March 20, 2018 9:23 pm

Calgary city council votes to revisit building inspections after Fairview Arena, Kensington Manor incidents

Calgary city council.

John Himpe / Global News

They were two scary scenes unfolding at Calgary buildings: the roof of Fairview Arena crashing in and residents of Kensington Manor being forced to flee their apartments in mere minutes after the building was deemed dangerous.

READ MORE: City demolishes part of Fairview Arena after February roof collapse

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No one was injured in either case but Councillor Druh Farrell said that was sheer luck and something needs to be done to make sure incidents like this don’t happen again.

READ MORE: 3 months later: what’s happening with evacuated Kensington Manor?

She put forward a motion to city council on Tuesday, pushing for mandatory structural inspections of older buildings in Calgary.

While there was some debate on how this would affect those in the building industry, at the end of it all, council voted unanimously to take a second look at the bylaw.

“I’m not convinced of how far we need to go. That’s your jobs, you’re the experts in this,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said to city administration officials at Tuesday’s council meeting. “But I’m very, very happy to support this notice of motion and just have the conversation.”

Some building owners and managers said the motion completely misses the mark.

“I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to what happened at Kensington Manor,” said Gerry Baxter, the executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association.

“It’s not needed. It’s not warranted.”

Structural assessments aren’t easy and aren’t cheap, according to Baxter. He said they can often involve digging through foundations, walls and floors to check the integrity of the building.

Baxter added the building bylaw that’s in place now was just revamped last year. It calls for all buildings that are five storeys and higher and 25 years and older to undergo a visual inspection in the next two years.

“We take safety seriously. We think we already have a very good bylaw that will address pretty much every issue that will come up,” Baxter said. “We have feedback from engineers that say the same thing.”

“It skips a step,” said Lloyd Suchet, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). “A visual inspection is the first step.”

Both Baxter and Suchet said they believe many of the issues at Kensington Manor would have been found during a visual assessment.

The motion moving forward doesn’t mean structural inspections will become mandatory overnight. Farrell said it’s meant to start talks with those in the building industry and other advocates to see what the best steps are moving forward.

Global News reached out to the City of Calgary to see if Kensington Manor had undergone an inspection under the new bylaws, but a spokesperson said they wouldn’t be able to provide that information until Wednesday.


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