Tall tales

Gordon Campbell has given the civil service's highest honour - an innovation and excellence award - to the office that stick-handled a controversial government initiative which was blasted by Canadian and American engineering, fire and earthquake experts. The premier handed out that award last month to the building and safety policy branch for developing building code changes to allow the construction of five and six-storey wood-frame buildings. In a news release, the government stated those changes achieved "high standards for safety and construction quality with the same degree of expert risk analysis and technical rigour as the national building code." But what the release didn't mention is the numerous concerns that have been raised surrounding the raising of such buildings.

For example, in an exclusive interview last year, the chair of the province's fire services liaison group Stephen Gamble told Public Eye, "We have some real big concerns" about five and six storey wood-frames - a view shared by the National Fire Protection Association's Canadian regional manager Sean Tracey.

And those concerns were even more pointed south of the border.

"I've worked for a lot of building departments in four states in the past 20 years. And nobody even wants to talk about six wood" because of its "inherent dangers," said then Des Moines, Washington plans examiner Greg Fox.

"Myself, I'd be a little nervous about it - probably more than a little. I think we are getting toward the edges of what we can do (with wood)," said Jon Siu, the principle engineer for Seattle - a city the Campbell administration erroneously claimed to have already allowed six-storey wood-frames.

Five months after the province's building code changes were brought into force, the government touted the results of a seismic test that it has said shows such structures can perform safely in a major earthquake.

But fire and other concerns remain, qualifying the government for another kind of award - one for arrogance and audacity.


i wonder which of campbell's buddies in this department would be so deserving of an egregious pat on the back.

This so-called award is merely putting lipstick on a pig. the pig is still a pig.

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