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One year later, no answers on evacuated Langford high-rise

Out of homes for a year

Ashley MacDonald has been waiting a year for answers about why she and other residents of a Langford high-rise had to move out with little notice after the building’s occupancy permit was revoked.

MacDonald was one of an estimated 130 residents of the 11-storey RidgeView Place, formerly called Danbrook One, who were forced out of their homes on April 24, 2023, when the city pulled the occupancy permit over structural concerns.

The city and owner Centurion Property Associates Inc. did not reveal any details about concerns with the building, which had been completed in January 2019 and received an occupancy permit the following month. Centurion agreed to buy the building on April 25, 2019.

It was the second time in four years the city had pulled the occupancy permit for the Claude Road structure and residents were urged to leave the building immediately because of investigations by the Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. into structural flaws.

In December 2019, residents were told the engineering association had opened an investigation when an engineer who was not involved in the project raised concerns about the design.

Two engineers involved in the original work eventually lost their registration with the provincial body and are not allowed to practise engineering in the province.

In April 2022, Centurion said it had made the necessary fixes to the complex, which was built by DB Services of Victoria Ltd.

Langford re-issued an ­occupancy permit in April 2022 after an independent engineer’s review, but a year later, the provincial engineering body informed Centurion and the city it had opened an investigation into the engineer responsible for remediation work, prompting a second evacuation.

“I’m pretty angry about it,” MacDonald said Monday. “I really struggle to understand how any of this is OK with anyone.”

Residents were told they needed to leave immediately so work could be done on the exterior of the building, but a year later, it appears unchanged, she said.

MacDonald said she hasn’t received any information from Centurion or the city since about a week after she moved out. She wants to know what was wrong with the building and what has been done to ensure this situation is not repeated for a third time.

“We want the answers, and more than that, I think we deserve the answers,” she said.

MacDonald filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancy Branch to recoup about $4,000 in costs incurred from moving and staying in hotels after losing her home. She found out in January her complaint was unsuccessful.

Centurion offered $2,500 in assistance to each unit after emptying the building.

In addition to the lost money, the incident has shaken her sense of safety, MacDonald said. Recently, she noticed a tiny crack in the drywall in her new apartment, which sparked fears that her new home could be unsafe.

“That’s part of why it’s so disheartening that we haven’t had an answer,” MacDonald said. “It has taken a toll on my emotional state.”

A spokesperson for the City of Langford said in an email the city has no information to share and directed questions to Centurion. The company did not respond to interview requests.

Spokesperson Megan Archibald of the Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. said the body can’t share any information about the progress of an investigation into the engineer responsible for the remediation, as it’s required by law to keep the information confidential.

If the investigation determines the engineer did not meet required standards of the profession, the results and any future disciplinary results will be made public, she said.

The engineering association recently recommended changes to the B.C. Building Code requiring engineers to conduct an independent review of structural designs prior to submitting them for permits.

While an independent review of structural designs has been a quality management requirement of the Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. since 1992, embedding the step in the building code will help ensure the reviews are done appropriately, Archibald said.

The recommendation for the change was based on complaints, investigations and discipline cases, including those related to RidgeView Place engineers, that showed independent reviews were not being conducted properly, she said.

“It was also intended to address other issues we sometimes see related to the permitting process, such as early or incomplete designs being submitted to ‘get in the queue’ for permitting,” Archibald said.

No independent reviews of any part of the building’s design were done before construction of RidgeView Place, Brian McClure, who was the engineer of record on the building, told Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. investigators during the disciplinary process.

In an interview with investigators, McClure said although he knew the reviews were necessary, they “just never happened.”

McClure’s engineering registration was cancelled on May 9, 2022, and he agreed not to reapply for registration for two years. The registration of Ted Sorensen, another engineer on the project, was cancelled on Dec. 31, 2022. He agreed not to reapply for 18 months.

If either one reapplies for practising status, they will face several requirements, such as undergoing a practice review, providing a letter explaining how they have maintained competency and completion of continuing education.

Centurion sued the seller, builder, structural engineer and engineering firm, and the City of Langford for what it claimed was negligence causing dangerous defects in the building. All claims against DB Services have been stayed because the builder filed for bankruptcy last July, according to a recent B.C. Court of Appeal decision.

A December 2022 B.C. Supreme Court ruling dismissed negligence claims against engineering firm Sorensen Trilogy Engineering Ltd. and its engineers, which were involved in the design of RidgeView Place.

Justice Gordon Weatherill decided that the engineering firm and engineers did not owe a duty of care to the owner, because Centurion took on risk in the contracted it negotiated. Weatherill determined that the liability of the engineering firm involved was limited to the fees paid to the firm for its work on the building, because of a liability clause included in a contract between the firm and the design-builder.

On Jan. 24, 2024, a B.C. Court of Appeal judgment set aside the lower court’s ruling.

Court records online indicate future hearing dates have been adjourned. Centurion’s lawyer did not respond to an interview request on the status of the suit.

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