Alberta Amendment Act Paused for Review

Service Alberta recently put a halt to the regulation changes that were to be implemented under Phase II of the Condominium Property Amendment Act, citing that the changes would create too much red tape and cause an unnecessary burden to Alberta condo residents. Minister of Service Alberta, Nate Glubish, released a statement August 8th directing all Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) proposed policies, bylaws or regulatory changes to first pass through his office for review and approval.

Alberta has been working towards the Condominium Property Amendment Act for the past five years, with Phase II scheduled for implementation in July of this year. With intentions to modernize legislation, more than 50 amendments were previously approved to help protect owners and increase effectiveness for condo boards. However, in response to stakeholder backlash to the regulations, the current government has paused Phase II to ensure that Albertans are heard and protected.

 “Our government has a mandate to cut red tape that creates unnecessary burdens for Albertans in their personal and business lives, and we are working hard to make sure Alberta is open for business and free of unwarranted red tape.”
Minister of Service, Nate Glubish on August 8, 2019

Between July 2019 and January 2020, the government plans to meet with key stakeholders to determine if the regulation changes imposed by the amendment act constitute “an excessive administrative burden or challenge for condo boards, owners, and corporation involved in the condominium industry.” The regulations are anticipated to come into effect January 1, 2020, after stakeholder feedback can be taken into consideration.

To read more about the Amendment Act and it’s three phases, see our previous blog post here.

Please see this press release from Service Alberta for more information: Statement from Minister

Climate Change and Canada’s Building Code

Climate change is among the top issues that Canada and many other countries have chosen to tackle. Our efforts to reduce the negative effects of climate change vary drastically and have taken form in several different ways in Canadian society – one of which is revamping building practices.

Over the past ten years, provinces throughout Canada have begun adopting methods and technological advances that would positively impact and reduce our carbon footprint. Many of these advances have made drastic impacts to Canadian building codes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, material waste, and energy consumption. While we have seen these efforts represented more and more with new builds across the country, there is still a large amount of discussion around older properties and the renovations and updates required for adequate progress.

For example, Ontario’s Planning and Growth Management Committee submitted this article in 2017, highlighting requests for further improvements to the Ontario building code in a battle with climate change. The requests (also common amoung other provinces) were as follows:

  • “Continue to expand the list of items in the Ontario Building Code’s list of “green standards” to include incremental energy efficiency provisions for all buildings”
  • “Take measures to discourage the growth of illegal renovation and develop technical support and training for the building industry, building officials and building owners”
  • “Continue to review the Ontario Building Code for other potential amendments to mitigate against the effects of extreme weather such as flooding, ice storms and extended periods of heat and extreme winds. Specific areas which should be addressed include passive cooling measures in buildings, and a review to ensure that climatic data in the Ontario Building Code reflects current conditions.”

The third recommendation is especially interesting, as we are now beginning to view the effects of climate change as something to expect and prepare for its effects rather than just something to attempt to prevent. In fact, the issue of climate change has begun to hit so close to home, that homeowners in Toronto are being offered a Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program– a program designed to mitigate flood damage from the ever more common sever weather events.

The issues Canada is facing with the current day impact of climate change is in fact so severe that the Canadian Building Code is expected to be fully reformed with strict guidelines and rules set to take effect 2025. With more frequent wildfires, heat waves, and flooding, our buildings will need to be designed and renovated to meet these new challenges. If these building code changes are ignored, the infrastructure failures associated with climate change could cost Canada $300 billion over the next decade as outlined in this CBC article. There is no doubt that our buildings, roadways, and city systems will take on great changes over the next 10 years in response to the effects of climate change – the question is whether your property is able to begin that process.

Did you know that Normac is Canada’s leading insurance appraisal firm? For more information on or to request a quote, click here or email info@normac.ca. To read more on Canada’s Building Code and Climate Change, click here.

Standard Insurable Unit Description | Alberta

Alberta Standard Insurable Unit Description

UPDATE  – January 1, 2020

As of January 1, 2020, Standard Insurable Unit Descriptions are now required by all condominium corporations under the Condominium Property Amendment Act.
Normac offers Standard Insurable Unit Description services to help boards meet this requirement.

UPDATE – July 1, 2019

Phase II of the Condominium Property Act regulations have been paused for red tape review.

Service Alberta has placed all Phase II changes to the Condominium Property Act on hold.  During a six month period between July 2019 and January 2020, Service Alberta will be meeting with key stakeholders to discuss the proposed regulation changes and make amendments based on the feedback provided. There may be further revisions made during this review period which will likely effect the amendments set for January 2020, including the Standard Insurable Unit Description.

