Determining the Age of Foundations in Multi-Resident Buildings

By Liam Bailey, BSc. Eng. (Hons) in Construction Engineering and Management
Depreciation Report Planner

While doing depreciation reports, reserve fund studies or building condition assessments, we often get asked how we can determine the age of a building component by looking at it. Although not without aberrations, there are some tell-tale signs that indicate the age and the remaining life of features such as windows, claddings and veneers, roofs and fencing. Architectural styles and innovations in manufacturing will also have an influence on how long certain components may last.  We have written a series of articles explaining what signs we look for to determine age and remaining lifespan for our depreciation reports, reserve fund studies, or building condition assessments.  This article of this series talks about determining the age of foundations in Strata and Condo Corporations.


Typically and as expected, foundations should last the life of a building provided the appropriate design specifications have been met. Since the early 1900’s foundations have adapted from a combination of brick, stone, rubble and concrete to primarily reinforced concrete today. Often, a visual review of a building’s foundations are not possible due to their concealed location below grade. Therefore determining when the building was constructed by reviewing as-built construction drawings is often the only way to determine the specification, materials, and age of the foundations.

In some cases isolated repairs are necessary to ensure the foundations remain in functional condition throughout their life. These may include drain tile repairs to protect the foundations from flooding during times of high precipitation and below grade damp/water proofing membrane repairs to mitigate moisture gaining access to habitable areas.

Considering the majority of a building’s foundations are buried beneath the ground, signs of structural defects are not visible until an issue arises within the superstructure.

There are some things that we look for during our reviews to give us indications of issues that may be present including, but not limited to, bowing, bulging, or leaning of the foundation walls, concrete spalling, and significant vertical, horizontal or stepped cracks which may appear outside the typical building settlement cracking.

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Photo 1: Early 1900’s foundation wall consisting of a brick course overlying a concrete strip foundation.
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Photo 2: Note the presence of a waterproofing course installed along the exterior of the below-grade foundation walls.
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Photo 3: Typical with today’s construction practices, the Interior side of reinforced concrete foundation walls and columns viewable from within the parkade.










PAMA Education Seminar: Handling Hazardous Materials – Duties for Property Managers

On June 15, 2016, Normac proudly sponsored PAMA’s Education Seminar, Handling Hazardous Materials – Duties for Property Managers.  Dave Garrett, WorksafeBC Senior Occupational Hygienist, spoke to sold out crowd of property managers and industry professionals.  His presentation included an overview on common dangerous materials and their health effects, regulations as mandated by the Workers Compensation Act, and resulting responsibilities property mangers face in these risk situations.

For the full PowerPoint presentation, click here.

Normac Featured in the Professional Association of Managing Agents’ (PAMA) Spring 2016 Newsletter

Normac’s Vice-President, Gina Arsens, a leader in the depreciation report & reserve fund planning business, was featured in the Professional Association of Managing Agents’ (PAMA) spring 2016 Newsletter. Gina’s article, “Making the Most of Your Depreciation Report” was published along with other prominent industry professionals.  For the full article, click here.

Gina is a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Business Valuator and a Certified Reserve Planner.  In addition to being Normac’s Vice-President she holds various director positions including being the President-Elect of the Real Estate Institute of Canada, Vancouver Chapter.

PAMA is a non-profit organization founded to promote professional and ethical residential property management. PAMA has over 200 member organizations and is a trusted source for all things property management.

Normac is Proud to Support the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice with FirstService Residential B.C

NORMAC is proud to support the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice with FirstService Residential. FirstService, a leader in residential property management, Normac and other FirstService vendors and partners raised a total of $65,500 in donations which was given to the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, doubling the gift raised during last year’s campaign. The donation was presented to the Canuck Place team in the spring of this year.

“Canuck Place Children’s Hospice is grateful for the incredible generosity of FirstService Residential, their vendors and partners,” said Margaret McNeil, Chief Executive Officer of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. “The 2016 holiday campaign is a fundraising achievement and doubled the gift amount of the previous year. This remarkable contribution will help ensure Canuck Place can continue to provide pediatric palliative care to children with life-threatening conditions and support the families who love them.”

About Canuck Place Children’s Hospice
Canuck Place Children’s Hospice is British Columbia’s recognized pediatric palliative care provider. Over 560 newborns, children and teens with life-threatening illnesses and their families receive care from CPCH through outreach programs and two provincial hospice locations; Vancouver and Abbotsford. Services include clinical respite and family support, pain and symptom management, 24-hour phone consultation support and in-house clinical care, art and education, recreation therapy, grief and loss counselling and end-of-life care. Through the investment of the community, our talented team, and over 325 energetic volunteers we make a lasting difference in the lives of children and the families who love them.

About FirstService Residential
FirstService Residential is North America’s largest manager of residential communities and the preferred partner of HOAs, community associations and strata corporations in Canada and the U.S. FirstService Residential’s managed communities include low-, mid- and high-rise condominiums and cooperatives, single-family homes, master-planned, lifestyle and active adult communities, and rental and commercial properties.

