Broken Elevators Causes ‘Crisis’ All Over Canada

 (Photo: Shutterstock)

We came across an interesting article that highlights the concerns of Canadians over aging equipment and structural issues with faulty elevators. The maintenance and repair of elevators are becoming a major issue, especially in Canada’s largest cities. The result is not only the disruption and inconvenience to the residents, but the costs and lack of equipment needed to repair these elevators.

According to some elevator statistics in Ontario, the number of broken elevators and firefighter elevator rescues has increased substantially over the years due to population growth, an increasing aging population and a large increase in condos and apartments, especially in Toronto.

It appears that a handful of multinational companies controlling the industry are responsible for the lack of technicians and proper service. On top of that, about 1,550 of Ontario’s 18,000 residential building elevators are more than 25 years old, placing further strain on the already over-scheduled technicians.

In particular danger are elderly residents living in nursing homes. There have been multiple cases of the only elevators in the building breaking down and technicians not fixing the issue for months, leaving residents stranded on their floor, unable to take the stairs.

Click here to read the original CBC article by Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press.

If you are experiencing long wait times, overheating or frequent breakdowns of your elevator, our Certified Reserve Planners and Engineering Professionals can help you by preparing you for these costs with a Depreciation Report. For more information on Depreciation Reports & Reserve Fund Studies, email or call us at 604-221-8258.

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.

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










Australia Embraces Wooden Structure High-Rise Buildings

A change to building regulation codes in Australia means that architects will be allowed to build timber-framed structures up to eight storeys in height for the first time.

The new regulations are more line with buildings codes in North America and Europe, where many seven- to nine-storey wooden buildings have been completed, and a series of timber-framed skyscrapers are proposed.

The research project was led by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), a nonprofit industry organisation. Managing director Ric Sinclair claims the ruling will offer benefits to local residents, property owners and the domestic building industry.

“This initiative will bring Australia up to pace with much of the rest of the world – so that the building property industry can take advantage of the environmental and cost benefits of domestic timber construction,”

View here to read the full article

Strata Living – Trip and Fall Hazards


By Alfred H Y Lam, BASc in Civil Engineering, IIT, CRP
Normac Senior Depreciation Report Planner

Most Stratas, whether through the collective help of owners or through the service of a professional, are diligent with snow removal come wintertime. Perhaps the awareness is attributed to the numerous stories of mailman mishaps and the subsequent costs of compensation. However, there are many other trip hazards around a Strata complex or building that are often overlooked. It is therefore important to locate and understand the potential hazards in order to eliminate them and improve the safety of both the residents and visitors.

Strata Living – Slippery Moss

While snow may cause walkways to be slippery, slime and moss growth can have the same effect. These unwelcomed organic matter tend to accumulate in shaded areas and are both unsightly and dangerous to the user. To clear them, there are many commercial products available on the market; however, there are also household products that are typically effective and often more economical. Included are bleach, vinegar, and ammonia, among others, but these chemicals should be diluted if they are to be used close to soil.

Another common and costly issue surrounding walkways is the uplifting effect of trees. In most cases, the walkways are simply planned and installed too closely to the trees. As a tree matures, the trunk and roots gradually flare outwards and damage everything in their paths – they do not just raise the walkways, they may even devour a light post! Generally speaking, when there is an offset of approximately ½ inch, there is a tripping hazard. Tree removal or walkway relocation are obvious extreme solutions; however, these are likely not approved due to preservation laws or because they are simply not practical. It is important to seek further guidance from a qualified arborist for the individual case. Though, in most cases, the process will include slabjacking repairs to the walkways or repaving of localized sections to incorporate an acceptable slope while leaving some room to compensate for further growth of the nearby tree.