Please see this press release from Service Alberta for more information: Press Release

Original post – May 7, 2019

Over the past few months, Albertans have been preparing for the next stage of the Property Amendment Act, effective January 2020. Arguably the most discussed update in the industry is the standard insurable unit description, and how this new bylaw requirement will affect condominiums and their insurance process. Our team at Normac is committed to providing the education, resources, and service to assist condominium boards with this new regulation.

 

What exactly is the Standard Insurable Unit Description?

The standard insurable unit description is a way for boards to clearly document what is covered under the corporation’s insurance and what is an improvement that must be covered by an owner’s insurance, for any particular unit.

Service Alberta defines this document as an inventory of the typical standard fixtures and finishing in a residential unit or a class of units. It can be provided either to purchases by the developer or created and adopted by the corporation.  It is the responsibility of the condominium corporation to obtain insurance covering the unimproved or “standard” unit based on this description. Insurance for any improvements to the unit is the responsibility of the owner unless clearly stated otherwise in existing condominium bylaws. 

The corporation must also define how many classes of units will be documented and, in the case of older properties, what the unit classes should include in terms of these fixtures and finishes. 

Once documented, the Standard Insurable Unit Descriptions must be voted in to the corporations’ bylaws. As the purpose of this bylaw addition is to limit disputes between owners and the corporation, it is important that this description be handled with diligence and is completed in detail to best protect all parties. It is also important to consider how the description is written for the corporation and the language used – as it must be clear, consistent, and comprehensive in the cases where the description is needed or challenged.

 

How and when should we complete our Standard Insurable Unit Description?

According to the Act, the bylaw must be passed before the corporation’s first insurance renewal after January 2020 – giving condos at most, three years to complete the standard insurable unit description. Many corporations have taken the opportunity to begin planning for this regulation and seeking information and resources on how they may be able to complete these descriptions ahead of time. We recommend that all condominiums begin preparing and acquiring information and resources to have these documents completed as soon as possible.

 

Normac can help condo corporations with their Standard insurable Unit Description needs. 

At Normac, we have been completing insurance appraisal across Canada for over 20 years now and have always included the standard insurable unit breakdown as part of our appraisal reports. With this new requirement by the Act in place, we have the expertise and skill-set and are uniquely positioned to assist condo boards with defining their standard insurable units. We offer a turn key solution that that will allow condo boards to focus on other areas required of them, while we take on the heavy-lifting of standard insurable unit definitions. We are committed to helping all our clients with this breakout description and will continue to work with other interest groups in industry such as legal practitioners, property managers, and insurance brokers collectively to ensure we are consistently offeringthe best solution for your condominium.

 

For more information on Standard Insurable Unit Definitions, click here

To request a quote, click here.

To read more on Alberta Condominium Property Regulations, click here.

A Mock Strata Council Meeting for Okanagan Property Managers Takes Place in Kelowna

Normac co-sponsored a Professional Association of Managing Agents (PAMA) Educational Event on April 12th, 2019.  The breakfast seminar took place at Kelowna’s Ramada Inn with 29 property managers in attendance from cities across the Southern Interior including Kamloops, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Penticton, and Kelowna. The property managers in attendance were able to take part in a well-prepared mock council meeting addressing issues and situations that arise during a typical strata council meeting. The format of the seminar was entertaining and interesting; it gave those in attendance an opportunity to brainstorm and “problem-solve” through some challenging issues in small, breakout session groups.  We want to thank all those that attended and made this such a great and engaging event.

If you are in BC and interested in connecting with a large group of like-minded individuals, expanding your connections, and having access to a network of industry professional, then you should consider joining PAMA.  Being a PAMA member with an established real estate association gives you access to a community with over 2000 members and growing. Continuing education is a large component of what the PAMA association offers such as the mock council strata meeting event above. Wanting to learn more about becoming a PAMA member? Visit PAMA’s website HERE to join.

Did you know that Normac is Canada’s leading insurance appraisal firm? If you are in need of an insurance appraisal– request a quote from us today.  Visit us at HERE to request a quote.

 

Building a Sustainable Future Through Passive House Designs

2018 has become a critical year for the global community as researchers have warned leaders and policy makers that the world has only 12 years to curb global climate change. This requires urgent action not only on an international scale, but also making drastic changes in how we live our lives and produce goods in Canada.  This is why many policy makers, engineers, and city developers see the need to implement sustainable living and development as buildings create about 56% of greenhouse gas emissions – more than that of transportation and waste combined. One way engineers and design teams are tackling the tremendous issue of greenhouse gases, is through Passive House Designs.

