Construction hazards: Crashing glass, debris from Millennium/Concord tower exposes public to serious risk. Questions need answers.

1215 Bidwell projectIn a brief wind storm on March 20, 2013, debris fell to the street from the tower under construction at Bidwell and Davie. This incident proves that people living, working or passing near tower construction sites are inevitably exposed to risk of injury, damage, and loss of life. 

This particular incident was at 1221 Bidwell Street. It is The Alexandra, a 21-storey tower, owned by Millennium Development Corporation and marketed by Concord Pacific (on the former 1215 Bidwell site of Maxines). Most of the units in the tower will be luxury condos, but it will also include 49 small market rental units. The site was rezoned in December 2009, the first project approved by City Council under the controversial STIR incentive program. The incident provides more real-life material for a civic campaign (see www.1401comox.ca) to review the Vancouver Building Bylaw, which, it appears, favours the construction and development industries and pushes costs and hazards onto taxpayers and the public. 

1215 BidwellRadio and television media covered the story of falling debris this morning on radio. See for example http://www.news1130.com/2013/03/20/glass-shattering-onto-davie-street-alarms-passerbys/. The incident caused damage at street level, but fortunately no people were injured or killed. Now, the public and our elected officials should be asking some questions. An inquiry should happen into this incident and changes made. Winds are something that happen in any city. Are regulations and bylaws strong enough to protect the people? Here are some questions we encourage citizens to direct to the Mayor and City Council. 

QUESTIONS:

  • What did the contractor hired by Millennium/Concord do wrong to expose the neighbourhood to this potentially fatal accident?
  • What practices need to be changed? Was this accident caused by cost-cutting, a failure to follow recommended practices, or by violation of regulation? Or was it just human error? Are change needed by this contractor only, or industry-wide?
  • What were the costs of response by City departments and emergency responders?
  • Will Millennium/Concord compensate the City of Vancouver (i.e., taxpayers) for the costs of responding to this incident?
  • Will they compensate businesses that had to close temporarily?
  • Do City bylaws currently protect the people? Or do they protect the construction industry? What changes are needed in legislation?

1215 Bidwell at DavieThese kinds of questions should be added to discussions about the reform of City bylaws.  

This incident in the West End is not the only example of debris falling from towers.

Read about the Crane Accident in Bellevue, near Seattle, Washington State. In this fatal accident the crane in smashed through one building and damaged several floors of another. The boom fell across a street and crashed into the Pinnacle Bell Centre, killing a man in his apartment. http://www.towercranes.net/news-article8.html

And here is what happened to Westbank Projects Corp.’s Shangri-La in Toronto in January 2013. Adelaide Street reopens after glass falls from Shangri-La hotel (story by James Armstrong, Global News, January 23, 2013) Main points:

  • Toronto police closed the intersection of Adelaide Street and Simcoe Street in Toronto after glass fell from the Shangri-La hotel (built by Westbank Projects Corp.) The 65-storey hotel and condo tower opened in October 2012
  • No one was injured but a car was struck by the falling glass.

Millennium and Concord sign at Bidwell & Davie highrise

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