Shangri-La balconies off-limits after falling glass prompts test

Watch above: Alan Carter reports on why Shangri-La residents are being told to keep off their balconies. 

TORONTO – Condo residents at Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel are being told not to use their balconies after several incidents of falling glass.

Residents received the notice on August 5 after the city issued an “order to remedy unsafe building.”

The city ordered the building owners to “prevent access to all balconies that have tempered glass and notify all occupiers of the condominium and hotel suits of the restricted access,” according to a letter sent to residents.

The building owners also have to do a statistically representative test of the condo’s balcony glass – roughly 300 panes – to check for nickel sulfide (stones) that have been linked to glass breakage.

Ann Borooah, the city’s chief building inspector, said testing could take up to a month to complete.

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Broken glass has fallen from the University Avenue condo building at least four times times since its completion in 2012, including an incident in September, 2013 when a man was hit by shards of falling glass.  He wasn’t injured and Borooah said the glass is designed to break into particles small enough to avoid serious injury.

The owners of the building had already been planning on replacing the glass on two sides of the building, Booroah said.

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“As a result of the earlier incidents and the testing that they had started to conduct, they had made a decision to go ahead and replace the balconies on at least two facades of the building,” she said.

Ontario’s building code was amended in July, 2012 to include installation guidelines for builders but buildings completed before January 1, 2013 were not impacted by the legislation.

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But the city can’t force buildings to replace glass without evidence something had gone wrong.

However, the longer something doesn’t happen, the better, Borooah said.

“We don’t have the authority to go back and require anything of building owners if there is no evidence of a failure and as time elapses from the point of construction, the risk diminishes,” she said. “The incidents occur most frequently within two years of manufacture of the glass and as we get further from 2011 there are fewer and fewer buildings within that curve.”

WestBank Corp. – the condo’s developer – has not responded to requests for comment.

With files from Alan Carter 

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