Passive House Design refers to conscious design strategies that help reduce a building’s energy consumption, and often implements reusable energy. Passive Houses achieve their goal of hyper efficiency through the design and implementation of highly insulated building envelopes. The main standards of a Passive House Design are as follows:

  1. Proper Insulation.

Proper insulation reduces energy and heat leaving the home through areas such as window panes. With Passive House Designs developers and designers will want the structures to contain as much heat as possible, so as to reduce using heating systems that push hot air inside and inevitably consuming more energy.

  1. No Air Leakages.

Similar to the definition above, the intent here is to contain the heat and air that is better used within the home rather than letting it escape.

  1. No Thermal Bridges.

In this case, architects and engineers must be cognizant of heat that can easily travel through walls and other means. A good use of design can prevent this from happening.

  1. Proper Windows – Triple Pane Glass.

Windows are common areas to lose heat and by implementing triple pane glass windows this will not only allow for insulation for hot days, but for cold days as well.

  1. Proper Positioning.

This standard refers to the positioning of windows and ventilation systems. The strategy utilizes the natural heat from the sun and allows for heat to enter a home, and when it is warm outside this method also helps contain cool air inside.

  1. HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation).

This component allows for fresh air to circulate without allowing heat to escape in the process. Some buildings have even incorporated sophisticated ventilation systems that circulate air in and outside of homes; by extracting and redistributing warm air to different parts of the structure. This method is quite revolutionary as we can create comfortable heating without emitting CO2.

 

Photo provided by: Passive House Institute

 

Passive House Designs also tend to incorporate other components that help reduce emissions while continuing to produce energy efficient heating and cooling for its occupants, such as solar energy and geothermal energy. This is all done in the effort to prevent climate change, but these design strategies are also great for high density areas with high cost of living. Reducing energy consumption is great for keeping energy and appliance bills low. For those residing in areas such as Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver where temperatures change drastically throughout the year, Passive House structures may be coming to you much sooner than you may think! Buildings and developments across Canada are beginning to implement these methods and designs, as well as imbedding them into provincial and municipal standards.

It is possible to reduce energy consumption for a large number of residents, as well as reduce one’s energy bill, all while remaining environmentally conscious. With how quickly technology is advancing, and environmental standards making waves across the country, it’s simply a question of when will your city be implementing Passive House Designs?

For an in-depth look at passive house designs, see this wonderful resource, What is a Passive House? Understanding the Principles Behind This Sustainable Housing Movement.

The Future of Construction – Smart Technology in Building Materials

2018 seems to have been the year of smart home technology as gadgets such as smart locks, lights, thermostats, home assistants and many devices more push past the early adopter stage and are becoming more popular with consumers. All these smart home products can be a great addition for any individual looking to make their home a more comfortable, efficient space – but what about the physical property itself? Basic wood and concrete have been fundamental elements of building construction for centuries, and although construction techniques have certainly improved, there hasn’t been anything necessarily smart about these construction materials until recent developments in building material technology.

What to expect?

While society continues to barrel toward a more tech-based future, new companies are taking advantage of adding smart capabilities to building materials. These developments aim to help make buildings and structures safer, more durable, and technologically capable. Currently, there are a multitude of smart materials in development with applicable uses:

Smart Concrete

Whether a structure is intended for residential, industrial, or commercial use – concrete is a necessary and critical component of any building. Smart concrete is a recent development from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is not only stronger than traditional concrete, but can be monitored wirelessly for strain, stress, and damage before the concrete structure fails. With smart concrete, there will be no need for manual inspection or expensive embedded sensors. The composition of this new concrete can help in detecting areas where damage is present or likely to occur by using voltage monitors.  These monitors allow for timely repairs which is ultimately safer and more cost effective. There are even current developments working to create a version of this smart concrete that can self heal when it comes in contact with water. The applications of this type of concrete are endless, as it requires no special setup or additions as smart concrete is premixed with the necessary material.  To read more on smart concrete, check out this link.

Smart Glass

The future of windows is right around the corner. Smart glass is a new technology that enables glass panels to alter its transmission properties based on a change to either voltage, heat, or light. When a high amount of light is applied, smart glass can dim itself and transition from transparent to translucent.  Given that the glass can respond to a variety of different influences makes this smart material ideal for construction purposes. This glass can be used to replace static building envelopes, with the dynamic ability to respond to climate and adapt accordingly to save costs on electricity, heat, air-conditioning, and even the cost to buy and maintain traditional blinds and curtains. Smart glass is already being used by Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner – more on that here.

