Prices aren’t the only thing falling

Photo by Payton Chung

Owners at a Concord Pacific downtown condo are commencing legal action after concrete was discovered falling off balconies, Condohype has learned.

A routine maintenance survey at The Aquarius (1199 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver) detected the spalling of concrete from balconies on the 01 elevation posing a serious risk to pedestrians.  The issue was so urgent the strata council ordered emergency repairs to prevent liability and possible harm to the public.

The value of the emergency repairs is estimated at $140,000.  An additional $71,000 will be spent to investigate if similar  problems exist on other balconies in the complex.

In a presentation to condo owners, strata council vice-president Michael Alexander explained that “during original construction, the reinforcing steel bars had been placed too close to the edge and some had rusted from water infiltrating the surrounding concrete, causing pieces of the concrete edge to loosen or fall off.”

On January 13, owners passed a resolution to fund building defect proceedings against developer Concord Pacific and all other relevant parties.  The law firm Lesperance Mendes is representing the owners.  The case hinges on proving the spalling is the result of “a structural defect attributable to faulty design, workmanship or materials provided by any party involved in the construction of the project.”

The Aquarius is one of Yaletown’s elite waterfront condos.  Completed in 1999, the development sits at the foot of Davie Street atop a Starbucks, the Urban Fare grocery store and the Provence restaurant.  In 2000, the condo gained notoriety when former Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear was charged with assault following an incident in the Aquarius fitness room.

Photo credit: Payton Chung

52 Responses to “Prices aren’t the only thing falling”

  1. condohype Says:

    This story is a Condohype exclusive. It has yet to be reported in the MSM. I feel special. Hey, wait a second. Isn’t almost everything I write yet to be reported in the MSM? Maybe I don’t feel special. Single tear.

  2. rbo Says:

    yikes. and so it begins.

  3. dg Says:

    “An additional $71,000 will be spent to investigate if similar problems exist on other balconies in the complex”.

    The investigation will provide a big fat report that will provide the future unemployed new construction companies years of work while the economy is in the toilet. It is the master plan. Build crap during the boom and in the bust repair it. Brilliant just brilliant. The condo life!

  4. jesse Says:

    This the dawning of the age of Condohype. Muckraking journalist.

  5. anon Says:

    What a fantastic concept! Self-destructing condos!

    Even the very concrete knows it’s soon to be absolutely worthless… throwing itself into the abyss in suicidal despair.

    And probably hoping to catch an owner on the head to put them out of their misery.

  6. doug r Says:

    Brings a new meaning to 50% off! 🙂

  7. ella Says:

    “Self-destructing condos!”

    hee!

    Oh, it gives me a headache to think how ugly these buildings are going to look in 10 years. Not as big of a headache as the owners, or the hapless passers-by near 1199 Marinaside Crescent. But still, enough for 1 tylenol.

  8. Strataman Says:

    Apparently the ONE loonie sized piece that fell was knocked off by a consulting engineer using a hammer. 🙂 Spalling concrete is probably in absolutely every building in Vancouver, however that strata is quite pro-active and wanted a recorded claim before the structural warranty expired this year. Good on them! a lesson for other buildings that will likely let such things lapse until too late!

  9. Concerned citizen Says:

    This problem could run a lot deeper than you think, most new condo construction has been put up in a hurry without the required structural checks and balances.

    Does a potential buyer have the right to insist from the seller to see all aspects of the construction, a buddy of mine who was working on Woodwards said a lot of columns were poured with understrength concrete but it was not found out until 28 days later, what happen here in the long run when the earthquake hits and the building collapses.

  10. blueskies Says:

    the lawyers and renovation guys
    have just had a very “up” day
    there is a veritable forest of litigation
    awaiting harvest carpe diem

    anon:
    What a fantastic concept! Self-destructing condos!

    Even the very concrete knows it’s soon to be absolutely worthless… throwing itself into the abyss in suicidal despair.

    beautiful insight! thnx for the laugh

  11. VHB Says:

    This building was completed in 1999. From the anecdotes, construction during the recent boom has been more rushed and lower quality. I have no knowledge of this. For those who do know this kind of thing, has quality of construction gone up, down, or stayed the same since 1999?

