Multiple homes in Ottawa are left with severe damage after experiencing strong vibrations and various construction processes including excavationsheet piling, dewatering and drilling from an adjacent condo development site.  The homes’ conditions continue to deteriorate as construction progresses. The City of Ottawa has been aware of this problem since March 2014.  Below is a sampling of the questions recently asked by a resident to the City of Ottawa’s Building Code Services/Planning and Growth Management department regarding the situation. Was the City’s response appropriate?

 Why would the City approve this development so close to our homes?

Building permits are issued based on the applicant demonstrating, through plans and specifications submitted, that there is intent to construct a building in compliance with the Building Code, ie., the minimum standards set out in the Code will be incorporated into the building and all applicable laws will be complied with once constructed. Applicable law includes the Zoning By-law.  The Zoning By-law stipulates the minimum setbacks from the lot lines and this project has met these standards.  Where intent has been established, the Chief Building Official is required to issue the permit. City Council in August 2011 approved a rezoning for the site to allow for the proposed development.  No appeals were received and the amendment came into effect in September 2011.  Considerations in determining whether or not to approve a rezoning are focused on land use planning and how the rezoning requested and the development that would be permitted respond to planning and design policy directions set out in the City’s Official Plan, which provides for consideration to be given to project fit with the pattern of development within an area.  The zoning approved allowed for the development being constructed and sets out various performance standards that the development would need to meet including setbacks, building height, provision of parking and landscaped open space.

The City has been aware of this for some time, what has been done to protect our homes and other homeowners from experiencing this?

As you have noted, Building Code Services has issued orders to the builder and will follow up where there is lack of action/response.  The Building Code Act provides limited enforcement tools, such as the issuance of orders to address non compliant construction or an unsafe condition, on a reactionary basis only.  As for all construction projects, it is the responsibility of the builder to take steps to avoid damaging adjacent properties lest the builder incur additional costs (claims, higher insurance premiums, fines, costs of repairs, etc), where structural damage occurs, receive Building Code orders requiring assessments and engineering reports, where unsafe work practices, , and receive orders from the Ministry of Labour, etc.

There are serious security concerns that need to be addressed immediately. We cannot walk around the property, deck or garden safely, for fear of construction material falling overhead. Why are you allowing this to go on?

This is a question to be directed to the builder as soon as possible, particularly if there have been incidents of objects falling from above.  This is not regulated under the Building Code Act.  The City does not regulate the use of cranes or the use of aerial space.

Furthermore, there are noise concerns. We want a sound monitor installed to measure the noise we have been constantly subjected to.

You may wish to contact the City’s 311 telephone number to register your complaint for the noise to be investigated.

The Construction Vibration Damage Guide

We recently came across a free resource on the web called the Construction Vibration Damage Guide. It is geared towards those who have developed cracking in walls, damage to home mechanical systems, misalignment of doors and windows, damage to concrete and concrete blocks, exterior cracks and more while and/or after construction occurred close to their homes. It is an interesting read that can help shed light on a very complex topic and a great resource to consult should you need it.