City wins landmark ruling under Alberta’s Building Code
Provincial Court Judge Heather Lamoureux rendered her decision in The City of Calgary prosecution of Williams Engineering Canada Inc., for its involvement in repairs which were undertaken to the parkade of the Rocky Mountain Court building, 221 6 Ave SE in the summer of 2011.
In her decision, Judge Lamoureux held that Williams Engineering had breached its obligations to Alberta’s Building Code by undermining the structural stability of the parkade and causing an unsafe condition. Sentencing is scheduled for later this year.
This is a landmark ruling because it appears to be the first time in Canada that an engineering firm has been convicted for breaching provincial Building Codes legislation.
“We’re pleased with today’s ruling as it demonstrates The City's commitment to enforce Alberta’s Building Code and ensures that building construction does not endanger public safety,” says Marco Civitarese, The City of Calgary’s Chief Building Official. “The extraordinary efforts of our Safety Response Unit raise awareness within our community regarding public safety and are changing the practice of the construction industry," adds Civitarese.
The City continues to work with partners within the construction industry to ensure site safety but does pursue enforcement through prosecution where necessary. "Where municipalities have failed to inspect and enforce building code violations and public safety measures, injuries and even deaths can occur. The 2012 collapse of the parkade shopping mall in Elliot Lake in Ontario is a sad reminder that we need to be vigilant,” says Civitarese.
“Today’s ruling sends a clear message: engineering firms, like other parties who are involved at the various stages of a construction project, have independent obligations to satisfy in the design and execution of a construction project” says Ola Malik, The City’s municipal prosecutor who conducted the 3-week trial. “The creation of The City’s Safety Response Unit and its dedication to the protection of public safety is what makes Calgary a national leader,” notes Malik. The City appears to be the only jurisdiction in Canada that is actively prosecuting breaches of the Building Code and obtaining significant fines.
The Safety Reponses Unit (SRU) was created by The City in 2009 to address unsafe construction sites in Calgary. The SRU leads a Coordinated Safety Response Team with the objective of protecting public safety by identifying issues, investigating incidents and correcting unsafe issues. The SRU has implemented a number of construction site safety measures in Calgary that promotes site safety, public awareness and has made Calgary a national leader.
Background: In June 2011, resurfacing of the level 2 parkade at Rocky Mountain Court began. The structural integrity of the parkade floor was compromised as a result of negligent repair. It was only as a result of The City of Calgary discovering the unsafe condition that occupants in the seven main floor businesses and parkade levels 1, 2 and 3 were directed to vacate these floors within hours as a precautionary measure to protect public safety.