    Strataman brings up an excellent point–the 10 year warranty is about to expire on the first of the yaletown condos. It will be fascinating to see how well these things age over the next 25 years. What’s the expected life of one of these buildings?

  12. HHV Says:

    Today: Yaletown. Tomorrow: downtown’s new southside where it’s common to see burnt-out yuppies pushing big-wheeled strollers full of Diesel and Parasuco denim to the Sally Ann that has temporarily taken over the shuttered up spaces of the Roundhouse; because hey, even the Sally Ann knows this is unsustainable.

  13. Strataman Says:

    VHB “This building was completed in 1999. From the anecdotes, construction during the recent boom has been more rushed and lower quality. I have no knowledge of this. For those who do know this kind of thing, has quality of construction gone up, down, or stayed the same since 1999?” For a hobby yes your right I have no life..I watch the concrete pours on various towers throughout Downtown. Used to be when I was involved in concrete pours that there would be a structural tech taking samples from every second load coming out of the ready mix truck. They would test for air entrainment and slump and take cylinder of concrete to test for strength at certain days. No more the tests are done AT THE PLANT after which there is no quality control. As a structural specialist I know that the truck will most likely add lots of water as concrete with NO slump is faster to pour (and 50 % less strong). Quite honestly the person in charge of your structural integrity now days is a laborer who wants soupy concrete cause it self levels and requires little effort to pour. Buyers; ask when the structural warranty runs out, and ask if the strata has employed a Geo-technical consultant PRIOR to the warranty expirying. If the answer is we have no problems so we haven’t done that; realize that you are buying a lottery ticket. Consider it a sign of an inept strata (that does not do inspections prior to warrany expiration). Unfortunately 90 % of stratas will be in that category. Life time? 25 to thirty years wit great management, maintenance fees should be expected to double every 15 years with good management!

  14. Nick Says:

    Wow… Lesperance Mendes charges $400/hr for their time, and they seem to waffle it about doing useless activities. A number of years ago my condo hired them and they proposed a course of action that ultimately ran us tens of thousands in legal fees for their research alone on whether or not BC law would permit a case. Eventually we couldn’t sustain their heavy billing and had to abandon it.

  15. Strataman Says:

    Wow… Lesperance Mendes charges $400/hr for their time, and they seem to waffle it about doing useless activities. Yes you are right. That is why as a strata consultant I will never buy a condo the whole setup (strata) is doomed for failure. Free title only is the way to go!

  16. Condo Don Says:

    There is a report about about 1600 public buildings that have to be upgraded.

    Very interesting string going here, what seismic critera do we desing to, and how do we knos out buildings are up to code.

    Are we going to have bricks and windows falling out and killing people, can we get the government involvrd to ensure our public safety.

    This could be a big smoking gun with lots of long term consequences.

    Keep this string going and get it in the paper.

  17. Union Man Says:

    Build union, with the rush to get the units up in new market constuction a lot of short cuts will be taken that ultimately guarantee the building will not be built the way it was supposed to be.

    The convention center is not over budget it is costing exactally what it should cost with not corners being cut by contractors and to the correct plans.

    Cheap labour means don’t give a s&&t construction.

    When the city gives permission for a new building to be turned over the the new owners do they “guarantee” the quality of the workmanship, and if they do are they liable for any mistakes made in the job?

    Loot at the above, the city gave the builder a occupancy permit meaning they had checked all the stuff and it was done correctly.

    Now that the reason is incorrect steel can the owners go to the city and say Hey you said it was ok or not?

  18. J Says:

    From my experience, the city doesn’t check anything significant about a building. They check to see if due diligence was done on the building and assume that the people who completed the DD were competent… which may not always be a safe assumption.

  19. Strataman Says:

    “Loot at the above, the city gave the builder a occupancy permit meaning they had checked all the stuff and it was done correctly.” Wrong!! The City Gives the occupancy permit based SOLEY on the “engineer” who is employed by the DEVELOPER signing of on the project. I have yet to see one “engineer” in all of Vancouver delay occupancy as that would mean their employment is toast! 🙂 The City NEVER inspects anything done with a consulting engineer. After the fact I have had many many times requested City inspectors to look at something. They have pointed out that the subject at hand does not meet building code. When I ask what they can do they shrug and say nothing you have to go after the consulting engineer with the support of another third party consulting engineer. That is virtually impossible as it blacklists the third party firm from ever getting any work from any developer ever. Welcome to the real world!