Design revealed: 18-storey UBC residence to be world’s tallest wooden building

We came across this Vancity Buzz post that details the University of British Columbia’s plan to construct an 18-storey student residence to help alleviate its on-campus student housing demand. The building will be constructed primarily out of wood, with some concrete components for lateral stability and safety approval. When complete in 2017, it will be the tallest mass timber building in the world. Take a look at the following article for details of this new high-rise construction method.

A new student residence building at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus will become a living experiment as part of an effort to demonstrate the economic and structural feasibility of wood-based construction.

But the building will not be entirely wood: The building’s hybrid structural system of a one-storey concrete podium on the main floor and two vertical concrete cores that reach the rooftop level. According to the architects, the timber structure will carry the vertical load and the concrete cores, containing the exit stairs and elevators, will provide the structure with lateral stability.

“Although construction of the first floor and cores could technically be constructed utilizing mass timber, concrete was used in the interest of familiarity regarding life safety, fire fighting, ad approvals processes,” reads the architect’s building description.

One of the main concerns over a tall wood structure remains with fire safety, even thought timber is a safer material than steel given that charred wooden surfaces protect the sturctural wood underneath. In contrast, steel sturctures are weakest at the points of where it supports a post.

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CHOA Condo Smarts: What is the right amount for strata fees?

We came across this Condo Smarts post by Tony Gioventu from Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia that explains the differences in strata maintenance fees due to several factors such as hot water heat to each strata lot as a common expense versus electric heat paid by each owner individually. “Don’t be fooled by numbers without more information” Take a look at the following article for comparisons.

Dear Tony: Our strata has been struggling with the issue of determining how high our strata fees should be. Since we received our depreciation report, our council have put pressure on the owners to increase contingency contributions, and our maintenance and inspection provisions as part of our budget. As a result we increased our strata fees by 8% in 2014 and are looking at another 12% in 2015. The property across the street from us was built in the same year and their strata fees are $100 a month cheaper and this is having a negative effect on the ability of owners to sell their units. We have many opinions in our strata but few facts and I’m afraid our community is becoming divided over this issue. Is there such a thing as an average strata fee?

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Read More From Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia.

CHOA Condo Smarts: Who Controls Common Property?

We came across this Condo Smarts post by Tony Gioventu from Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia that highlights the limits of a strata lot owner’s right to alter common property without permission of the strata council. Read the full article below to learn more about consequences to unauthorized modification of common property, such as adding new plants or attaching items to the exterior of buildings. 

Dear Tony:

When I bought my home in 2005, I was told by the seller, who was the president of council at the time, I was responsible for my limited common property garden areas around my patio. I have a 2 bedroom ground floor unit adjacent to green space in North Vancouver and the patio area is a significant part of my lifestyle. As a result of our deprecation report and a building inspection, the strata council have recently approached me and advised I had to remove the pond I
had installed and that three trees that I had planted were going to either have to be removed or at least pruned significantly to avoid damages to our building. I am refusing to remove any of the additions that I have made to the area as it adds so much value to my home. Surely I can keep these alterations as they have been there since 2005 and I have always paid for their upkeep?

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Read More From Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia.

CHOA Condo Smarts: Phased Developments

We came across this Condo Smarts post by Tony Gioventu from Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia that highlights important considerations regarding replacing assets of phased developments. Read the full article below to learn more.

Dear Tony:

In March we bought a townhouse on Vancouver Island in a new development. We requested the normal documents and forms that are recommended by the realtors, but we overlooked one significant issue. The strata is a phased development. There are actually 8 phases to our development, and we purchased in the 7th phase which had already been sold by the developer in 2014. Our strata had a town hall meeting last week to talk about major construction that is coming up for the first phase of the development. The first phase is 8 years old and requires a new roof. Turns out there was a design/installation defect to the original roof, and it needs to be replaced before winter at a cost of $126,000. The construction doesn’t bother us, but we’re embarrassed that we didn’t realize this was a phased strata plan, nor did we understand the impact of buying into a phased plan and how that could impact us financially. We are both retired professionals and did everything right and still managed to be exposed. Is there any way of easily finding out if a strata is a phased plan?

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Read More From Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia.


CHOA Condo Smarts: No Construction Approval for Needed Repairs

Dear Tony:  How does a strata corporation get a project to move forward when the owners keep voting against it?

Our strata is a 88 unit townhouse complex in the lower mainland that was built in the 80’s.  It is a typical design of 2 and 3 bedroom units, sloped roofing and wood siding.

Our owners have always kept strata fees extremely low, and as a result we have sadly neglected our buildings.  A neighbouring property identical to ours have paid higher strata fees, maintained their properties and are not facing any crisis.  Our property is not located in an area that is desirable for development, so we have no choice but to maintain our units and dig deep to pay for some major repairs.  We now have some serious leaks to our roofing and several locations where the wood cladding has literally fallen off the buildings.  Even with these serious problems, owners are still voting against the repairs.  We are desperate for some ideas on how to move forward as we cannot seem to get more than 65% of the owners to approve.

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Read More From Condominium Home Owners’ Association of British Columbia.