Strata Living – Uneven Ground

There are tripping concerns associated with staircases as well. The dimensions of the runs, treads, and risers, individually, are generally within the requirements of the building code and deviations are not common.  However, the non-uniformity of risers and treads within the same flight of stairs are seen more frequently. The unevenness is generally caused by settlement of the grounds or by poor planning which results in a deeper or shallower step as compensation; this would often cause the unsuspecting pedestrian to stumble and fall. Treads shall have a uniform run with a maximum tolerance of 5mm between adjacent treads, and 10mm between the deepest and shallowest treads in a flight. Required exit stairs shall have riser tolerances similar to those of the treads; otherwise, it shall vary by not more than 1 in 12. Concrete stairs can generally be fixed through a combination of grinding techniques and a new skim coat layer while wooden stairs can be fixed through re-attachment with the correct spacing.

All too often, tripping hazards are left alone until an incident occurs. It is recommended that Strata owners periodically inspect common areas and report any potential hazards to the Strata council. Proactive remedies are generally cheap and quick and would serve to eliminate some potential hazards. These efforts would undoubtedly create a safer environment for all occupants and visitors involved.

Useful Links:
Condominium Home Owners Association of BC (CHOA)
Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association (VISOA)


Insurance Appraisals & Insuring Your Property to Value

Insurance Appraisal

A strata property is a very valuable asset, and one of the key components to protecting it is obtaining a reliable and comprehensive insurance valuation performed by an experienced appraiser.  An appraisal will guarantee that the entire property is insured to a supportable dollar amount.   This is called the Total Insurable Value (TIV).  The Strata Property Act requires a strata corporation to acquire and maintain full replacement cost insurance on the building, the common facilities and any insurable improvements. The corporation is also required to review the adequacy of this insurance annually.

Insurance appraisals are highly specialized reports that start with a site inspection followed by a property analysis to determine the calculation of supportable estimates for replacement costs.  Qualified appraisers are able to produce reliable estimates based on expertise acquired through extensive training and experience. Moreover, experienced appraisers make their estimates based on an analysis of the current environment, and do not rely on third party software based outside the region or use generic information to determine their estimates.

The appraiser will have certain specialized skills to determine appropriate costing. There are several additional considerations to complete an effective insurance appraisal. The importance of bylaw reviews cannot be overstated as they are crucial to the appraisal process. In the event of a disaster, current municipal bylaws must be adhered to when rebuilding the property.  Consequently, an appraiser’s review of the property must include an assessment of the current property composition compared to the current standards and regulations of the specific municipality and province in which it is located.  Any code requirements that are not currently met are accounted for in the replacement cost estimate.

An experienced appraiser also considers current building practices and technological improvements that have become standard in new buildings.  As a general rule appraisers assume a like-for-like replacement of all components of the property whenever possible. However, there are some circumstances where appraisers assume that the existing subcomponents within a property will be replaced with something that is similar but up to current standards.  In these situations, the as-built construction practices are considered obsolete, and modern construction methodology and materials is assumed in the appraisal value.

Accounting for demolition and removal costs is another important consideration in the appraisal process.   This can prove to be quite costly and differs greatly by property type. Strata corporations should be wary of the misused straight percentage calculation to estimate demolition and removal costs. A straight percentage often proves to be overly simplistic and ineffective in the event of major reconstruction.

Without the review and knowledge of such additional costs and considerations, there is potential for significant exposure, rendering the strata corporation liable for the difference.

Insurance Appraisal - example

An insurance appraisal requires a unique skill set, and has specific demands that go beyond a house or commercial property review performed for a bank.  Keeping up to date in construction methods, costs, building codes, bylaws, demolition, and the Strata Property Act are critical to providing a reliable TIV estimate.  For this reason property owners are best served when they use appraisers who do this type of work full time.

For more information on insurance appraisals or to request a free, no-obligation proposal, please contact us at  

Useful Links:
Strata Property Act  – Property Insurance
CHOA – Property Insurance
Normac – Insurance Appraisals

In the News – LED Light Is All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Strata - LED Light

Photo from  

We came across this great article from that highlights the increasing prevalence of LED lights as a sustainable alternative to traditional light bulbs. Read the article below to learn more.  