  20. dg Says:

    The whole condo thing is a joke. The law firm mentioned has been used in many strata corp vs developer situations. Usually the high cost/time involved in these cases the strata corp gets bled and tires of the process and throws in the towel thus incurring huge legal costs and receiving zero compensation from the developer.
    Prior to the changing of the Act developers used to hire mgmt companies to act as buffers. The mgmt companies were not acting for the strata corp but were protecting the developer as all of the mgmt company’s portfolio consisted of buildings from ——– developer. The whole industry is ripe for graft and kick backs.

    The the leaky condo industry is another big ????
    This whole retrofit industry began when the construction idustry was hurting after the boom. Engineers would come in and advise starta corps that because the building was experiencing water penetration on one side of the building that all(even on wallls that were dry as a bone) the cladding had to be removed from all four sides. Ridiculous!

  21. condohype Says:

    Consultants are expensive. The high cost of legal services is not limited to real estate. It’s across the board. Rates of $400/hr are pretty standard in the litigation world.

    From what I know, Aquarius has a proactive strata council. If I were living there, I’d be backing them. I rather err on the side of caution and go after the developer and contractors now. Most warranty coverage expires at 10 years. Now’s the time.

    It’s unfortunate there’s no good way to assess if a building was well built, but I hold the opinion that it’s better to get a building that went up in the bust years than in the boom. When the building business is slow, only the best workers have jobs. When times are booming, it seems like anyone who can hold a hammer is working in trades.

  22. vomitingdog Says:

    Strataman,

    Can you comment on what newly repaired buildings are like? I’ve walked into some constructions sites to ask the guys what’s up. Generally, they are very informative telling me not to even think of buying a unit in the building until they are done. Then, they assure, me that the condo will be fully repaired… as in it won’t leak again, not from the windows at least as that seems to be the main culprit.

    Instinctively, I find it hard to believe them. I figure there’s something wrong with the design that has let the water into the building. Or not so much something wrong as we live in a rain forest and balconies are more or less little cups gathering water. As for concrete, I’ve long suspected that in their rush to complete, builders don’t let each floor cure as necessary, or, as you say, are using inferior product that moves the job along faster. Anyway, if you could share your experiences of the newly “rainscreened” in this town, much appreciated.

    I keep a MSWord file of all your comments in case one day I feel like buying a strata.

  23. sgt.turmeric Says:

    No word of a lie, my cousin, an admitted sometime crack addict, worked with a concrete contractor on some downtown condo projects over the past few years. He has since cleaned up his act somewhat and moved back east.

  24. Strataman Says:

    “From what I know, Aquarius has a proactive strata council. If I were living there, I’d be backing them. I rather err on the side of caution and go after the developer and contractors now. Most warranty coverage expires at 10 years. Now’s the time.” Walk further along Marinaside to 1090 – 1070 Marinaside, look closely at the exposed edges of the concrete balconies. You will see wet rust covered spots all thru the complex on their balconies. This is where the concrete has spalled away allowing water to start rusting the rebar. This is a differant strata with no plan. They’re warranty is up in another year I believe.
    Go look at the Erickson (a pair of binoculars is handy just say your a birdwatcher) 🙂 which is under construction. There is concrete spalling that has broken away revealing rebar. If they are good you will see them not cover these areas until summer at which time proper remedial patching can be done, if they cheat they will just cover it with siding or deck membrane which should last 10 years, during which time capillary action will penetrate thru-out the slab weakening the structure. This is one building I see a lot of sloppy concrete work on.

  25. DC Says:

    WTF is this? The building I live in in London is over 300 years old and stray pieces of concrete have never fallen off it.

    I was in Vancouver looking at new condos last summer and when I walked out onto the balcony I could see that it it tilted downwards the further you were away from the building.

