Considering the Importance of Periodic Inspections of Façades for Tall Buildings
Canadian Condominium Institute | Spring 2023
Ryan Page, BSc, E.I.T
Façades comprise the majority of the building envelope of tall buildings, and are the critical component providing separation between the conditioned and unconditioned environment. Building facades continue to evolve aesthetically, in complexity, but also in efficiency. At the same time, building facades deteriorate due to environmental exposure, lack of maintenance, design and construction errors, or a combination of such factors . Deterioration can result in potentially unsafe conditions, and if unaddressed, can jeopardize public safety and surrounding properties. This prompts the need for periodic inspection and assessment of building exterior façades to identify such hazardous conditions.
Building façade deterioration is not specific to any one region, but is a widespread phenomenon. Even with the growing knowledge around the performance of building facades and their deterioration, a significantly low percentage of cities throughout North America have enacted façade ordinances. Effectively integrated legislation, combined with promoting an understanding of inherent risks and available mitigation techniques, may help reduce the impact of unsafe façade conditions in the urban setting.
Notable Failures & Jurisdictional Requirements
Incidents of façade failures resulting in falling debris pose an endemic problem in the built-up areas of Canada and the United States, with many failures resulting in tragedy. For example, in 2009 in Montreal, a precast concrete panel fell from the 18th floor killing a woman in the restaurant directly below, as well as seriously injuring her partner . Similarly in 2011, a metal cladding panel fell from the first floor of a downtown high-rise building in Chicago leaving a pedestrian in serious to critical condition. The metal panel was estimated to measure 15-feet tall, by 3-feet wide, and more than 1 inch thick . In Alberta an incident was recorded in 2020, involving the collapse of an architectural feature roof, clad mainly with concrete roofing tiles and stucco, that fell from a 7th-floor penthouse resulting in property damage.