Demolition and construction: Neighbourhood impacts, the Vancouver Building Bylaw, recycling

Changes have come to both the BC Building Code and the Vancouver’s Building Bylaw. How will they impact your neighbourhood? We will provide an update soon. The official city web page for this bylaw is



  • Regarding construction disturbances, the most common complaint (noise) is regulated by the Noise By-law.
  • Construction noise in any zone is limited to these hours:
    7:30 am to 8 pm (Mon – Fri)
    10 am to 8 pm (Sat)
    No construction noise is permitted on Sundays or holidays.
  • Permission can be granted for noise outside of these hours for special circumstances.
  • Anyone with concerns about noise can call the Noise Hotline at 604.873.7753 (or 604.717.3321 after 5pm).
  • For any other concerns about construction on a site, a citizen can file a complaint with the 311 Call Centre (604.873.7000) and ask that City staff look into the question.
  • For general or specific questions about City Zoning or Building by-laws, call the Telephone Enquiry Centre at 604.873.7611.


Vancouver citizens are learning about the full cycle of things affecting the physical shape of our city. Construction often means that first a demolition must occur. The overarching regulation affecting this is the Vancouver Building Bylaw. Residents in the West End and elsewhere have learned from experience that when it comes to demolition and construction, the Bylaw is strongly written in favor of developers. Protections for livability, safety, and peace of mind are seriously lacking. Download our checklist to guide citizens in evaluating and preparing for demolition/construction projects (Demolition-construction impacts, citizen appraisal form, CityHallWatch, 17-Apr-2012).

Vancouver is now revising this Bylaw. It is time for citizens to get involved, study the issues, and engage with City Hall to ensure that we end up with a world-class Vancouver Building Bylaw that adopts some of the world’s best practices. This page will be used as a scrap-book of information and resources for this purpose.

Tips worth considering if demolition or construction is expected in your neighbourhood

  • Especially if you are in a densely-populated area and are expecting a large demolition or construction, it’s worth talking to your neighbours (strata councils, renters groups, etc.) and establishing a communication method (e-mail, phone, etc.)
  • Get the essential facts about the demolition or construction (property owner, demolition company, city staff responsible, bylaws, demolition plan, etc.). Identify contact persons in each company or organization.
  • Consider having a meeting between neighbourhood reps and the City staff, with the owner of the property to be demolished/constructed present. Find out all you can: Work schedule, type of work, working hours, relevant bylaws and regulations, possible impacts on the community (noise, dust, hazardous material, heavy equipment traffic, ground vibrations, etc.) and so on.
  • Generally the public servants at City Hall are supposed to look after the public interest, but in case they are not doing this to the satisfaction of neighbours, you may need to organize to have your voices heard. Neighbours working together and sharing information can have a greater impact in protecting your neighbourhood.
  • Press the project proponent to provide information to the community, via website, e-mail and at least developer’s name and contact information right at the site. Large developers appear to avoid putting their name on the site during rezoning/demolition phases to avoid damaging their brand. We think that the public deserves to know who is behind the projects at every phase.
  • Be aware that projects can have huge implications on local traffic flows and road safety. At the Alexandra project (Millennium/Concord) at Bidwell and Davie in the West End, excavation work to go down four stories for a 21-storey tower resulted in large dump trucks with trailers running along Davie and through a residential area and lane at the pace of one truck every five minutes, from 7:30 am until closing time, every day, for weeks, then the dirt being trucked out (to a barge at the foot of Nanaimo Street for later disposal at an unreported location — but that’s a whole other discussion).


Changes to consider in the Vancouver Building Bylaw
(To add your suggestions to this list, please e-mail with “VBB in the subject line).

  • Require firms conducting demolition/construction to hold a meeting at least two weeks before work begins to inform neighbours of the plan and consult on how to minimize the negative impacts.
  • Require property owners to post names of owners of the property, company contact information, work schedule, and City contact information for inquiries and complaints.
  • Set up a formal inquiry and complaints process for quick response for work in progress.
  • Require contractors to them to carry cement off-site and pulverize it away from highly populated residential areas.
  • Give special consideration to establish tougher standards on noise and vibration in densely populated areas of the city. West End residents learned from experience in 2011 that the City and project proponents (Westbank/Peterson/Henriquez) at 1401 Comox would do little to prevent earthquake-sized tremors from a wrecking ball.

Basic information on the Vancouver Building Bylaw

The Vancouver Building By-law is not available online in its entirety. The cost to obtain a printed copy of the Bylaw is $320, which is prohibitive for the average citizen.

