Building Maintenance Bylaw
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. This bylaw came into effect January 1, 2017.
The bylaw applies to buildings that are five storeys or greater and over 10 years old. These buildings will require visual assessments on exterior walls and roofs, allowing The City to focus on the highest risk issues on the highest risk buildings.
There will be a phased approach to bylaw implementation, where the oldest buildings must complete their visual assessments first, since these are typically a higher risk.
Building owners must complete their exterior visual assessments within these timelines.
|Year||Building age as of January 1, 2016||Number of buildings in this category|
|Year: 2018||Building age as of January 1, 2016: 45 years and older||Number of buildings in this category: 199|
|Year: 2019||Building age as of January 1, 2016: 25 – 44 years old||Number of buildings in this category: 299|
|Year: 2020||Building age as of January 1, 2016: 15 – 24 years old||Number of buildings in this category: 39|
|Year: 2021||Building age as of January 1, 2016: 10 – 14 years old||Number of buildings in this category: 47|
- For buildings under 10 years old as of January 1, 2016, The City will require a completed visual assessment as of the 10th anniversary of the date when the occupancy permit was issued.
- Building owners will be advised by mail when a Building Exterior Visual Assessment is required in the following year.
- After the initial visual assessment, each building should be on a schedule where the visual assessment is less than five years old.
- The owner is obligated to retain all 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.
The building selection and audit process will focus on buildings which could pose the greatest risk to public safety. This risk is identified based on construction type or any recently reported issues. We will also include a random sampling of buildings. Safety codes officers will make a written request to building owners or operators requesting copies of the Building Exterior Visual Assessment documents, which would then be reviewed. The owner must provide all building assessments to The City within 14 days of a written request.
If the completed report shows the building "needs attention," the safety codes officer may ask for more 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 the hazards. Please note that remediation work may require a permit and inspection.
- The City will follow up to ensure corrective action was taken.
Please note The City may make further inquiries about any building, regardless of the assessment results.
This bylaw is a proactive approach to fill the gap after the final inspection when a building is first constructed or renovated, and to 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 clear requirement to maintain buildings. The bylaw aims to add clarity for Calgary.
In recent years, there have been several incidents of building materials and debris falling off buildings in Calgary, particularly in the downtown core. The City has investigated many incidents related to falling debris, cracks or collapse, and injury due to falls from windows. From these investigations, we know we can do more to help prevent safety issues related to building maintenance.
The bylaw was developed with engagement from community members, commercial and residential building industry associations and internal groups at The City. We worked closely with industry 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.
There was an introductory phase with each stakeholder group where the general idea of a bylaw was presented and input was gathered. We developed the building exterior visual assessment form 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 enhance public safety and align 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.
Who can complete or sign for the Building Exterior Visual Assessment?
Your building’s exterior assessment can be completed by anyone with training and experience in the different building components to confidently say the structure is safe and does not present a risk to the public. The owner may use one expert to assess the roof and another to assess the walls. The BEVA form is separated into two pages to accommodate this. The owner may use registered professionals, trained contractors, technologists and other professionals with the qualifications to make competent assessments.
The assessor’s credentials must be supplied on the bottom of each page in the Building Exterior Visual Assessment form.
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 will perform the audits. These safety codes officers are also trained as City of Calgary bylaw officers.
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, there may be additional costs 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 money in the long run.
What are the penalties for not complying?
The penalties will start at $2,500 to $5,000 with a maximum of $10,000. If a charge is laid under the Safety Codes Act, 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 differentiates 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 comply with the bylaw, even if those buildings don't meet the height or age criteria.
For more information, please email us at BuildingMaintenanceBylaw@Calgary.ca.