Calgary eyeing bylaw for building maintenance

The city is looking at crafting a bylaw to prevent incidents like falling debris from downtown buildings by mandating regular inspections and maintenance. On Monday, debris was found adjacent to the Palliser hotel.

Regular inspections aim to prevent things like falling debris in downtown

Crews closed down a portion of First Street southwest near the Palliser hotel after two sandstone fragments were discovered. (CBC)

The sky is not falling, but the city is preparing for the prospect. 

Marco Civatrese, chief inspector with Calgary's building department, said the city is working on a bylaw to mandate periodic maintenance of buildings to prevent deterioration and events like falling debris.

Civetrese says building owners would be responsible for inspections, with city staff auditing those maintenance reports to ensure compliance.

"We would want to know that that's being performed on that building through a periodic maintenance schedule," he said.

Chunks of sandstone fall near hotel

On Monday, city inspectors and the fire department responded to reports of palm-sized chunks of sandstone on the sidewalk adjacent to the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. It has not been determined if the chunks came from the building.

The proposed bylaw has been in the works for some time prior to the incident.

Sandstone was once the building material of choice in Calgary, after a fire tore through downtown in 1886 and the council of the day mandated non-flammable construction material be used in the core.

The prevalence of sandstone in adjacent quarries made it a natural choice, according to Bob van Weggen with the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society. 

Maintenance is key

Civatrese say the incident near the Palliser doesn't have anything to do with sandstone as a material per se, and likely has more to do with age.

"It weathers to a point. It's 100 years now, so now we're hearing about the concerns," said Civatrese about Calgary's sandstone structures.

van Weggen points to the fact that many of these old buildings have outlasted some of their modern counterparts and says maintenance is key no matter the building's vintage.

"One thing I would guarantee you is that if you don't look after your building, whatever kind of building it is, it will definitely get more expensive as time goes on," he said.

Civatrese says they hope to have a draft maintenance bylaw before council by the fall, with implementation through 2016 and approval by 2017.