Self-Healing Coatings

Self-healing coatings are a revolutionary product set to greatly impact building structures of all types. These coatings are a polymer-based product that can be applied directly to a variety of material, which will repair themselves when influenced by heat, light, or water. The most interesting part about these coatings is they can be used on existing structures, creating self-healing properties for material such as metal, ceramic, paint, glass, and even concrete. Coatings can be used to create building envelopes that can intrinsically correct damage such as scratches, cracks, and even utilize anti-corrosion properties. The application of coatings such as these can potentially save hundreds of thousands in repair and maintenance costs for property owners or managers.

With smart materials such as the above being introduced to the market, we are on track for safer, more reliable, and more durable structures. These structures can respond appropriately to the elements, monitor and repair themselves, and provide useful alternatives to older building components and forms of construction.

Normac is Canada’s premier provider of insurance appraisals, with experience in multi-residential, commercial, light industrial, and unique properties. For more information on the current state of construction or how construction directly impacts the total insurable value of your property – download our most recent eBook here. If you are interested in a no-obligation proposal for an insurance appraisal, request a quote today.

The Legalization of Cannabis: Concerns Pile High for Condo & Strata Corporations

The legalization of cannabis has been one of the hottest topics in Canada since its proposal back in late 2012. Since then, the country has passed Bill C-45 otherwise know as “The Cannabis Act” and has been planning for the legalization of recreational use set for October 17th, 2018. This has left many companies, industries, and government factions scrambling to prepare, including condominium corporations. The multi-residential aspect of condominiums has presented a variety of questions on how corporations will effectively manage and adjust to recreational marijuana use.

The Issues at Hand

The new legislation will permit recreational use of cannabis, the ability to possess and share cannabis up to a certain legal amount, as well as grow a maximum of 4 plants per residence. The regulation of cannabis differs slightly from province to province which impacts the decisions condo boards will have to make across the country. In Alberta, laws will mirror tobacco use except for operating equipment (such as vehicles), which is the same for British Columbia however places where children are present are also prohibited. In contrast, Ontario is banning public smoking of cannabis altogether. The nature of this legislation has many condo boards in Canada racing to revise their bylaws before the legal date, as this CBC article explains. Many proactive condominiums in Canada are considering banning the substance altogether as issues of smoke in units, balconies, and common areas cannot be effectively contained and are bound to impact all others that call the property home via second hand smoke. However, smoke is not the only factor regarding this new legislation, as many condo boards are concerned with the overall issue of smell. As cultivation will soon be legal, concerns are growing about the implications of overall odor as well as excess unit moisture issues and increased utility consumption within the building. Smoking aside, growing cannabis plants in a condo residence is sure to be an issue, as possibilities of damage, voiding insurance, and decreased property value will need to be considered by all condo corporations. A recent article from the Edmonton Journal writes about a similar case in which a condo building was ordered to fix ventilation due to leaking tobacco smoke and the associated odor, costing somewhere in the hundred thousand dollar range.

Realistic Solutions?

The state of cannabis legalization has condos in a tight position, as outright bans on the substance from condo property is essentially the only way to mitigate disputes and potential property damage down the road. Or is it? Many condominiums can stand by previous legislation including the prohibition of consuming combustibles, which will include marijuana. This issue does become more convoluted when considering the medical necessities of some cannabis users and these possible restrictions. Potential human rights issues have been a topic of discussion lately throughout Canada regarding these medicinal users. Furthermore, there are a variety of difficulties and potential legal issues associated with banning as well as enforcing a ban on home grown cannabis as outlined here by a recent CBC news piece. There are multiple additional considerations and possible resolutions that may work for your condominium, and interested readers are urged to review their bylaws and continue to research the potential implications and solutions to help make this historic transition happen as smooth as it can for all residents of condominium properties.

Condo Buildings Gear up for Electric Vehicle Readiness

In March of 2018, the City of Vancouver (COV) approved a bylaw that requires new multi-unit residential buildings to have 100% of parking stalls (excluding visitor stalls) be electric vehicle (EV) ready. This is to say that new buildings are required to have accessible electrical outlets fitted, that will allow multiple residents to sufficiently charge their electric vehicles without overloading an electric circuit. This recent change is a big jump from the city’s previous requirement of only 20% of parking stalls in multi-unit buildings developments to be EV-ready.

