The provincial New Democrats are demanding the government delay implementing its controversial decision to allow the construction of five and six storey wood-frame buildings. The New Democrats made the demand following an exclusive Public Eye investigation that raised serious concerns about the vulnerability of those buildings to fire and earthquakes - as well as the process by which that decision was made. In an interview this afternoon, New Democrat housing and consumer affairs critic Diane Thorne said, "I think the Liberals are being reckless by rushing it. And anyone who read your article this morning, I don't know how they could not agree that they're being reckless."
"Every single one of the questions surrounding these buildings should be answered and dealt with before anybody puts a shovel in the ground to build these units," Ms. Thorne continued. "I don't care if there's an election in May. Suck it up. You can't risk people's health and safety to put a rush on delivery of service in time for an election."
And those concerns were echoed by the Consumer Advocacy and Support for Homeowners Society.
"It is alarming, belligerent and inexplicable that building code amendments are made by (Housing and Social Development) Minister (Rich) Coleman, against the advice of professionals, while life safety issues remain unresolved," stated society president John Grasty in an email.
"None of the architects, building officials, engineers, fire chiefs, plumbers or any professionals have publicly endorsed or supported this craziness," he continued. As a result, "At this point CASH Society is calling for an indefinite suspension" of the amendment's April 6, 2009 implementation date."
The following is a complete copy of Mr. Grasty's email.
In a January 15, 2009, CASH Society release we expressed concerns about the 5 and 6 storey wood-frame building code amendment after having read professional reports that raised concerns, and technical reports referenced by the province that used language such as, "arbitrary estimations, different assumptions, etc."
What has now been exposed, through the verification by independent professionals, is that these doubts and concerns were well founded.
The professional engineer's and architect's response to the ministry made 15 solid points that cautioned the ministry, about the need for time, testing, resources, and reasons, so they could address the issues and solutions prior to implementation.
These professional bodies added that the government will need to train and help industry to adapt, made a point that there are unresolved problems with 4 story buildings, and went on to mention that other bodies need to be included in developing code (i.e. National Building Code, Canadian Standards Association, etc.).
The Fire Services Liaison Group concluded their report saying that they, "would like to leave the reader with one final thought - most fire deaths and injuries occur in residential wood frame construction - we need to ensure that the safe guards are in place before these residences are occupied."
None of the architects, building officials, engineers, fire chiefs, plumbers or any professionals have publicly endorsed or supported this craziness. In fact CASH Society has heard directly from several of the members of these groups that support our volunteer efforts.
In an announcement email of January 14, 2009, from the Office of Housing and Construction Standards Building and Safety Policy Branch, "A clear majority of consultation respondents supported the proposed changes"¦" was text suggested for roundtable participants to use for their respective websites. The only place we have seen this text posted is the website of the Home Builders Association.
It is alarming, belligerent and inexplicable that building code amendments are made by Minister Coleman, against the advice of professionals, while life safety issues remain unresolved.
This compromise typifies a general lack of government care or importance placed on homeowner protection. At this point CASH Society is calling for an indefinite suspension of the implementation date.