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The renewal of trust in residential construction: an inquiry into the quality of condominium construction in British Columbia

Barrett, D.
Government of the Province of British Columbia

Barrett, D., (1998), The renewal of trust in residential construction: an inquiry into the quality of condominium construction in British Columbia, Government of the Province of British Columbia.
This link was checked on Dec. 2006Barret Report (

Executive Summary

A Commission of Inquiry into the Quality of Condominium Construction in British Columbia was appointed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, through an Order in Council, on April 17, 1998 to review the adequacy of protection, and accountability to, consumers for faulty condominium construction, and to determine the reasons for, and the factors contributing to, faulty construction. The Commission was also asked to recommend any measures needed to ensure consumer protection and accountability for this construction.

The majority of the material presented in this report is a result of the extensive public hearings and numerous written submissions received by the Commission during late April and May 1999. In all, there were 29 sessions of public hearings held in Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Nanaimo and Kelowna. Presentations were made by condominium owners, strata council representatives as well as individuals, and groups involved in various public and private sector aspects of the industry. In total, more than 730 written submissions were received. In addition, the Commission reviewed existing legislation, public and private reports, and the approaches of other jurisdictions regarding effective residential construction activity.

Residential construction, during the past fifteen years, has become. an industry dependent more upon business finesse and marketing techniques, than on down-to-earth building basics. The nature of the industry has changed, as have the relationships within it, Architects, builders, financial institutions, warrantors, and even media coverage reflect this trend by focusing more on the marketing and design issues of residential real estate than on the substantive issues of building quality, workmanship, long term performance, and technical merit.

In an earlier time, "multi-family" meant large apartment buildings, constructed by specialists who, in turn, sold to a single buyer, specializing in the purchase of large structures. The advent of the condominium form of ownership has created a unique problem in market relationships. Condominium purchasers, who thought they were buying a home, have come to understand they were purchasing an ownership right in a large, and somewhat complex, building.

Developers, were rarely involved in commercial building activity, and therefore, inexperienced in the demands of that market place. They did not know -- or did not care to know -- the requirements to ensure these buildings maintained the same integrity demanded of the commercial market place. When a multi-million dollar project was sold, involving one seller and one buyer, there was a relationship between these parties, which was much more professional and equitable. Problems of quality construction were more readily identifiable and more effectively remedied. However, in the enthusiasm of rapid residential development, and the absence of effective regulation, the basics of building and attention to internal quality, gave way to the glamour of exterior design and lifestyle marketing.

On the basis of the submissions and presentations, the Commission has come to the following conclusions:

The pace of economic expansion in much of the Lower Mainland, during the 1980s and 1990s, has led to an excessive demand for development professionals and qualified workers. This has forced up land prices, and squeezed profit margins and affordability. BC's urban centres, notably Vancouver and Victoria, are located in a geographic and climatic region most affected by significant rainfall and mild weather. These conditions increase the likelihood of water ingress, intensifying the process of wood rot.

However, climate and economic pressures do not account for the magnitude of the problem. The residential building process and building science issues have led to a disintegration in the quality of construction.

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Related Concepts

Author Information and Other Publications Notes
Barrett, D.
David Barrett: Commissioner
  1. The renewal of trust in residential construction part II: commission of inquiry into the quality of condominium construction in British Columbia  

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