  • Vancouver Building By-law is a copyrighted document and not available to view online at no cost.  A copy is available at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch.  A printed copy is also available in the City of Vancouver Enquiry Centre (second floor of the East Wing at City Hall, at 2675 Yukon Street). Also, city staff may be able to provide single pages upon request by email.
  • Regarding construction disturbances, the most common complaint (noise) is regulated by the Noise By-law.  Construction noise in any zone is limited the hours of 7:30am – 8pm (Mon. – Fri.), 10am – 8pm (Saturdays) and no construction noise is permitted on Sundays or Holidays. Permission can be granted for noise outside of these hours for special circumstances. Anyone with concerns about noise can call the Noise Hotline at 604.873.7753 (or 604.717.3321 after 5pm).
  • For any other concerns about construction on a site, a citizen can file a complaint with the 311 Call Centre (604.873.7000) and staff to look into the question.
  • For general or specific questions about our Zoning or Building by-laws, call the Telephone Enquiry Centre at 604.873.7611 for staff assistance.
  • Also, visit the City website to review zoning by-laws at

Comparisons about control of vibrations from construction/demolition.

Toronto has these guidelines below to regulate ground vibrations. The Vancouver Building Bylaw has nothing to compare.

Click to access law0514.pdf

Click to access 1184_363.pdf

Click to access vibration_control_form_7aug08.pdf

Click to access vibration_control_form_7aug08.pdf

Excerpt from Vancouver zoning by-law regarding fines.  For building permit fees, refer to Division C, Part 1A, 1A.7 of the Vancouver Building By-law 2007.


The Issue of Demolition Waste

Vancouver seeks to become the greenest city in the world. It may have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to demolition waste.  Below are key points from a recent magazine article.

Disposable Housing: Vancouver Home Demolition
Colleen Kimmett | Image: Paul Joseph | Published: May 02, 2011

Key points:

  • Two houses are demolished every day in Vancouver, and we are sending 90 per cent of the resulting debris to the landfill.
  • Within 90 minutes a whole house of nearly 5000 square can be been flattened
  • Vancouver proper has reached the outward limits of its growth, so new construction often means first a demolition.
  • In 2010, 881 demolition permits were issued by the city, the majority of which were for double- and single-family dwellings
  • House demolition waste: The product of all this demolition is a lot of waste. The construction, demolition and renovation sector in Metro Vancouver is responsible for one-third of the region’s total waste, or roughly 35 million tonnes. In a typical demolition, 85 to 90 per cent of the volume of each building ends up in the landfill, according to Metro Vancouver.
  • More than half of that volume is wood and other recyclable materials (asphalt shingles, concrete and metals, etc.).
  • City of Vancouver is looking at ways to encourage higher rates of recycling, but it is difficult to get this sector on board voluntarily.
  • Currently, hazardous materials (asbestos, drywall, PCBs, chemicals and underground fuel tanks) are the only materials in Vancouver that, by law, must be removed from a building prior to demolition and given special handling. If asbestos is disturbed, carcinogenic particles can hang in the air for 24 hours before settling, potentially in a human lung.
  • Asbestos abatement is supposed to come first, then drywall crews remove the drywall, and then the salvagers come, who scour for anything that might have resale value.
  • Reusing and recycling building materials: To be reused or recycled, building materials have to be removed from a building and separated manually before the excavator rolls in and crunches everything. Salvaging typically gets only 10 or 15 per cent of the materials. It is labour-intensive work.
  • Tipping (disposal) fees for separated recyclables are lower than for mixed waste loads ($40 and $60 a tonne to recycle wood at a local transfer station, but dumping the wood together with mixed construction materials in the landfill costs $97 a tonne, up from $82 last year)
  • David Ramslie (sustainable development program manager with the City of Vancouver) says the city is putting together a draft strategy for an incentive program to promote voluntary uptake of deconstruction. Existing rules about material handling are difficult to enforce. Some operators simply dump demolition waste illegally.

For information, Metro Vancouver ( held this meeting in May 2011.
Future of the Region Sustainability Dialogue
Topic:  Zero Waste Challenge – Accelerating Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion
11:30 AM to 2:00 PM, May 31, 2011
Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf Club, 7778 152nd Street, Surrey, BC
Contact: Regional Dialogue 604-436-6993
Info: Construction, renovation and demolition activities are the source of 1.3 million tonnes of waste materials generated in Metro Vancouver each year. What impact will compulsory waste reduction and recycling on construction and demolition sites and the banning of wood waste from disposal have on industry practices? What does this imperative for change mean for the industry, for local governments and for those contemplating a construction or renovation project in the future? What innovative solutions will increase waste diversion in this sector while also generating positive economic and social benefits for our region?


One thought on “Demolition and construction: Neighbourhood impacts, the Vancouver Building Bylaw, recycling

  1. Pingback: People’s campaign begins: Transform Vancouver’s bylaws | 1401 Comox (1061 Broughton) - the need to transform construction industry practices. Test case: Westbank Projects Corp.

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