The City of Calgary’s Building Maintenance Bylaw will better protect the public by requiring the exterior of Calgary’s buildings to be visually assessed for necessary repairs every five years. It was approved by Calgary City Council on June 20, 2016.
The bylaw includes buildings that are five storeys or greater and over 10 years old, and will require visual assessments on building exterior walls and roofs. This allows The City to focus on the highest risk issues on the highest risk buildings first.
There will be a phased approach to bylaw implementation, where the oldest buildings must complete their visual assessments first. This will enable an efficient use of resources.
Are you a building owner or manager with questions about the process? We are currently seeking opportunities to present to commercial and residential building industry associations and groups in fall and winter 2016/2017. If you are interested, please contact email@example.com.
Why did we develop a Building Maintenance Bylaw?
This bylaw will fill the gap left after the final inspection when a building is first constructed or renovated, and address safety issues before they happen. While the Alberta Building Code
states that a building owner may not allow an unsafe condition to be maintained, there is no clearly articulated requirement to maintain buildings. The bylaw aims to make that clear in Calgary.
In recent years, there have been several incidents of building materials and debris falling off of buildings in Calgary, particularly in the downtown core. The City has investigated many incidents related to falling debris, building cracks or collapse, and injury due to falling from windows. From these investigations, we know we can do more to help prevent safety issues connected to building maintenance.
Palliser Hotel, June 2015. Image: Pat Carroll/Global News
Downtown Calgary, 6 Ave. Image: Leah Hennel/Calgary Herald
Who did we work with to develop the bylaw?
The bylaw was developed with engagement from community members, commercial and residential building industry associations and internal groups at The City. The City worked closely with industry on the Building Maintenance Bylaw to find the right balance between safety obligations and preventative maintenance costs.
From March 2015 to May 2016, we conducted face-to-face meetings with community and industry members, like the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Calgary Residential Rental Association, Consulting Engineers of Alberta, and more. Along with Planning & Development, City of Calgary departments involved were the Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Community Standards, the Law Department, Calgary Housing, Calgary Recreation, Roads, Calgary Transit, Infrastructure & Information Services, Waste & Recycling Services, Water Resources and Corporate Facility Planning & Management.
How did we refine the bylaw?
There was an introductory phase with each stakeholder group where the general idea of a bylaw was presented and input was captured.
View engagement activity summary from March to June 2015 View email newsletter engagement summary archive from November 2015 to present
We developed a form for building exterior visual assessments and a guideline for using the building exterior visual assessments with these groups. We also looked at other standards in developing this bylaw, including the ASTM Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments and the BOMA 2013 Recommended Practices in Health + Safety: A guide for Building Owners + Managers – Building Envelope Safety Supplement.
The second phase of engagement focused on crafting a bylaw that would advance The City’s objective of enhancing public safety while aligning as much as possible with industry practices.
Based on feedback from the stakeholder group, we changed the frequency of the assessments to be carried out every five years instead of four. We also changed the bylaw so that it does not mandate the involvement of a professional. The visual assessment must be done by someone with the education, training, skills and experience sufficient to carry out the visual assessment.
Initial visual assessments must adhere to the following dates:
2018: Buildings 45 years old and older as of Jan. 1, 2016 are required to complete a visual assessment. 199 buildings are included in this category.
2019: Buildings 25-44 years old as of Jan. 1, 2016 are required to complete a visual assessment. 299 buildings are included in this category.
2020: Buildings 15-24 years old as of Jan. 1, 2016 are required to complete a visual assessment. 39 buildings are included in this category.
2021: Buildings 10-14 years old as of Jan. 1, 2016 are required to complete a visual assessment. 47 buildings are included in this category.
- Another 90 buildings will be included over the next 10 years.
- For buildings less than 10 years old as of Jan. 1, 2016, The City will require a completed visual assessment as of the 10th anniversary of the date of issuance of the occupancy permit.
- Building owners will be advised by mail when required to have a Building Exterior Visual Assessment completed in the following year.
- After the initial visual assessment is completed, each building should have a visual assessment that is less than five years old.
- The owner is obligated to retain all of the assessments for the life of the building. If the building is sold, the former owner must provide all assessments for the building to the new owner.
- We are currently looking at the possibility of creating an online tool for the visual assessment checklist, making it more efficient to create and potentially submit a visual assessment.
The building selection and audit process will target buildings which could pose the greatest risk to public safety. This risk is identified based on type of construction or any recently reported issues. We will also include a random sampling of buildings. Safety codes officers would make a request in writing to building owners or operators to provide copies of their Building Exterior Visual Assessment documents, which would be reviewed. An owner of a building must provide all assessments for the building to The City within 14 days of a written request.
- If the completed report shows "needs attention," the safety codes officer may ask for more detailed information or for an anticipated timeline to address the issue.
- If any item is "not acceptable":
- The City may request further information
- The building owner must immediately advise The City of any hazards observed
- The building owner must remedy hazards
- Work to remediate will likely require a permit and inspection
- The City will follow up to ensure action has been taken
Please note: The City may make further inquiries about any building, regardless of the results recorded in the visual assessment.
Frequently asked questions
Who can complete or sign for the Building Exterior Visual Assessment?
The credentials of the assessor must be supplied on the bottom of each page.
Different assessors may be used for the roof and/or walls to get the best expertise possible.
Can drones be used to do the exterior wall inspections?
Yes, if the owner thinks this is the best way to determine the building’s exterior integrity.
Is any destructive testing required?
Only if issues are found, further investigation may require a more technical form of investigation to determine risk.
Who will be doing the audits?
A team of safety codes officers experienced in commercial construction and commercial systems and also trained as City of Calgary bylaw officers will perform the audits.
Where does the Building Maintenance Bylaw and the Community Standards Bylaw meet?
The Building Maintenance Bylaw is limited to buildings five storeys and more. Although the Community Standards bylaw could also cover these buildings, tall buildings are better handled by safety codes officers because of their expertise.
Does The City make money off this bylaw?
No, the City doesn’t make money off the Building Maintenance Bylaw. A building owner is independently required to complete the building exterior visual assessment.
From our research, a visual assessment would cost between $1,500 and $20,000, depending on size, age and scope of the building. This is about 1-2% of a building owner’s five year maintenance budget. We also worked closely with building owners, operators and industry professionals to find the right balance between safety obligations and preventative maintenance costs.
In the short term, it may add cost to building owners if they have not been completing maintenance assessments so far, but the value added is priceless, especially if there’s a life-threatening situation that is prevented. Additionally, preventative maintenance saves you money in the long run.
What are the penalties for not complying?
The penalties will start at $1,000 to $5,000 with a maximum of $10,000. If a charge is laid under the Safety Codes Act if a problem were to occur, fines can be significantly higher – up to $100,000.
Why does it only cover buildings five storeys and above, or 10 years or older?
The bylaw is focusing on the buildings that present the highest risk to the public. The higher the building, the more serious is the risk of harm from falling debris. The older a building is, the more likely it is to have experienced deterioration that can lead to elements detaching from buildings. The Alberta Building Code draws a distinction between buildings under and over five storeys, as different and more complex construction techniques and materials are needed for taller buildings.
In other places with similar bylaws, the threshold for building assessments is typically set at five storeys and up. The five-storey threshold also means that implementing the program within existing operational budgets is manageable.
However, there is also authority for the Chief Building Official to require other buildings that don't meet the five storeys or higher, 10 years or older criteria to comply with the bylaw.
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If you would like more information, please contact:
Cliff de Jong