information in support of those permit applications “did not indicate any systemic issues.”

Multiple inspections during construction

The report says floor joist or floor truss manufacturer shop drawings are generally submitted in permit applications, but the city did not find these in its records for Castledowns Pointe.

“Completeness of paper records of this permit era was challenging with multiple physical handoffs in the design/permitting process,” the report says.

The report says multiple inspections were conducted during construction and no documents indicated any problems with the structural framing at the building compared to the reviewed drawings.

In a Feb. 14 memo to city council about the report, acting development services branch manager Travis Pawlyk said that under the Safety Codes Act, owners, designers and contractors are responsible for alignment with codes and standards during the design and construction phases.

“Safety codes officers are not responsible for or qualified to conduct inspections of structural elements of large buildings such as Castledowns Pointe,” Pawlyk said in the memo.

He said it was the responsibility of professional engineers and architects to inspect structural components of larger buildings. 

“There’s a clear line of responsibility, liability and safety, so something in that process for this building fell apart, but it has nothing to do with the corporation that is the City of Edmonton or its safety code officers,” said Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell, a professional engineer with experience investigating structural concerns in buildings.

A woman with brown hair wearing a scarf stands in a hallway.
“I think it’s clear to see that steps were missed,” Ward Anirniq Coun. Erin Rutherford said after reviewing a report on Castledowns Pointe. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

CBC News asked the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), which regulates professional engineering in the province, if there were any investigations underway related to Castledowns Pointe.

A spokesperson said there are no existing or former complaints or allegations of engineering wrongdoing, and the structural engineer involved with the building is a former professional engineer who resigned their licence in 2018.

APEGA investigates complaints about licensed engineers, and can investigate former engineers who were previously licensed up to two years ago. 

Advocacy strategy

In October, Rutherford made a motion calling for “an advocacy strategy to other orders of government to strengthen construction accountability.” It passed unanimously.

“When you look retroactively, I think it’s clear to see that steps were missed,” Rutherford said in an interview last week.

She said she’s also interested to see if the province will take action.

“This isn’t an isolated incident provincially,” she said.

The Feb. 14 memo to city council said the city’s director of safety codes will follow up with the municipal affairs minister, the provincial building administrator and the Safety Codes Council manager of accreditation to strengthen accountability for the construction industry.

A government spokesperson said Municipal Affairs has received the report and asked the City of Edmonton to provide additional information, including documents, to help the province complete its analysis.

‘Nothing makes sense to me’

Lisa Brown, who owns a condo at Castledowns Pointe, has read the investigation report and city council memo.

She said she continues to have more questions than answers — especially about who was responsible for making sure the building was structurally sound.

“Nothing makes sense to me with this,” she said. 

A woman with brown hair, dressed in a black shirt and pink scarf, looks into the camera.
Lisa Brown, who has owned a unit in the Castledowns Pointe condo building since 2008, says she and other owners are living through the “worst-case-scenario” of homeownership. (Mrinal Anchan/CBC)

Brown said she and other residents are living through the worst-case-scenario of home ownership, facing extra housing costs, thousands of dollars in fees, and even foreclosures.

“Not a single one of the 83 unit owners is not suffering significantly right now,” she said.

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