British Columbia

Engineer banned from working in B.C. after Surrey tower fails to meet building code

An engineer who has worked on Canadian embassies around the world has been banned from working in B.C. after an investigation found his designs for a condo building in Surrey were not up to building code standards.

City investigating to determine whether there are safety issues with the building

A view of the Central City area of Surrey, B.C. The City of Surrey would not identify which condo building falls short of code due to inadequate structural designs. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

An engineer who has worked on Canadian embassies around the world has been banned from working in B.C. after an investigation found his designs for a condo tower in Surrey were not up to building code standards.

John Bryson finished his structural designs for the building in 2013. The provincial regulator launched an investigation into Bryson's work the following year, after someone filed a complaint, and found certain aspects of Bryson's work did not meet certain requirements of the B.C. Building Code used at the time — particularly with respect to wind and seismic design.

The building has been completed and occupied, but neither the regulator nor the City of Surrey is making public which of the city's condo buildings is the one in question, saying only it is a "highrise residential tower."

Neither body has expressed any immediate fears that the building is unsafe. On Tuesday, the city said in a statement that there is "no information of any present public safety concerns," but added it will now be working with the strata corporation to determine whether there are any safety issues with the tower.

The city, citing confidentiality concerns, declined to provide a reason for withholding the address.

Bryson, whose name was on the door at his own Vancouver-based firm, resigned as a registered engineer on April 1 after signing a notice admitting to unprofessional conduct. The regulator, Engineers and Geoscientists B.C., also ordered him to pay $240,000 in penalties and costs. Bryson did not respond to request for comment.

"This is a rare but very serious offence," Ann English, CEO of EGBC, said in a disciplinary notice posted to the regulator's website. "The public deserves to have confidence that their homes are being designed to the current standard, and it's a serious matter when that trust is betrayed."

Wrong building code

At the time Bryson was working on the Surrey tower, the 2006 B.C. Building Code was in effect, but the investigation found parts of his plan drew from a newer, national code instead.

A consent order detailing the case said some of the national guidelines were stricter than B.C.'s building code and some were looser, but it did not go into further detail. Investigators also found that the improper guidelines were used to design only certain parts of the building, not the entire structure.

The consent order also said some parts of Bryson's design were incomplete and certain mandatory calculations weren't done at all.

City 'relies on' builders' word

As for whether the building is structurally sound, the regulator's investigation only looked at whether the building was designed to the code that was current at the time. It's now up to the city and the strata corporation to determine whether the tower is safe.

In a statement, the city said it is "legally obligated" to rely on design professionals to be honest about abiding by building codes when they submit their paperwork.

This is a rare but very serious offence.- Ann English, CEO, Engineers and Geoscientists B.C.

"The city relies on letters of assurance provided by the professionals who designed the building, such as architects and engineers, which confirm the building had been designed and constructed according to the B.C. Building Code," said an emailed statement from Rémi Dubé, who manages the building division at the city's planning and development department.

"In this situation, where it was determined at a later time that the building was not built to the applicable code at the time, the city will be following up with the Strata Corporation to determine if there are any safety issues that would impact occupancy."

The regulator fined Bryson the maximum allowed: $25,000. He has also been ordered to pay $215,000 to cover the cost of the regulator's five-year investigation.

An online biography posted by his firm, Bryson Markulin Zickmantel (BMZ), said Bryson had more than 45 years of experience as a structural engineer. It said he worked on more than 200 highrise residential buildings across B.C., Mexico and the United States.

The site said Bryson also worked on more than 80 seismic upgrading projects and once made seismic assessments for Canadian embassies in New Delhi, Seoul and Tokyo.

There is no suggestion in the consent order that there are any issues with Bryson's other work.


  • This story has been updated to include the reason why the city declined to provide a reason for withholding the address.
    May 08, 2019 3:48 PM PT


Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at