By Josephine Nolan, Chief Editor at
Original article can be found here

By the end of 2014, it will be difficult to find incandescent light bulbs in stores in Canada, except for certain specialty bulbs, like oven lights. The rest, including 40W, 60W, and 100W bulbs, will be gone. We shouldn’t lament their passing. While they were a great invention in their day more than a hundred years ago, they really hadn’t changed much. Their greatest drawback, the one that finally did them in, is their inefficiency: as much as 96 per cent of the power consumed by a bulb was lost as heat, not converted to light.

One option for replacing the old incandescent bulbs is the LED. These lights can be used in the same lamps and fixtures you already own, and there have been many improvements in their design and performance in the last few years. A few popular misconceptions persist.

The light from LED bulbs is cold and bluish

LED lighting can be as warm as incandescent lighting if you choose the correct colour temperature. Colour temperature indicates how warm the light will be. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in measuring colour temperature, the higher the temperature, the cooler the light. The range is usually given as 1,000–10,000 K (Kelvin), and the warm, reddish-yellow light that most people think of as “normal” for a light bulb in the home occurs at the 2,700–3,000 K range. Choose bulbs with a colour temperature in that range and there should be no issue of light that’s too cool or too blue.

LED bulbs are not dimmable

LED lights are dimmable. There is a potential issue with dimming, however, arising from the fact that LED bulbs use much less power than incandescent bulbs. Typically you can replace a 60W incandescent bulb with a 12.5W LED. For decorative bulbs, as in a chandelier, a typical 25W incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 3.5-W LED bulb. It may be necessary to replace your dimmer with one that is compatible with the specific bulbs you are using. You may also buy LED bulbs that have the necessary circuitry built in to handle dimming. Check this before you purchase. Better, ask for a demonstration.

LED lighting is expensive

Prices are dropping all the time, but the average LED bulb is still more expensive than the average incandescent. However, given that LEDs use significantly less power, and last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, there is a total cost saving over the lifetime of the bulb. While you could get  cheap incandescent bulbs for less than a dollar, they would typically have a lifespan of about 1,000 hours. The LED replacement could cost ten times more, but last up to twenty-five times longer. You save in the long term.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact us at  


Don’t Get Caught With Your Walls Down – A Lesson in Cladding

BC Strata; depreciation report

Photo By CBC News.

By Aaron Wittstock, BBA, PGCV, CRP
Normac Insurance Appraiser and Depreciation Report Planner

A recent event at an Edmonton-area hotel has provided us with a great example of the importance of regular building review and maintenance. Last week the Downtown Westin Hotel in the Albertan capital experienced an unusual but possibly avoidable situation when a 3-meter high by 15-meter wide section of the brick facade came crumbling down into an adjacent parking lot. Luckily the incident didn’t result in any injuries but it will definitely end up costing the hotel a lot of money for the replacement of brick cladding and lost revenue from having to move out the guests who were staying in the hotel when the wall came down.

Masonry cladding is different from other typical cladding because it is comprised of two distinct materials, bricks and mortar, and it is supported from the ground up as opposed to other materials, such as vinyl or wood siding, which are adhered throughout to the exterior wall construction. The higher the brick wall, the more important it is to regularly ensure that the wall is performing optimally through regular reviews and repairs. Typical problems to look for when reviewing masonry cladding include damaged or deteriorating mortar joints and cracked bricks.

For Stratas, the incident at the Westin not only serves as a reminder of the potential deterioration of one of the most important elements of any building but it is also a great reminder of how vital it is to have a healthy contingency reserve fund in preparation for the inevitability of a major replacement of a significant building component. Without the inclusion of proper reserve fund contributions in the annual budget, a major failure of any common property asset is likely to lead to the Strata having to enforce the collection of special levies. For many owners the collection of regular smaller-scale contributions to the reserve fund is a much more manageable approach to major project funding than having to come up with money for a large one-time special levy.

Original CBC Article can be found here.

Edmonton’s Westin Hotel guests evacuated after wall partially collapses
John Baker, CBC News

About 250 hotel guests were evacuated from the Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton after part of the exterior back wall collapsed Sunday morning.

As of 3:30 p.m. MT, a structural engineer for the city declared that the damage to the hotel was limited to the façade of the building. A statement released by the Westin said the hotel was given the all clear from city officials to re-open Monday.