  26. Canada's Poorest Postal Code Says:

    Sgt. Turmeric:

    No kidding, eh? I spent a three-month spell in Timberland trailerpark on the KG highway upon my initial return to Vancouver (oh, I could write a book), and quite a few of the permanent residents worked in construction. Several were also pretty far gone with booze and drugs. Gone as in unable to work most days of the week. There was a small-time contractor living in the park who used these fellows as employees. I once asked him if he would ever consider hiring a woman for a job (simple siding work). His answer was a disgusted snort and a “NO!”. Multiply this attitude 10,000X over and you’ll get a snapshot of the construction industry in this country. A crane operator on crack is better than a crane operator with a …… Oh, I hope that passes the decency test.

  27. Strataman Says:

    ; What I do not understand is why people don’t consider condo’s as a depreciating asset. They are like cars and each year they should (in a healthy economy) depreciate with some slight reverse credit for increase in land value. The very idea that a condo is “real estate” seems to me to be ludicrous. That said they are a good way to live high density green etc. Buy a good car maintain it properly and you may very well have a good car in 10 years. But eventually there will come a time when the cost and effort is not worth it and you move on. That is the only way to look at these “disposable” buildings. Would you take a 20 year loan on a car even at 1 % ? 🙂

  28. dg Says:

    That is the problem that they don’t treat them like depreciating assets. It is surprising how diffferent commercial real estate/rental properties are managed compared to strata owner occuppied units are managed.

    But Strataman if you offered me a car loan at 1% over 20 years I would be all over it……..money gets cheaper as the years go by.

    Cheers…..

  29. Strataman Says:

    “But Strataman if you offered me a car loan at 1% over 20 years I would be all over it……..money gets cheaper as the years go by.” Yes is true! 🙂 But then you wouldn’t expect to get more for that car when you paid it off, more like the guaranteed $500.00 trade-in!

    Vomitingdog; Most remedial rain screen work I have seen is excellent, better than that which is on buildings that have no problems even. Inspection is usually intense. However when you buy ask the strata what their yearly five year maintenance program is. All buildings need to be inspected, re-caulked every five years or so. If they have no plan exit before ten years! Hope that helps!

  30. patriotz Says:

    You’re missing the point Strataman, if you make me a loan at 1% you are giving me money. It doesn’t matter what I buy with the loan.

    Suppose I have 30K in the bank. I can buy a car with the 30K or borrow money at 1% for 20 years. So I borrow the money for the car, and with the 30K buy a 20 year GoC bond yielding 4% or whatever. I can make the loan payments with the bond coupon and have extra money left over. I’m much better off 20 years out when I’ve paid off the loan and the bond matures than if I’d just paid cash for the car. What the car is worth after 20 years doesn’t matter.

  31. vomitingdog Says:

    Strataman,

    Thank you. Please make sure you somehow leave a calling card on the internet, on one the blogs. I may be thinking of myself only but many of us will want you to be part of our inspection team when it comes time to buy. I’d definitely pay $300 for the pleasure of hearing your professional opinion before I remove subjects on anything I buy be it a condo, townhouse or single family home.

  32. M- Says:

    Before any of you buy, make sure to take the time to read Ed Witzke’s book or video on home inspections. They’re available at the VPL.

    VPL Link:
    http://tinyurl.com/witzke

  33. romeo jordan Says:

    Strataman,
    Its RJ from RBs blog.
    How can I contact you?
    Romeo

  34. Matt Stiles Says:

    The two buildings at Boundary and Hastings had the same problem. They’ve been undergoing balcony restoration for nearly a year now.

    I can’t imagine Yaletowners enjoying the early morning jackhammering. :-p

  35. Strataman Says:

    Patrioz! ARRRGGHHH! “You’re missing the point Strataman, if you make me a loan at 1% you are giving me money. It doesn’t matter what I buy with the loan.” I should of known better! one thing I am not is a financial wiz! I concede! 🙂
    RJ & Vomitingpooch; I work strictly for strata corps; most of what I do is strictly confidential and my results are the property of the strata. Unfortunately even in buildings I know well I could say “don’t buy there” and then give you absolutely no reason! 🙂 I don’t do suite inspections as such but specialize in the building proper and that means unfettered access to the “guts” of the building usually for several days. I am generally called in when regular maintenance contractors have failed to solve problems and the problem overlaps several distinct specialties. Examples; constant elevator failure may be the result of structural deformities in the elevator shaft, or no water pressure, sewage drain, bad air quality etc in certain floors due to design failure or utility costs are extreme in which case we redesign the heating/cooling or plumbing systems. Most of the time my results are not recorded in the minutes. Many times the “fix” is expensive and the strata lives with the problem while keeping it off the record or we do a gradual fix over many years sneaking $20-50K a year or something off the maintenance budget.
    Ed Witzke is an excellent in-suite inspector by the way.