Developers must be ready to abide by the bylaw starting on January 1st, 2019, as per the Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Program. The program was put into action by the COV with the objective to encourage electric vehicle use, and ultimately improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and help save residents and businesses money in the long run. With ambitions to move into greener and renewable energy in the city of Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vancouver Council believe, “… Embracing renewable energy is crucial to restoring our climate and environment, and generates remarkable economic opportunities. It’s also about improving quality of life, health and affordability—now and for future generations,” (Renewable City Strategy).

So, what does this mean for Vancouver condo developers and its strata corporations?

According to developers currently in the process of building EV ready stations for residents, this may not be much of a shift with regards to cost. As outlined in COV’s Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Program, the additional costs to meet the requirement for 100% of stalls in new multi-unit residential buildings to be EV-ready would be up to $300 per parking stall. Also, reiterated in an interview conducted by Global News, Grant Murray of Concord Pacific says “… the cost of putting it in is not a big [or] serious problem.

The Renewable City Strategy has Vancouver increasing commitment and effort into a greener transition. There are other initiatives like the Curbside Electric Vehicle Pilot Program, that look to implement electric vehicle charging stations (or EVCS) around the city; where charging stations are available to public users, but require them to register their license, sign a licensing agreement, and carry the appropriate level of insurance.

The implementation and support of electric and renewable energy is looking to be a necessary pursuit as researchers from SFU have estimated the amount of EV sales will be rising steadily to about 9,300 to 25,000 units by the year 2024 and will continue rise eventually reaching 30,000 to 35,000 units sold by 2030.

As Canada’s premier Insurance Appraisal provider, Normac is committed to understanding and monitoring green energy initiatives and trends municipalities are implementing. The cost of fitted electrical outlets will impact the value of a building, and thus the building’s replacement costs. For more information or for a no-obligation insurance appraisal proposal, email us at info@normac.ca or request a quote here.

The Shortage of Strata & Condo Managers

The need for qualified strata managers is at its peak in BC and across Canada. There is fast expansion of homes and high rises throughout the Metro Vancouver region, and there are currently more condos in Vancouver than there are property managers to assist in overseeing them. To say the least, the city is quickly becoming a concrete jungle and the trend is sending ripples of repercussions to the Property Management industry.

THE NEED FOR STRATA MANAGERS

Strata Property Managers are an integral part of maintaining strata buildings; they’re responsible for managing and organizing repairs in common property areas of the building, they maintain specific documents and records essential to the maintenance of the building and enforce bylaws as they change over time. So, if property managers are essential to condo buildings and strata properties, why is there such a shortage?

Like many industries, Property Management suffers from a diminishing number of experts in the industry, many of whom are baby boomers, while there is a lack of interest or awareness to enter Property Management by younger generations. From an anecdotal perspective indicated in an article published by Stratawest Management it’s said, “…the industry itself does not have an accurate identity and simply does not fit into what the typical millennial is looking for.”

It’s important for new generations to gain interest in Property Management as Vancouver is estimated to gain 28,000 new strata units in the near future. Currently, the average strata agent is handling anywhere from 17 to 23 stratas, when it’s recommended to be handling about 12 properties at most. With a high volume of properties distributed to each agent and 28K more in construction, those in the industry will be stretched thin and forced to deal with 60 to 80 hours of work a week. This leaves many agents in the industry overworked, properties neglected, deadlines missed, warranties expired and even some properties left without management.

BARRIERS TO ENTRY

There’s also the issue of bringing in qualified strata managers. The veterans of in the industry know the role is not for the faint of heart, because becoming a property manager is essentially becoming a Jack-of-All-Trades. Property Managers are required to be on top of the changing legislations that effect all types of properties, while resolving conflicts internally and externally. They present annual budgets to strata councils, collect strata fees, obtain necessary insurance, and are required to be on- call as an emergency can arise at any moment. It’s a challenging role and obtaining the necessary licensing has been said to be a feat as well.

Other barriers that may be preventing a new flood of property managers include long hours, industry standard for rates and fees that haven’t adapted to the cost of living or even matched prices to compensate for inflation in nearly a decade.

You may say that we are seeing the last vestiges of Strata Managers, the experienced agents retiring and not enough recruits from younger generations entering the industry. This is a cause for concern, as the knowledge is not retained, and many property owners are left with under qualified or in-experienced Strata Managers.

THE SOLUTION

The solution to this problem may be as simple as providing fundamental and sufficient education and awareness of Property Management as a career. Below are some website resources for further information on Property Management as a career in British Columbia: