One building uninhabitable due to cracks from UBCO's downtown campus construction

Construction causes cracks

Cracks have appeared in the walls of a building at the corner of St. Paul Street and Doyle Avenue, a result of construction of the adjacent UBCO downtown campus.

Cracks were detected in the building at 1405 St. Paul on the weekend of Nov. 25, according to UBCO spokesman Nathan Skolski.

"Ground settling created some damage to the exterior face of the building and some interior elements," said Skolski in an email to Castanet News.

"The building was placed on a precautionary do not occupy order out of an abundance of caution and so that the exact nature of the damage could be more fully assessed."

The UBCO tower on the site of the former Daily Courier building across the street from 1405 St. Paul will be, once complete, the tallest building in the city at 43 storeys.

It will also have the deepest parkade going four storeys underground which, according to Skolski is at least part of the issue.

"With the scale and depth of the project, ground settling was always anticipated and we are in regular communication with neighbouring properties to assess and monitor the impact of construction of their structures."

One of those is the Bertram Place apartments across from the UBCO project.

Cliff Paice, a member of the building strata council, says there have not been any issues with his building that he is aware of. However, there are some cracks in the drywall but it's unclear if it is due in part to the UBCO building since some are fairly old.

"We do have prisms installed on the west wall of our building to monitor the activity," said Paice.

Changes in the positions of monitoring prisms indicate movement of the structure.

"We have been talking to the residents of the building and telling them to keep an eye on their unit and anything you notice in the common area that might be cracking.

"The building is wood frame so I think that might be our saving grace for now because it probably moves better than a brick or concrete building."

Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the city, says his department is in constant contact with the construction project team and receive regular updates as to what they observe and encounter.

Kayfish says an inspection of the St. Paul building was conducted once the city was made aware of the damage and issued a do not occupy directive once that inspection was complete.

"We told them we need to see an assessment by a structural engineer before the building is occupied. That work is underway," says Kayfish.

"Soon," he added when asked when that report may be complete.

"I do know UBC and the project team are in touch with the owner of that building. The owner may have other plans though. What happens when that report is finalized is up to the owner to say."

The building is owned by Kerkhoff Construction who plan to construct a 35-storey mixed use development on the site.

The development permit is being held up while form and character amendments, including the potential for a grocery store restrictive covenant, are being discussed. A date for demolition has not been determined.

While structural engineers continue to assess the building, Skolski says the project team continue to monitor impacts on surrounding buildings using advanced "ground-penetrating radar" to identify changes below the ground that could affect the stability of surrounding buildings.

"Additionally, a team of structural and geotechnical engineers have been on site conducting weekly assessments to ensure the ongoing safety of the area.

"These inspections are intended to detect potential risks early on and to ensure timely interventions when necessary."

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