  36. macchiato Says:

    In 2005, I lived on the Parkette at Haro and Gilford in the West End … almost everyday several workers from buildings going up on Alberni and Gilford would have a seat in the Parkette, take off their hard hats and roll fatties for their doobie breaks. They would smoke up and then proceed back to work. My guess is that this is normal, probably not so good for building quality, though, not to mention safety.

  37. vomitingdog Says:

    I hear ya, Strataman.

    I’ve chatted with Witzke, he’s a great guy. But like you say interiors only. I’m interested in exteriors and the inner workings of the building. I’d not buy on your “don’t buy there” admission.

    Boy, I’d love to take a stroll with you through Yaletown, just for the gossip alone. Maybe you can do the condo version of the kind of pub crawls they have in London. Yours can be done every year on Halloween. Kinda like a Condo Buyer’s Fright Nite.

    Hey CondoHype, if he’s in costume and if it’s “for entertainment purposes only”, do you think the lawyers would it pass?

  38. vomitingdog Says:

    would let it pass?

  39. Ted Says:

    They would smoke up and then proceed back to work. My guess is that this is normal, probably not so good for building quality, though, not to mention safety.

    Big deal… probably no impact on quality or safety. I have spent years working in construction and taking doobie breaks daily. It’s not like I’m drunk! Your focus improves and it makes the day fly by (literally!). I typically get a lot more done stoned than straight. The same goes for most of my co-workers. The ones that don’t smoke don’t care as long as we’re productive! If there was an issue why would it be tolerated by my co-workers?

  40. romeo jordan Says:

    Strataman,
    Thanks for the referral for ED. I’ll put on my list of contacts.
    But you never answered my question? How can I contact you?
    Ask RC about me – he knows who I am.
    RJ

  41. macchiato Says:

    “Big deal… probably no impact on quality or safety. I have spent years working in construction and taking doobie breaks daily. !”

    I figured someone would answer a la Marc ‘I drive better stoned’ Emery.

    “If there was an issue why would it be tolerated by my co-workers? ”

    Because we are in a culture where people seem to think it’s ok to be stoned at work.

    I have nothing against weed, it’s got it’s place, but we’ve gone to far if we think it’s something that’s an optional work activity where people are working with power tools.

  42. jesse Says:

    “When the building business is slow, only the best workers have jobs. When times are booming, it seems like anyone who can hold a hammer is working in trades.”

    It also becomes more difficult to sell crap. Buyers are wary from the past scams. When Aquarius was being built, people were avoiding wood frames like the plague. My bet is those selling concrete structures 10 years ago were given a carte blanche for a time because of this. We are now finding out that even diamonds lose their lustre.

    There have been more than a few concrete structures with scaffolding in the past years. There was one of ’80s vintage around Patterson Station I remember that had to have all its windows re-sealed due to leaking. I shudder to think how much that must have cost. I’m sure a pretty penny judging by how long the scaffolding was up (more than a year!!!)

    I hope readers here start to realise why condos need to cash flow waaay positive from day 1.

  43. islander Says:

    Calgary condos went through something like this in the 90s, where water had penetrated concrete along the path of the rebar, rusting the rebar and weakening it. Every building found to have this problem had to undergo what was called Post-Tensioning. It was Calgary’s leaky-condo crisis, you might say. Owners getting hammered with special levies. Total. Fiasco.

  44. coalharbourcondohunter Says:

    Hi Folks, long time lurker……I’ve been monitoring the market and patiently waiting to purchase a condo in coal harbor area. Most likely in 1-2 years. Are there any poorly structurally designed buildings which I should be aware of?

    The Lions, THE PALISADES, Cube, and RESIDENCES ON GEORGIA

    Thank you.