A section of the brick wall about 10 metres from the ground appeared to bulge out and collapse into a largely-vacant parking lot Sunday morning. The brickwork failure left behind a hole about three metres tall and 15 metres across.

No one was injured in the incident.

“It’s kind of lucky it’s Sunday and not Monday,” said fire district chief Randy Shakura. “The potential here was huge for injury. At this point we don’t have any injuries at all and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Most hotel guests didn’t appear to be bothered by the sudden disruption and evacuation — not even an Edmonton couple that was celebrating their wedding.

Ilia and Denise Biziaev spent their wedding night at the Westin Hotel on Saturday.

The newlyweds were hoping for a late checkout on Sunday before officially departing for their honeymoon. Instead, they received a knock on their door around noon and a firefighter telling them they had to leave the building.

Ilia Biziaev said the firefighter told them there was “serious structural damage” at the other side of the building and they would have to leave the hotel immediately. .

“Thankfully we don’t have to get relocated, but still it’s kind of frightening,” he said.

The couple laughed off the experience, saying it makes for a memorable start to their honeymoon.

“I’m not too worried myself,” said Trevor Huyd, another hotel guest. “Hopefully everyone was OK, but it’s not too big of an issue.”

“We’ll just find something else to do for a while,” said Barb Hutton. “They are doing everything to keep people safe so I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about.”

Hotel staff are working with emergency crews as well as experts to determine the cause of the collapse.

Police closed the city block around the Westin Hotel, located at 10135 100th Street for several hours. All roads were later reopened, but the alley behind the hotel remains closed.

Shakura said it was important that fire crews take precautionary measures to ensure all guests and staff were safe.

“Anytime you have a collapse, there’s always potential for further collapse,” said Shakura. “It’s a lot easier to err on the side of caution than to wait until it happens and try to get people out in a hurry.

“We’re taking it slowly. We’re relocating them in a calm fashion, and I hope it doesn’t ruin their day too badly.”

For more information on building components and maintenance tips, email us at or request a quote

How to Invest the Money in the Contingency Reserve Fund

depreciation report; depreciation reports

By Gina Arsens, CA, CBV, CRP

Saving money is a key part of what a depreciation report is about.  The requirement to obtain a depreciation report has made the importance of saving for future repairs top of mind for Strata living.  It is estimated that Strata councils in BC will be managing a substantial amount –soon to be several billion dollars in assets.

As a result, Strata Property Regulations have been updated to define how Strata corporations can invest their savings.  Section 6.11 of Strata Property Regulations has been rewritten and effective July 16, 2014, outlines permitted investments for money held in the contingency reserve fund or collected on special levies.

Many Stratas have been putting their investments in low interest bank savings accounts, which have been at some of the lowest levels in history.  If Strata corporations can earn more than the savings rate it means that there will be less future fees for Strata owners.  Based on feedback and in order to simplify and improve the rules around investments, changes were made.

The permitted investments are easier to understand and more current to today’s environment. They are still considered to be safe investments.  Highlights of the permitted investments are:

  1. Savings or chequing account outside of BC and insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. (CDIC)
  2. Term deposit or GIC’s insured by CDIC with a fixed interest rate
  3. T-bill issued by the government of Canada
  4. Bond, debenture or other debt issued by Canada or a province or a company as long as the debt:

a)    is less than 5 years to maturity
b)    Based in Canadian dollars
c)    The debt has a DBRS rating of A or higher

  1. Fixed Income exchange traded fund, trading on a Canadian Exchange if:

a)    the fund doesn’t have securities (stocks) – just bonds or debenture or other debt
b)    The funds are in Canadian dollars
c)    Term to maturity is 5 years or less
d)    98% of the value of the holdings have a rating of BBB or higher

It should also be noted that if the Strata has invested its funds in instruments based on the past regulations, there is a grandfathering provision.

This blog post is provided to provide highlights from the regulations.  For advice and further information, please consult your investment advisor and the Strata Property Regulations.