  45. vomitingdog Says:

    CoalHarbourCondoHunter,

    All of them, in my opinion. Build with a plastic wrap to keep the moisture locked in and tons of flat roofs and balconies on which the water can collect and slowly drip behind the walls, windows and other openings.

  46. vomitingdog Says:

    CondoHunter,

    Make sure you call Witzke for an inspection. But if you were to call him today and ask him your question above, you would learn a lot. Like 1,000 reasons not to buy anything other than a German-built post-war home. But that kinda kills the condo dream, aye?

  47. better by design Says:

    “There have been more than a few concrete structures with scaffolding in the past years. There was one of ’80s vintage around Patterson Station I remember that had to have all its windows re-sealed due to leaking. I shudder to think how much that must have cost. I’m sure a pretty penny judging by how long the scaffolding was up (more than a year!!!)”

    Who has to certify the windows are adequate in new condo construction, is it possible we can witness a leaky condo again, just cause its concrete doesn’t mean we can not get rust and corrosion into the structue.

    Can you insist on a inspection by independent engineers prior to purchasing a new condo for the windows and other stuff that is related to building code things.

  48. Noz Says:

    Man…Vancouver was so much nicer back in 2005 than when we last visited in 2008. WAY too many condos…WAY too many.

    The place looks kind of lame now….

  49. VancityAllie Says:

    I’m not surprised that things like this are happening. My dad is in construction and says pretty much everyone and their kid has been joining the construction trade in the past few years and don’t really know anything about it. And walking around downtown, I’ve been looking at some of the buildings going up and wow… the workmanship is pretty shoddy.

    In fact, Urban Dweller can attest to the fact probably that even at the Bentall 5 building they had rebar falling from the top of the building by mistake during construction, lol.

    Hopefully we’ll see some better built condos in the next few years.

  50. DC Says:

    Let’s turn this thing on its head: are there any well-constructed and durable recent condo/townhouse projects in downtown vancouver?

  51. coalharbourcondohunter Says:

    Thanks Vomiting Dog. If I could afford a German built home I would but until then I will have to made do with a condo.

  52. Artem Says:

    First of, I should disclose a source of potential bias preceding my remarks, as I regularly sell at 1199 Marinaside Crescent.

    I am very familiar with this building in particular, as well as all the buildings on that street (more generally). I think the above discussion takes the situation with the 01 elevation of the building out of its proper context.

    1) All structures deteriorate. Whether a single family home, or a condominium tower, office complex, under ground garage or a tool shed, all structures require maintenance to extend their life expectancy and protect them from more rapid deterioration. Expecting Condo towers (in Vancouver or elsewhere) to simply stand forever, sans any signs of time is unreasonable.

    If you live in a single family home, chances are at some point you’ll have to replace the roof of that home. Same goes for a condo tower. Spot repairs such as these are neither uncommon, nor unexpected.

    2) The Aquarius complex consists of 4 towers containing 480 units between them. Their operating budgets are consistently in the millions, as is their contingency reserve. The 01 elevation of Tower I contains the largest balconies on in the complex (not counting penthouse and townhome rooftop decks), and not all units in the complex have balconies.

    So putting this issue into its proper context means understanding that the repairs to the 01 elevation of the building were timely and relatively inexpensive. This particular strata can, and did afford these repairs without resorting to collection of extra funds from the owners. Further, since the 01 elevation is the only part of the entire complex with that particular balcony size and configuration the problem is unlikely to persist to the same degree elsewhere in the complex.

    Even if one is to believe the “hype” of this post and thread, and suggest that all balconies in the whole strata are going to be affected – assuming 480 balconies in total (there are fewer in actuality), then the repair cost, as projected using the 01 elevation, are not significant for this strata.

    3) This is an extremely proactive strata (with full-time maintenance personnel on staff), which is why their willingness to invest in legal opinions now, absent any signs of further problems, is not surprising but commendable.

    4) I agree with the idea that newer construction in Vancouver is neither trustworthy nor livable, and have been advising all my clients for the past 4 years to avoid any new/presale/assignment situations. This is not to say, however, that all condo buildings are the same. There are some fantastic towers in Vancouver (rule of thumb: the older, the better in the downtown west core), of which 1199 Marinaside Crescent is one.

    Artem August

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